INT: So you actually said you agreed with that development and what did you then feel when Soviet and East German troops moved into Czechoslovakia?
SH: Of course, I was very much depressed, because many hopes - my hopes too - were dashed at the time. On the other hand, I knew that it was impossible to block the development of history, because history progresses not only by the intentions of the police, history progresses by what people do under the conditions in which they live. So this is a development that cannot be controlled by dictators exclusively.
INT: Just to ask you that question maybe slightly differently, to ask you to include the question into it a bit. What did the East German troops moved into Czechoslovakia, what did that mean?
SH: Actually, very few moved in, they were more or less signal troops and specialists. I think the German government was wise enough to see what German troops would do in Czechoslovakia, what effect that would have on the Czech people. It was enough that these few were there to create the reaction. I was of course outraged and many other people were outraged too that East German troops participated in that kind of operation. But I was just as outraged that Soviet troops moved into Czechoslovakia, this kind of intervention.
INT: Let me move on to the seventies. We move behind the Ostpolitik and in the mid-sixties and then in particular in '61 the development of the Bierman (unintelligible). You obviously were kind of closely connected to that circle. How important do you think was the Bierman affair in the conflict between the intellectuals on one side and the NCD leadership on the other side?
SH: Well, let me say first that it was not an issue that concerned Bierman alone. Bierman in fact was only the person caused the thing. Anlaß, as it's said in German. The cause was something else, the cause was the general conflict. But for the first time, a number of writers, a number of artists acted together in their protest against the government in their demand that they revise their decision. That never had happened before and that's what frightened the government, frightened the Party. If they didn't counter at that, then it would become probably a thing that was widely done and so they did everything to stop it and everything to block it. They organised other intellectuals and other writers to move against that small group, that at the time were the first (unintelligible) of the protest in the Bierman affair. Still, they couldn't block it. That had happened once. The first collective protest against arbitrary act of the government and so the contrary was achieved from what they wanted by the government of the GDR in their actions in the Bierman affair.
INT: What did actually happen during that affair? What was going on? Why did you get the courage to kind of make a stand?
SH: Well, I remember what we thought and said while we sat together, a small group of writers in the room of Stefan Hamlien before we were concerned. We act so much for Bierman, we act for ourselves. We knew if we didn't protest, then censorship and suppression would become even heavier than it was and we would not be able to move at all and so we knew that it was necessary if we wanted to exist, if we wanted to have enough freedom of thought to write our books. Our person and our work was at stake at that time and we defended that.
INT: You just spoke about depression. When did you kind of for the first time or maybe in that time particularly did you feel the kind of oppressive nature of the state security system?
SH: Well, thatis hard to date.
INT: But did it kind of develop parin that period?
SH: Yes, of course.... these things happened gradually. At a certain point you notice, my God, if you don't do something against that, you'll be absolutely blocked and won't be able to say any more what you have to say. Of course, you first try to write the kind of books that set the truth without affronting the leadership outright, but then came a point when you had to affront them and you had to say, all right, I now must speak openly and if I can't speak openly here in the East, then you'll have to speak out in the West and hope that it will reach the people for whom you have actually written, to whom you have been wanting to speak. So, this is, as I said, a gradual development and hard to date, it is hard to date when you began to feel it. You felt it all along, then it grew more and more, it grew heavier and heavier.
INT: Can you kind of describe to me what kind of effect that kind of state security system had on you and your life?
INT: So could you describe to me what kind of effect that kind of oppressive system had on your life?
SH: Well a very direct effect. We had agents of the secret police right here in the house. Our household help was paid by the state security an additional wage to report on us and to steal my manuscripts and bring them to the state security so they could photograph them. And in other words, a very direct effect and you saw with your own eyes the guards in their cars sitting on the street behind our garden and watching us. But these were only the direct things. You had censorship. If you brought a manuscript to the publisher, you knew where he was going to take it first and... you knew that he would try to suggest changes and would tell you this you can say and this you cannot say. And if you wanted to write and speak what you thought had to be written and spoken, then you had to act against all these suppressive rules and measures.
INT: So what kind of effect did it have then on life in the GDR? It must have had a great effect in the country.
SH: Of course it had its effects. People knew what they could do and what they could not do, what they would not be permitted to do. And one of the worst effects was that by suppressing critical thought, it also suppressed critical thought in the field of economics and hampered the development of economics and the country would fall back further and further in the economic competition with the West. So there were all sorts of effects that this kind of restriction caused, not only intellectual, but practical too.
INT: What did it mean to you and the people to live under this kind of control by the Stasi, what did that...?
SH: Well you mustn't think that twenty-four hours a day people would think, oh my God, how am I being controlled and isn't this just too terrible. I mean, most of the time you lived perfectly normally and people who were not in intellectual jobs or in the intellectual life, active in the intellectual life of the country could go on without feeling restricted, except in the very important point that they could not go where they wanted. They could not cross the border to the West whenever they liked and some never crossed it, so that was something they felt all the time. But otherwise, my God, you ate your breakfast, you ate your lunch, you ate your dinner, you slept, you lived a normal life and there was no unemployment and the social services worked, worked better than in the West. These were the things that the government supplied you with, in turn, of course, demanding obedience.
SH: (Interrupts) But you must not imagine that it was a constant feeling of outrage that was in the minds of people and the hearts of people.
INT: But when you actually were under surveillance, that must have had dramatic kind of psychological effects on you?
SH: Well, to a certain extent, but also... Well, let me tell you, we found one day in the snow, in front of our house, one of the little note books that a guard had left who had been observing us and we could read that and it was a very strange experience what they had observed and that they had referred to us by invented names. And it was nonsense what they had written and we knew we were being observed and to a certain extent, it was also a feeling of satisfaction felt. That might be sound strange, but it meant that you had been recognised, you'd be recognised, even if you were recognised as a danger, but they took you seriously. Today, when we live in a what is called democracy here, Western democracy and the one thing, you're not taken seriously all the time. You can write what you want, because nobody cares about it. But at that time, they cared very much about what you wrote, so that's an entirely different feeling you have. I don't know whether I made myself clear or whether my listeners will understand what I am trying to point out. That is a two-fold thing, a contradictory thing.