CRISTINA AND HER DUMMY Twenty years after the fall of Ceauşescu
For me, each journey to Romania is also a journey into another time, when I never knew which events in my life were coincidental and which were staged. This is why I have, in each and every public statement I have made, demanded access to my secret files which have, under various pretexts, invariably been denied me. Furthermore, each time there was evidence that I was, once again, still under surveillance.
Last spring I visited Bucharest at the invitation of the NEC (New European College). On the first day, I was sitting in the hotel lobby with a journalist and a photographer, when a muscular guard inquired about a permit and tried to tear the camera from the photographer’s hands. “No photos allowed. Not of persons either,” he fumed. On the evening of the second day, I had arranged to have dinner with a friend who, as we had agreed over the phone, came to pick me up from the hotel at six o’clock. As he turned into the street in which the hotel was situated, he noticed a man following him. When he asked, at the reception desk, that they call me, the receptionist said my friend would first have to fill in a Visitor’s Form. My friend was terrified because nothing like this had ever happened before, not even under Ceauşescu.
My friend and I walked to the restaurant. Again and again he suggested we cross to the other side of the street. I thought nothing of it. Not until the following day did he tell Andrei Pleşu, the Director of the NEC, about the Visitor’s Form and that a man had followed him on his way to the hotel and, later, the two of us to the restaurant. Andrei Pleşu was infuriated and sent his secretary to cancel all bookings at the hotel. The hotel manager lied, saying it was the receptionist’s first day at work and that she had made a mistake. But the secretary knew the lady, she had worked at the front desk for years. The manager replied that the “patron”, the owner of the hotel, was a former Securitate man who, unfortunately, would not change his ways. Then he smiled and said that by all means the NEC could cancel its bookings with him, but that it would be the same in other hotels of the same standard. The only difference would be that you wouldn’t know.
I moved out. After that I no longer noticed I was being followed. Either the secret service had withdrawn, or they were working professionally, i.e. unnoticed.
To know that someone would be needed to shadow me at six o’clock, they would have had to have tapped the phone in my room. Ceauşescu’s secret police, the Securitate, has not disbanded, but has merely been given another name, SRI (Romanian Information Service). And according to their own figures, forty per cent of their own staff have been appropriated from Securitate. The real percentage is probably higher still. And the remaining sixty per cent are today pensioners whose pensions are three times that of everyone else. Or, they are the new makers of the market economy. With the exception of being a diplomat, a former spy in today’s Romania can be anything.
Demanding Access to Your Files, Gets on The Nerves of Even Your Friends
The making available of the secret files interested Romanian intellectuals as little as did all the trampled lives around them, as little as did the new arrangements of the party’s top brass and secret service officers. If you, like me, have, year in year out, publicly demanded access to files, you get on the nerves of even your friends. So also for this reason, the files lay, through the years, not with the those in charge of the files, the tongue-twistingly named CNSAS, which was grudgingly set up in 1999 at the instigation of the EU, but with the new-old secret service. It was they who controlled all access to files. The authorities (CNSAS) had to submit applications to them. sometimes they were granted. But more often, they were refused, with the rationale that the file applied for is still being worked on. In 2004, I was in Bucharest to lend weight to my repeated application to obtain access to my files. I was puzzled; at the entrance stood three young women wearing shiny neon stockings and extremely décolleté mini-skirts, as if you were entering an erotica centre. And between the women stood a soldier, machine-gun over his shoulder, as though you were entering a military barracks. The person in charge left a message that he was not in, although I had an appointment with him.
This spring, a group of researchers came across the files on the Romanian-German authors of the “Aktionsgruppe Banat”. Securitate had a special department for each minority. For the Germans, it was called “German Nationalists and Fascists”, the Hungarian section was called “Hungarian Irredentists”, the Jewish one “Jewish Nationalists”. Only Romanian authors had the honour of being placed under the observation of the department of “Art and Culture”.
Suddenly I found my file under the name CRISTINA. Three volumes, nine hundred and fourteen pages. It was supposedly created on March 8, 1983, though it contains documents from earlier years. The reason for the creation of the file? “Tendentious distortions of realities in the country, particularly in the village environment” in my book “Nadirs”. Textual analyses by spies confirm this; and the fact that I belong to a “circle of German-language poets”, which is “renowned for its hostile works”.
The file is a messy piece of work committed by the SRI, in the name of the old Securitate. For ten years, they have had all the time in the world to “work” on it. You can't even call this an embellishment, the file is simply gutted.
Missing are the three years at the tractor factory TEHNOMETAL where I was a translator. I translated manuals for machines imported from the GDR (The German Democratic Republic), Austria and Switzerland. For two years, I sat with four bookkeepers in the office. They worked out the workers' wages, while I turned the pages of my fat technical dictionaries. I didn’t understand the first thing about hydraulic or non-hydraulic presses, leavers or gauges. When the dictionary suggested three, four, or even seven terms, I went out onto the factory floor and asked the workers. They told me the correct Romanian word though they had no knowledge of German – they knew their machines. In the third year a “protocol office” was established. The company director moved me there to work alongside two newly employed translators, one, who translated from French, the other from English. One was the wife of a university professor who, even in my student days, was said to be a Securitate informant. The other was the daughter-in-law of the second-ranking secret service officer in the town. Only those two had the key to the file cupboard. When foreign professionals visited, I had to leave the office. Then, apparently, I had to be made presentable for the office by means of two recruitment tests administered by the secret service officer Stana. After the second refusal, his parting remark was, “You’ll be sorry. We'll drown you in the river.” One morning, when I appeared for work, my dictionaries were lying on the floor outside the office door. My place now belonged to an engineer, I was no longer allowed into the office. I couldn’t go home, they would have fired me then and there. Now I had no table, no chair. For two days, defiant, I sat out my eight hours with the dictionaries on a concrete staircase between the ground floor and the second floor, trying to translate so that no one could say I didn’t work. The office staff walked past me in silence. My friend Jenny, an engineer, knew how things had come to this. Each day on our way home, I had told her everything that had happened. She came over to me during the dinner break and sat down on the stairs. We ate together as we previously had, in my office. Over the loudspeaker in the yard, we constantly heard the workers’ choirs sing about the happiness of the people. She ate and cried for me. I didn’t cry. I had to hold out. Of course. On the third day, I installed myself at Jenny’s desk while she cleared a corner for me. On the fourth day as well. It was a large office. On the fifth morning she was waiting for me outside the door. “I am no longer allowed to let you into the office. Just think, my colleagues say you are a stool pigeon.” “How is that possible,” I asked. “But you know where we live,” she reasoned. I took my dictionaries and sat down on the stairs again. This time I cried too. When I went out onto the factory floor to ask about a word, the workers whistled after me and shouted, “Securistin!” (informer for Securitas). It was a witches’ cauldron. How many spies must there have been in Jenny’s office and on the shop floor? The attacks were handed down on cue. These aspersions were meant to force me to resign. At the beginning of these turbulent times, my father died. I no longer had a grip on myself, had to reassure myself of my existence in the world, and began to write down my life thus far – from these writings sprang the short tales in “Nadirs” (Niederungen, eds).
The fact that I was now considered a stool pigeon because I had refused to become one, was worse than the attempt to recruit me or threaten me with death. That I was defamed by precisely those I was protecting, by refusing to spy on them. Jenny and a handful of colleagues knew what game was being played with me. But those who knew me only by sight had no idea. How could I have explained to them what was going on. How could I prove the opposite? That was humanly impossible. Securitate knew that, which is exactly why they did it to me. They knew, too, that this perfidious act would destroy me more than their blackmail ever could. You get used to even death threats. They are part and parcel of the one life you have. You defy anxiety to the depths of your soul. But through calumny you are robbed of your soul. You are simply surrounded by the horror of it all.
How long this state of being lasted, I no longer know. It seemed to me to be endless. It was probably only a few weeks. Ultimately, I was fired.
About all this, there are two words in the file- a handwritten note in the margin of an interrogation protocol. At home, years later, I recounted to someone the attempt in the factory to enlist me as a spy. In the margin, lieutenant colonel Padurariu had written, “That’s correct.”
Now came the interrogations. The reproaches, that I wasn’t looking for a job, that I was living from prostitution, black market dealings, as a “parasitical element”. Names were mentioned I had never heard of in my life. And accusations of spying for the BND (West German Intelligence Service. Bundesnachrichtendienst. eds), because I was friendly with a librarian at the Goethe Institute and an interpreter at the German Embassy. Hours and hours of fictitious reproaches. But not only that. No summons was required of them, they simply plucked me off the street. I was on my way to the hairdresser’s when a policeman brought me through a narrow metal door into the basement of a dormitory. Three men in plain clothes were sitting at a table. A small bony one was the boss. He demanded to see my identity card and said, “Well, you whore, here we meet again.” I had never seen him before. According to him I had sex with eight Arab students and was being paid in tights and cosmetics. I did not know a single Arab student. When I said so, he replied, “If we want to, we’ll find twenty Arabs as witnesses. You’ll see, it’ll make a splendid trial.” Again and again he threw my identity card onto the floor, and I had to bend down and pick it up. Thirty or forty times maybe; when I slowed down, he kicked me in the small of my back. From behind the door, at the end of the table, a woman’s voice was screaming. Torture and rape. Only a tape recording, I hoped. Then I had to eat eight hard-boiled eggs and green onions with raw salt. I forced the stuff down, whereupon the bony man opened the metal door, threw my identity card outside and kicked my behind. I fell with my face in the grass beside some bushes. I vomited without raising my head. Without hurrying, I took the identity card and went home. Being pulled in from the street caused more fear than a summons. No one knew where you were. You could have disappeared, never again to turn up, or, as they had threatened earlier, be pulled out of the river as a drowned body. The verdict would have been: Suicide. No interrogation is mentioned in the files, no summons, and nothing about being pulled in from the street.
This is what the file states on November 30, 1986: “Notification of every journey that CRISTINA undertakes, to Bucharest and other places in the country, must be given in time to Directorate I/A (Internal Security) and III/A (Counterespionage)”, so that “permanent control may be maintained,”- In other words, I was not to travel anywhere in the country without being shadowed- “to carry out the necessary control measures regarding her relationships with West German diplomats and West German citizens.”
The shadowing varied according to the intention. Sometimes you didn’t notice it, sometimes it was conspicuous, sometimes you went berserk, striking out aggressively about you. When “Nadirs” was to be brought out by the West Berlin publisher Rotbuch, the editor and I had arranged to meet in Poiana Brasov in the Carpathian mountains in order not to be conspicuous. We travelled there separately as winter sports people. My husband, Richard Wagner, had gone to Bucharest with the manuscript. I was to follow the next day by night train, with no manuscript. Two men received me in the railway hall and wanted to take me with them. I said: “Without an arrest warrant, I am not coming.” They confiscated my ticket and my identity card and said, before disappearing, that I wasn’t to move from the spot until they returned. But the train pulled in and they didn’t come back. I went out on the platform. This was the time of the great electricity saving effort. The sleeper car was standing in the dark, at the end of the platform. You were allowed to get on only immediately before the departure, so the door was still locked. The two men were there, too, walking up and down. They jostled me and pushed me to the ground three times. Grimy and confused, I got up as if nothing had happened. And the waiting crowd looked on as if nothing had happened. When, finally, the door of the sleeper car opened, I pushed my way into the middle of the queue. The two men got on, as well. I went into the compartment, undressed myself half-way, slipping on the pyjama top so that, were they to pull me out, it would look conspicuous. As the train pulled out, I went to the toilet and hid a letter to Amnesty International behind the sink. The two men were standing in the corridor, talking to the conductor of the sleeper car. I had the lower bunk in the compartment. Perhaps because I’m easier to snatch from there, I thought. When the conductor came to my compartment, he handed me my ticket and my identity card. Where had he got those, and what did the two men want from him, I asked. “Which men,” he said, “there are dozens of men here.”
I didn’t sleep a wink all night. It was foolish of me to get on the train, I thought. They’ll throw me off the train somewhere, in a snowy field, during the night. As day was breaking, my anxiety abated. They would surely have made use of the dark for a staged suicide, I thought. Before the first passengers woke up, I went to the toilet to fetch the hidden letter. Then I got dressed, sat down on the edge of the bunk and waited until the train arrived in Bucharest. I got out of the train as if nothing had happened. Not a word about this in the file either.
My being shadowed had consequences for others too. A friend was first noticed by the secret service at a reading of mine of “Nadirs” at the Bucharest Goethe Institute. Following this, the details of his life were assembled, a file on him was initiated and he was, from that time on, under observation. This is in his file. In mine, no mention is made of it.
Secret service people came and went as they pleased when we weren’t at home. Often they would deliberately leave signs - cigarette butts, pictures from the wall lying on the bed, chairs moved. The most uncanny incident of this kind lasted for weeks. First the tail, then the paws and last of all the head were cut off a fox skin lying on the floor, and then laid on the stomach of the fox. You couldn’t see the cuts. I first noticed, when cleaning, that the tail was lying there. I still thought it might be an accident. Weeks later, when the hind paw was cut off, it made my flesh crawl. Until the head had been cut off, as well, the first thing I did, on coming home, was to check the fox skin. Anything could happen, the flat had lost its privacy. Each time you ate, you would consider whether the food might have been poisoned. There is not a word in the files about this psychological terror. In the summer of 1986, the writer Anna Jones visited us in Timi?oara. In a letter, enclosed in my file, to the Romanian Society of Authors, dated November 4, 1985, she and other authors protested my not being allowed to travel to the Book Fair, to the Evangelical Church Day, and to my publishers. The visit is accurately documented in my file, and there is a “TELEX” from August 18, 1986 to the Border Agency, instructing it to “search her luggage thoroughly on her leaving Romania”, and to report their findings. In contrast, the visit of the journalist Rolf Michaelis from Die Zeit is missing. After the publication of “Nadirs”, he had wanted to conduct an interview with me. He had announced his arrival by telegram and trusted he would find me at home. But the telegram was intercepted by the secret service, and Richard Wagner and I, knowing nothing, had gone to see his parents in the countryside, for a couple of days. Two days in a row, he rang our doorbell in vain. On the second day, three men were lying in wait for him in the rubbish-chute room and brutally beat him up. The toes on both his feet were broken. We were living on the fifth floor. The lift wasn’t working, due to a power shortage. Michaelis had had to crawl on all fours down the pitch-dark stairwell and onto the street. The telegram from Michaelis is missing from the file, although there is quite a collection of intercepted letters from the West. According to the file, this visit never took place. This lacuna demonstrates, as well, that the secret service has deleted the actions of their full-time staff, so that no one can be held responsible as a result of granting access to the files – they have seen to it that the post-Ceau?escu Securitate becomes an abstract monster without culprits.
This is also how I explain to myself that no reference can be found in my file to another bizarre incident. I was already living in Berlin when I was called to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. I was shown a photo of a Romanian man, unknown to me, who had been arrested in Königswinter as a Securitate agent. My name and address were in his notebook. The agent was suspected of travelling in Germany in order to carry out murders.
Rolf Michaelis wanted to “protect” us and didn’t write about these attacks until we had left Romania. From the files, I know that this was a mistake. Not silence, only publicity, could protect us in the West. My file also reveals that surreal criminal proceedings were prepared against me for “espionage on behalf of the BND”. I owe it to the resonance of my books and the literary prizes in Germany that this plan was not realised and I was never arrested.
Rolf Michaelis could not call us prior to his visit, as we had no telephone. In Romania you had to wait years for an installation. We were, however, offered one without ever having applied. We refused the offer, as we all knew that a telephone would be the most convenient listening post in our small flat. When you visited friends who had a telephone, it was immediately put in the fridge and a gramophone record put on. Refusing to have a telephone was of no avail, for half of the file material I was handed, consists of protocols of bugging in our flat.
In Richard Wagner’s file one finds the nota de analiza of February 20, 1985, where one can see when neither of us is at home. “Similarly, installation was carried out of special equipment by means of which data of operative interest was obtained.” The plan to install bugging devices can also be found in his file. Holes were drilled into our floor and into the ceiling of the flat below. In both rooms, the bugging devices were behind the cupboards.
The monitoring protocols are often full of empty brackets, because the music from the records disturbed the bugging. But we let the music play, since we believed the secret service was working with directional microphones. We never thought that bugging went on day and night. True, during interrogations, you were always confronted with things the interrogators couldn’t possibly have known. But in view of Romania’s frightful poverty and backwardness, we believed that Securitate wouldn't be able afford modern bugging equipment. More accurately, we also thought that although we were their enemies of the state, we would not be worth this kind of extravagance. Despite all this anxiety, we remained naive. We were thoroughly mistaken about the degree of surveillance taking place.
Securitate investigated the occupation, place of work and political trustworthiness of each and every resident in our ten-storey tenement block and established lists of personal details – probably in order to recruit spies in our neighbourhood. Those who, until then, had never been in the sights of the secret service, were given the stamp “NECUNOSCUT” (UNKNOWN).
The bugging protocols are daily reports. The bugged conversations were summarised, the relevant hostile to the state parts were rendered word for word. In the case of unknown visitors, there are question marks in the margin and instructions to find out who they are. The bugging protocols are incomplete, as well.
Even Your Closest Friend is Part of the System of Love and Betrayal
One of our closest friends was Roland Kirsch. He was living round the corner from us and came to see us almost daily. He was an engineer in a slaughterhouse, took photographs of the dreariness of everyday life, and wrote prose miniatures. In 1996 his volume, “The Dream of the Moon Cat”, was published in Germany. It was published posthumously, because in May 1989 he was found hanged in his flat. The neighbours say today a number of loud voices could be heard in his flat, the night of his death. I don't believe it was suicide, either. In Romania you would run back and forth for days to sort out all the formalities before a funeral. In the case of suicide, a post mortem was a given. But the parents of Roland Kirsch were handed all relevant papers, within a day. He was buried quickly and without a post mortem. And in the fat envelope containing the bugging protocols, there is no mention of one visit from Roland Kirsch. His name is deleted. This person can't be said to have existed.
The Tangle of Love and Betrayal
One painful question, at least, was answered by my file. A year after my departure from Romania, Jenny came to visit us in Berlin. Ever since the time of my being harassed in the factory, she had been my closest friend. We saw each other almost daily, even after I had been sacked. But when I saw her passport in our Berlin kitchen, and the additional visas for France and Greece, I said to her face, “You don’t get a passport like that for nothing, what have you done to get it.” Her answer, “The secret service has sent me, and I absolutely wanted to see you again.” Jenny had cancer – she has been dead now for many years. She told me that her assignment was to investigate our flat and our daily routines. When we got up and went to bed, where we did our shopping and what we bought. She promised that, on her return to Romania, she would only pass on what had been agreed upon between us. She lived with us, wanted to stay for a month. With each day my distrust grew. After only a couple of days, I rummaged through her suitcase and found the telephone number of the Romanian consulate and a copy of our door key. After that I lived with the suspicion that in all probability she had been spying on me from the beginning, her friendship being an assignment. After her return to Romania, I saw from the file, she had delivered a detailed description of the flat and of our habits, as “SURSA (source) SANDA”.
But in a bugging protocol from 21 December, 1984, a note in the margin, next to the name of Jenny, reads, “We must identify JENI, apparently there is great trust between them.” This friendship, which meant so much to me, was ruined by her visit to Berlin- a seriously ill cancer patient lured, after chemotherapy, into betrayal. The copied key made it clear that Jenny had completed her assignment behind our backs. I had to ask her to leave our Berlin flat, at once. I had to drive out my closest friend in order to protect myself and Richard Wagner against the consequences of her assignment. This tangle of love and betrayal was unavoidable. A thousand times I have turned her visit over in my mind, mourned this friendship. In disbelief, I heard that, after my emigration, Jenny had had a relationship with a Securitate officer. Today I am happy. For the file demonstrates that our intimacy had grown out of ourselves and had not been arranged by the secret service, that Jenny had not spied on me until after I had emigrated. You become grateful for small mercies, search among all the poisoning for a part that isn’t contaminated, be it ever so small. The fact that my file proves the real feelings between us, now almost makes me happy.
The Expansion of Tradition Through Libel
After the publication of “Nadirs” in Germany, and as the first invitations came in, I was not allowed to travel. But when these were followed by invitations for literary award ceremonies, Securitate changed its strategy. Out of work until that time, I was offered an unexpected teaching job in the late summer of 1984. Already on my first school day, the recommendation from the head teacher needed for travelling was granted me. And in October 1984 I was actually allowed to travel. The next two times, I was permitted to receive literary prizes as well. The intention behind these travels, however, was malicious. Instead of being considered a dissident among my colleagues at the school, as I had been until then, I was to be seen as profiteering from the regime and, in the West, suspected of being an agent. The secret service worked intensely on both, but in particular on the “agent” persona. Espionage staff were sent to Germany, with the task of spreading calumny. The plan of action of July 1, 1985 states, with satisfaction, “as a result of several journeys abroad, the idea was launched, among some actors of the German State Theatre in Timişoara, that Cristina is an agent for the Romanian Securitate. The West German stage director Alexander Montleart, temporarily at the German Theatre in Timişoara, has already mentioned this suspicion to Martina Olczyk from the Goethe Institute and to employees at the German Embassy in Bucharest.”
After my emigration in 1987, the measures to “compromise and isolate” were intensified. A nota de analiza from March 1989 reads, “In the campaign to compromise her, we shall work with Branch D (Disinformation), publishing articles abroad or sending memoranda – as if issued by German emigration – to a number of circles and authorities wielding influence in Germany.” One of the spies appointed to this job was SORIN, “as he is said to have the literary and journalistic flair needed for the activities initiated.” On July 3, 1989, department I/A sends a raport to Securitate headquarters in Bucharest. The Romanian writer Damian Ureche has written a letter, in accordance with their instructions, in which Richard Wagner and I are defamed as spies. The HQ was being asked to authorise the letter. Through the agency of a dancer from one of the folklore ensembles, who was travelling to Germany, it was to reach RADIO FREE EUROPE and the ARD (the national radio and TV network in West Germany).
The most important “partner” in Germany for smear campaigns was the Association of Banat Swabians. As early as 1985, Securitate noted, with satisfaction, “the leadership of the Association of Banat Swabians has made negative comments about this book (“Nadirs”), also in the presence of representatives of the Romanian Embassy from Germany.” This is strong stuff. Since the publication of “Nadirs”, the Association had waged a campaign of character assassination against me. “Faecal language, urine prose, soiling her own sheets, party whore” were the usual judgements of their homespun “literary criticism”. I was a stool pigeon, they alleged, had even written “Nadirs” at the behest of the Securitate. While I was sitting on the concrete steps, the Association was apparently in cahoots with the embassy staff of the Ceauşescu dictatorship. I, on the contrary, would never have dared set foot in that embassy, because I didn’t know if I’d ever get out of there again. In view of these relations with Ceauşescu’s diplomats, it is hardly surprising that, during all those years, the Association never uttered one critical syllable. In collaboration with the regime, it carried on the trade in Romanian-Germans. The per capita sum of up to twelve thousand Deutschmarks which the Federal Republic paid for each emigrant did not bother the Association; no more than the fact that this trade in human beings was a considerable source of currency for the dictatorship. In the same spirit of chummy compliance with the regime, they shared a hatred of me much as much as they did the business of defamation. I was labelled public enemy number one and became, as their permanent target, a vital part of the Association’s identity. Whoever defamed me, proved his love of the homeland. The Association expanded its cultivation of tradition by defaming me. The expression “stool pigeon” only seemed to occur to the Association whenever I was to be defamed. My file reads, “Because of her writings, which cast the Banat Swabians in a bad light,” persons from this circle living outside of Romania had “isolated and embarrassed” me. And, “Our organs have, by the means at our disposal, taken part in this campaign.” My file says, “Compromising material should also be sent to Horst Fassel, at the address of his Institute, requesting that it be disseminated.” The institute in question is the Danube Swabian Institute in Tübingen, whose leader, at the time was Fassel. And before that, in the eighties, he was editor of the “Banater Post”.
In their reports, the spies of the Romanian secret service have led the Association in Germany to believe that it had a significance it never, in fact, had. Despite the geographical distance, there was apparently the same dependence that we know from the Stasi-informant in relation to his or her case officer, the same pressure to obey, the same fear of being dropped and exposed, here, in the West.
One of the most diligent was SORIN, who as early as 1983 snooped on the Timişoara group of authors. An acquaintance, who has seen the file on his [own] father, who had in the meantime passed on, gathers from the code attached to the name of a spy on each report, that by 1982 SORIN had already delivered 38 reports. Also in my file, with its more than 30 spy names, SORIN is one of the main characters. An action plan of November 30, 1986, expressly states that SORIN be given the task of prying into what plans I had for the immediate future and what relationships I was cultivating in Romania and abroad. The chief editor of the cultural section of the Bucharest paper, “New Way”, once visited us in Timişoara, accompanied by Walther Konschitzky. In the bugging protocol for that day, lieutenant colonel Padurariu, who always interrogated me, noted, in the margin, the identification of this visitor as SORIN.
Already during the dictatorship, he travelled regularly to Germany, and, like so many spies, emigrated before the fall of Ceauşescu. He became the cultural consultant of the Banat Association from 1992 to 1998. Since then he has carried out his function unsalaried, as the position in the Munich HQ was terminated.
The Association has never cared about the spies within its own ranks. Since its founding in 1950, it has created for itself a cuckoo homeland of brass band music, costume parties, pretty peasant cottages and carved wooden gates. It has always blocked out Hitler’s and Ceauşescu’s dictatorships. Leading persons in the national socialist ethnic minority (Volksgruppe) of the Banat were among the founders of the Association.
These days, the Association refuses to investigate Securitate’s influence on its own ranks, with the excuse that the matter is no longer current. Hardly acceptable, when one considers its political weight in Germany. Although fewer than ten percent of Banat Swabian émigrés are organised within the Association, it has had representatives on broadcasting boards and in cultural institutions, throughout the years. After my arrival in Germany, radio journalists told me that their broadcasts with me had adverse repercussions for them, because of the intervention the Association. Furthermore, all these years it was one of the focal points for the processing of applications for emigration from Romania, which it occasionally sought to prevent. They tried to impede the emigration application of the literary critic, Emmerich Reichrath, whose reviews went beyond the narrow horizon of the Banat. Before leaving the country, I too received letters from “fellow Banat Germans” in Germany, saying, “You are not welcome in Germany.”
At the reception centre in Nuremberg, the Association office was next door to that of the BND. A stamp from the Association was imperative for the processing of immigration formalities. I was welcomed with the sentence, “German air won’t be good for your health.” I had a severe cold after a nocturnal ride to the border on the trailer of a tractor. It was in the month of February. Behind the next door, with the BND, the reception was even more brusque. Today I know why. Securitate’s plan of defamation had succeeded. “Have you had dealings with the local secret service?” My answer, “It has had dealings with me, there's a difference,” did not impress the civil servant. “Leave that for me to decide, that’s what I’m paid for,” he said. “If you have an assignment to carry out, it’s not too late to say so now.” While everyone else could leave this office after a few minutes with a “harmless” stamp, Richard Wagner and I were interrogated for several days, together and separately. While my mother was given her certificate of naturalisation automatically, for months we were told “thorough research was required”. It was grotesque. On the one hand, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution warned us against Securitate’s threats. Do not live on the ground floor, do not accept gifts while travelling, do not leave cigarette packs on the table, never enter a house or a flat with an unknown person, buy yourself a dummy pistol, etc. On the other hand, the suspicion of my being an agent blocked my naturalisation.
I ask myself why the West German Intelligence (BND) held me under suspicion, yet didn’t get wind of the many spies within the Association and among the émigrés. It is also quite likely the BND trusted the information coming from the Association. That is why Germany today is a cosy reserve for Securitate spies. When you compare the files on the Banat group of authors, numerous spies may be identified, such as SORIN, VOICU, GRUIA, MARIN, WALTER, MATEI, and many more. They are teachers, professors, civil servants, journalists, actors. No one has ever bothered them. They couldn’t care less about the debate about Stasi, which has been going on since the Wall came down. They may all be German citizens, but they remain a mystery to the German authorities. Their spying activities are exterritorial in this country. And in contrast to Stasi spies after reunification, Securitate spies have not been deprived of their case officers, because these days they hold positions in the new Romanian secret service.
The German Parliament (Bundestag, eds) financed the Association’s work during and after the dictatorship; was an investigation ever demanded into the involvement of its staff with the Romanian dictatorship?
In 1989, after Ceauşescu’s fall, I thought that the smear campaigns against me would finally be made obsolete. But they continued. In 1991, I even received threatening phone calls, in Rome, while on a bursary in the Villa Massimo. And the Securitate’s letter campaign has apparently taken on a life of its own. When, in 2004, I was awarded the literature prize of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation, not only did the Foundation receive piles of letters with the usual smears, this time the action took on grotesque proportions, as even the chairmanship of the Bundestag, the then leader of the Federal State of Baden-Württenberg, Erwin Teufel, the chair of the jury, Birgit Lermen, and Joachim Gauck, who was to give the prize lecture, received letters defaming me as an agent, a member of Romania’s communist party and someone who had soiled her own sheets. At a quarter to midnight, Birgit Lermen’s phone rang, exactly at midnight Berhard Vogel’s (chairman of the foundation) and at a quarter past midnight, Joachim Gauck’s. Smears and threats with the Horst Wessel-song sounding in the background. These calls were made nightly, until the police found the caller by means of call tracing.
The Dummy and her Own Ways
In my file I am two different persons. One is called CRISTINA, who is an enemy of the state and is being fought against. To compromise this CRISTINA a dummy is produced in the falsification workshop of Branch “D” (Disinformation), with all the ingredients that harm me the most – party-faithful communist, unscrupulous agent. Wherever I went, I had to live with this dummy. It wasn’t just sent after me, it hurried ahead of me. Even though I have, from the beginning, always written again the dictatorship, the dummy goes its own way to this day. It has become independent of me. Even though the dictatorship has been dead for 20 years, the dummy leads its ghostly life. For how long yet?
Translated by Karsten Sand Iversen and Christopher Sand-Iversen. Edits TCR.
Herta Müller was born in Rumania. She emigrated to Germany with Richard Wagner in 1987. Several months after the publication of this article in the German newspaper Die Zeit, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. She writes in German. We have brought this with the permission of the author.
translation copyright © Karsten Sand Iversen and Christopher Sand-Iversen