88. More Reports on the Reception at Cynthia Miller’s Residence

In my file there are four reports on the March 7, 1985 reception in my honor at cultural attaché Cynthia Miller’s residence. Two of these reports, both dated March 9, 1985, are similar in content and clearly based on the information IMB “Pedro Hagen” communicated to his Stasi-handler Gerhard Hoffmann when they met on March 8, 1985. The other two provide some new information and insights that probably came from the other informant present at the party, Eberhard Scheibner, who is referred to as “die Quelle” (the source). The longer of the two reports dated March 9, 1985, appears below. Note that Scheibner plays a much more prominent role than he did in the report Fries made on March 8, as he takes me to task and vigorously defends the GDR and the practices of its Writers’ Union. Much of this is fictional, but it certainly makes Scheibner look like an ultra-loyalist functionary, exactly how he wished to be perceived by the Stasi and his supervisors.

File  Zipser March 9, 1985

Regarding the reception of the Press and Culture Counsellor of the Embassy of the USA in the capital city of the GDR, Cynthia Miller, on 3/7/1985 at 6:00 p.m. in her residence, 1110 Berlin, Platanenstrasse 98.

[. . .]

As became known unofficially, some of the invited persons were, among others

Hermann Kant President of the Writers’ Union of the
Rudi Strahl Member of the Executive Committee of
the WU
Eberhard Scheibner Secretary of the Writers’ Union
Fritz Rudolf Fries Member of the Executive Committee of
the PEN Center of the GDR

and the operatively known writer, Ulrich Plenzdorf.

Zipser had already met and conversed with Plenzdorf on the evening of his arrival in Hotel “Metropol” in Berlin.
The names of other persons who received invitations could not be determined as yet.

Eberhard Scheibner, Fritz Rudolf Fries and his wife, and Ulrich Plenzdorf and his wife accepted the invitation.
The unofficial source was unable to discern other persons from the literary domain of the GDR.

In addition to the parties named above, 5 other persons not known to the source attended this reception.

After ca. 1 ½ hours another married couple came to this reception; they were introduced simply with the comment that they are old friends of Mr. Zipser.

In his personal conversation with Zipser, the source asked Zipser to explain what has become of his scholarly work on GDR literature. Zipser claimed back then—1977/78—that he wanted to write a comprehensive book on GDR literature and GDR writers. He spent several months in the GDR, but up to now no one has read even one printed line written by Mr. Zipser, which is very strange indeed.  

As a result of this questioning, which obviously was embarrassing for Zipser, he attempted to explain in a very roundabout way that the American publishing house planning to bring out his work had changed owners several times and, despite assurances during the interim, his manuscript was not published. According to Zipser’s statements, this has to do with the American Nordland Publishing Company. (No information on this publisher is available to the source.)

Zipser indicated further that his book will be readily available in May 1985 and he will have a complimentary copy sent to all participating GDR authors as well the Writers’ Union. This scholarly work is going to be published in 3 volumes, 2 volumes of which will contain the texts from the 45 GDR authors and 1 volume the interviews he conducted with GDR writers.

Zipser mentioned in passing that he is well aware that there will also be people in the GDR who will not be pleased with his book, but he is an American and wrote the book from this point of view.

Zipser stated additionally that the actual reason for his visit to the GDR is that he has been appointed and installed as director of the USA booth at the Book Fair in Leipzig. He stated, with regard to what the USA would display at its booth, that he did not yet know any details about this. However, the USA would not be putting political books on display, but rather fiction primarily, children’s books, history and science books.

Zipser attempted to attack the Secretary of the Writers’ Union of the GDR, Scheibner, by questioning why the writer Helga Schütz was not permitted to accept his invitation to visit Oberlin.

Comrade Scheibner countered, telling Zipser that it looks very odd and Zipser has lost his credibility as regards his integrity of purpose vis-à-vis the GDR, since up to now after 8 years there is still not one line written by him to be read on GDR literature and its writers, and since in the past he only invited writers—with one exception—who established themselves through oppositional types of behavior vis-à-vis the GDR, and that if Zipser is seriously striving to have good relations with the GDR he has to respect certain principles that are in force in the GDR; for example, how the GDR does not allow someone to dictate which writers it has to send somewhere, since the delegation principle prevails in the Writers’ Union.

This reply made Zipser very uncomfortable and he tried in turn to explain why he would have to persist with the invitation to the writer Helga Schütz. Zipser then indicated that there is a foundation at his institution, Oberlin College, which is governed by a “democratic” committee. This committee, he said, has decided to invite German-speaking writers from both German states. Thus, they have invited (among others) the FRG writer Gert Hoffmann and the Swiss writer Adolf Muschg, and now the governing committee wants just to bring Helga Schütz to the USA and no other writer. If the GDR does not permit Helga Schütz to travel, Zipser asserted, the GDR is not going to be represented.

At that point Comrade Scheibner told Zipser that nobody in the GDR would be upset by this. Zipser’s institution must adjust to the fact that the Writers’ Union makes such determinations in the GDR or it is senseless to continue dealing with one another.
On top of that, Comrade Scheibner once again pointed out to Zipser that he had contact with 45 writers during his last stay in the GDR, some of whom were far more important and more representative than Helga Schütz.

At that point Zipser repeated once again, stubbornly, that he will renew the invitation to Helga Schütz with a concrete deadline for permission to make the trip, since he could not afford to have another cancellation on short notice, otherwise he would not receive funding approval for any more GDR authors.

Comrade Scheibner pointed out to Zipser that he would not influence or alter the position of the Writers’ Union through his stubbornness. As long as no printed line written by him is available, he remains noncredible. When his books have appeared in print, it might be possible to continue the conversation.

As also became known unofficially, Zipser spoke with Plenzdorf about another longer research residency in the GDR. Specific details on that could not be obtained as yet.

At the conclusion, as goodbyes were being said, Zipser approached Comrade Scheibner and told him that he had thought about his arguments and the Writers’ Union ought to give him suggestions as to which writers he could invite to the USA. Then Comrade Scheibner replied that he would take note of that and present it to the executive committee of the Writers’ Union.

Zipser also mentioned that he intends to remain in Leipzig until 3/16/1985 and plans to start his journey back to the USA from Berlin on 3/17/1985.