BERLIN — A new book showing the huge lengths the East German secret police, the Stasi, went to in order to spy on Nobel Prize-winning author Guenter Grass will go on sale in March, its publisher said Tuesday.
The Stasi first began to keep tabs on Grass, Germany's best-known post-war writer, in 1961 when he wrote an open letter attacking the construction of the Berlin Wall by the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR), the book shows.
"Grass was unbelievably well known in the GDR. His books were banned for decades, but everybody knew him. He often visited the GDR and people would say, 'That's Grass'," said Kai Schlueter, the new book's author.
But when Grass, whose best-known book "The Tin Drum" had come out in 1959, visited East Germany, where he would give readings, the Stasi would attempt to follow his every move, giving him the code name "Bolzen" ("bolt").
"Grass was completely surrounded by spies when he came to the GDR. All his official interlucutors were IMs, 'unofficial employees' (spies), all of them," said Schlueter, who went through over 2,000 Stasi files to compile his book.
"Whether they were from writers' associations, publishers' representatives, state representatives, theatre people ... he was completely surrounded. This really surprised me," Schlueter told Radio Bremen in November.
"From the moment he crossed from West Berlin at the Friedrichstrasse border crossing point until he left again, he was monitored the whole time. He says he never noticed."
These informers would then tell a Stasi officer what Grass, now 82, has said and done, which would then be meticulously recorded in documents that after German unification in 1990 were opened to the public.
Schlueter said that he was of particular interest to the Stasi because unlike other "easy ideological targets" like West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Grass, as an active supporter of the Social Democratic Party who backed party icon Willy Brandt's election campaign in the 1960s and 70s, was seen as a more insidious threat.
The book, "Guenter Grass im Visier -- Die Stasi-Akte" ("Guenter Grass in the Cross Hairs -- the Stasi Files"), is published by Christoph Links Verlag.
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