87. IMB “Pedro Hagen” Reports on the Reception at Cynthia Miller’s Residence

According to the files, the following persons attended the reception: Ulrich Plenzdorf, his wife Helga, and their son; Fritz Rudolf Fries and his wife; Martin Stade and his wife; and Eberhard Scheibner from the GDR Writers’ Union. Because the invitations were sent out only a short time before the event, some invitees—including Stefan Heym, Christa and Gerhard Wolf, and an editor from the Henschel Publishing House by the name of Schuch—were unable to attend.On March 6, 1985, when he received the invitation to the March 7 reception, IMB “Pedro Hagen” contacted Stasi officer Gerhard Hoffmann and they arranged to meet on March 8. There is a report on this meeting, with a three-page attachment, in the Fries/Zipser file. It appears in its entirety below.

Service Unit Department XX/7Date 3/8/85

Approvals

Report on Meeting

Category/Code Name IMB “P.  Hagen”

Date/TimeMeeting PlaceStaff Member
3/8/85 “Neuhaus”Hoffmann
4:00 p.m.

Next MeetingonTimeMeeting Place
as scheduled3/15/854:00 p.m.“Neuhaus”

Reports 1 oral

Number of pieces of information on adversarial offensive from the area of operations 1

Preparation for meeting:

Meeting was set up operatively as planned on 3/6/85 and held on 3/8/85, since the IM received an invitation on short notice to a USA Embassy reception which the person of operative interest attended.

Evaluation to be carried out at Main Department XX.

See attachments.

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Department XX/7Frankfurt (O), 3/8/1985
Ho-Scha

source: IM
received:3/8/85

USA Embassy Reception in Berlin on 3/7/1985

On 3/6/1985 an invitation arrived by mail to a USA
Embassy reception in honor of
Prof. ZIPSER,  Richard
USA
Oberlin

on 3/7/1985, starting at 6:00 p.m., in the quarters of the USA Embassy in Berlin Niederschönhausen, Platanenstrasse. [The reception was at Cynthia Miller’s private residence, which was located in a compound where many diplomats from capitalist countries lived—under constant Stasi surveillance, of course.]

The invitation came from a Ms. [blacked out], who is apparently the cultural attaché at the USA Embassy.

The invitation was accepted, the house on Platanenstrasse visited. It is evidently a reception facility, lacking warmth, functional, without special features. Hosting were Ms. [blacked out] and her husband as well as another female employee of the Embassy whose name did not become known.
Prof. Richard ZIPSER was present when I arrived with my wife. The initial greeting was normal, without especial warmth, but conveying astonishment at meeting him here in Berlin, and on top of that in the Embassy.
Also present were Ulrich PLENZDORF with his wife and son, Mr. SCHEIBNER from the GDR Writers’ Union, International Relations Department, and several employees. They were expecting Martin STADE as well.
Thus, at 6:00 p.m. there were 6 GDR citizens present.
STADE and his wife arrived around 7:30 p.m. By this time, PLENZDORF and his family members had already left because he wanted to go to the theater. I left the reception around 8:00 p.m.
A very generous cold buffet was provided and beverages, mainly whiskey, were served by the butlers.

Regarding the conversation with ZIPSER

He indicated that he entered the GDR on 3/5/1985. His destination is Leipzig; he is planning to participate in the book fair and is of the impression that the fair is a meeting place for writers. An attempt was made to dispel him of that notion because it is not the case.
He will be in Leipzig for the opening of the fair on 3/10/1985 and, after the fair concludes, he will fly back to the USA on 3/17/1985.

He did not mention plans to make visits with authors he knows. He did not accept invitations to organize a personal meeting in Berlin during or after the fair, making reference to his return flight on 3/17/1985.
He commented on his book as follows:

The work, a three-volume edition, is existent. It is entitled “GDR Literature During the Thaw.”
He had offered it to a USA publisher, the project was accepted, then the publisher allegedly went bankrupt.
Now a Swiss publisher is attending to the three-volume edition.
ZIPSER explained that he had to buy back the contract from the bankrupt publisher, so that the book publication could actually come about, since it was already completed 4 years ago. The Swiss edition will be published in German. There are no plans for translations.

In our conversation I questioned its value, because it describes the literary scene from 1976. He said the book is now a contemporary document.
He did not respond to questions about the Swiss publisher.
His problem is how to go about delivering the complimentary copies to the GDR authors. His original plan to continue work on this project is apparently no longer in effect. He was not responsive to questions on this topic.

He is angry about the fact that GDR author Helga SCHÜTZ was not permitted to go to the USA last year; he had invited her to come to Oberlin.

Together with PLENZDORF we discussed possibilities for travel to the USA. One such idea ZIPSER expressed was always to invite two GDR authors. We explained to him that it would be better not to put two names forward, but rather one name and to let the Writers’ Union designate an additional one.
ZIPSER did not comment authoritatively on that, but finally said that one would have to turn to the GDR authors living in the West if the authors from the GDR would not be allowed to come.

He evidently also discussed this problem with SCHEIBNER, since they were having an animated conversation. PLENZDORF and I were of the opinion that ZIPSER would even be able to negotiate with the Union about that.

It was surprising that ZIPSER did not inquire at all about the literary scene in Leipzig.

I had casual conversations with Ms. [blacked out] and her husband. She speaks very good German, he does not. Before coming to Berlin, both were at the USA Embassy in Vienna. Both seemed not to know anything about GDR literature. One indication of that is the fact that the conversation was only about the weather, Berlin and the surrounding area, and about him [blacked out] speaking to the police in front of the Embassy. Questions about cultural policy and politics did not enter into the discussion at all.

Also the question for SCHEIBNER, whether he too is a writer, provided evidence of ignorance.

STADE and his wife showed up at around 7:30 p.m., [blacked out]. He brought along his book-novel which, as far as I was able to learn, is going to be published first in the FRG. STADE did not clarify the circumstances. [It was highly unusual for a literary work by an East German writer to appear in print in West Germany prior to its publication in East Germany. Fries was surely eager to learn more about this development.]

PLENZDORF and I were in agreement and surprised by the invitation on short notice. It did not make sense, and [the reception] went off in the typical Anglo-Saxon short-winded way.

I found out that Christa and Gerhard WOLF and the editor SCHUCH from Henschel Publishing House had been invited. The reasons why they did not attend are not known. With these persons, the invitees would have been GDR citizens who have spent time in the USA in recent years.

ZIPSER’s purpose for being in the GDR is unclear.
Presumably he is not here of his own accord, otherwise he would have visited Berlin and not the fair in Leipzig.
The literary scene in Berlin has more to offer than Leipzig’s.
It was surprising that he turned down invitations to Berlin and, on the other hand, did not inquire at all about the literary scene in Leipzig.

signed IM

Comments

The IM attended the reception, as instructed. The reporting has not been checked; there is no reason to doubt its veracity.

Protection of the [confidential] source must be guaranteed.

On March 9, the next day, a shorter version of the above report was sent as a telegram to the Ministry for State Security in Berlin. The telegram is addressed as follows:

Sender:Regional Headquarters Frankfurt (O), Department XX
Recipients:Ministry for State Security Main Department XX,
Director, and Ministry for State Security Main,
Department XX/7, Director

While the information in the two reports is basically the same, the conclusion of the telegram is different; it mentions the informant Fries by name.

Plenzdorf and Fries were unable to figure out the objective of the reception; both were amazed by the invitation on short notice and the superficiality of the evening.