A Failed Attempt by the Stasi to Hire a Business Man
... as a Spy for the DDR

Details of an attempted conspiracy in an office in the "Hacke`sche Höfe"
in East-Berlin - capital of the former DDR (1966)

by Gustave Roosen      (updated 04. 26th. / 2002)

Gustave Roosen In the mid-sixties I started a small import agency to augment my earnings as a sales man. I dealt mainly with Japanese cigarette lighters and give-away-items. Due to increasing competition I tried to enlarge the range of goods with technical items. Since all our distributors and department stores had their own well-established buying agents in Japan, Hongkong and Singapore from which whom they received immediate information regarding the latest in the field, I didn't see any chance to enlarge my business in our homemarket.
I tried to find an opportunity with the DIA-authorities (the East German East/West Trade) in East-Berlin, risked the expenses for some flights from Hamburg to West-Berlin and rented a car for visiting these several DIA offices. Visitors to those agencies, asked politely for a date with the buyers or their secretaries and took their place in the visitor's waiting-room (which smelled strongly of Lysol and soft soap).

Visitors were welcomed generally by older women... most of them looked like they were summer help! They were responsible for listening to the purpose of the pending visit, checking offers, looking over prospects and leaflets, and to charge what the traffic would bear. There were all kind of real samples, also gifts and so on. They assured us they would let us know in the case of goods being needed, and being offered. Requests regarding payment policies when orders were placed, or if quotas of currencies might cause any problems, as well as other required information, all necessary for a supplier, remained unanswered. Any further attempts to obtain information were terminated.
One day I stayed in a visitor's waiting room, looking for an interviewer and the door was opened a bit when a very attractive blonde passed by. At that moment she passed along, I looked at her admiringly and when she noticed me, her face darkened and her obviously good feeling "being in the mood" disappeared at once and changed into one of defence. I could read in her face "obviously someone from the West, certainly one intent on questioning our establishment and entice the DDR women..."
What a pity, her mood changed. But I didn't feel guilty myself, since I had no intentions of enticing anybody.

"Assists the departments of our state-security in the fight against the enemies of peace and democracy" ( Shield beyond )
Stasi-shield Certainly this was the effect of their own agitation and propaganda which caused those prejudices against us, the visitors from the West. I looked a while at this unsuccessful way of sales canvassing and the only "success" was an inquiry for flints for lighters. There were no concrete approaches. On the other hand I was not willing any more to throw money away, so I made up my mind to do some future planning before investing more money for travel expenses and samples.
One day I received a letter from East-Berlin, a firm marked HUBERT KG "E-M-A", which means export - fair - exposition. They had received notice about my endeavours to contact the authorities of DIA and therefore they would be interested in contacting me, on a non-committal basis. They proposed the upcoming Leipzig fair as a meeting point with the date and the place to meet to be made more precise. A mishap with my car on the way to Leipzig caused me to interrupt my trip. I contacted them later from Hamburg and made my apologies. Another letter followed - with another proposed date - for a meeting this time in East-Berlin, at an address 40/41, Rosenheimer Strasse.
Now I gambled again the travel expenses for a flight and car and arrived promptly. The address turned out to be a big building with a huge doorway some yards behind. I followed to the written signpost - 1.yard, 2nd staircase, then the 3rd floor and I remember an iron stair outside. On a platform at the 3rd floor I went through an iron door, which looked like a former air-raid-shelter door, which led to a long, dark corridor. One of the doors was slightly open, with a bit light shining through. It seemed I was expected. I was welcomed by the gentleman who had signed his letter with "Schepe". I noticed at once something very odd. The furniture in this "office" consisted of only an emtpy desk, an ancient phone, a board with no files, and a small table with just two chairs. There was no female secretary, no paper, no filing - all very strange! Was it merely a poor fabrication of an office? I had never seen anything like this before!

Now I became attentive, alarm-bells were ringing; something seemed to be wrong, this was not at all normal. I camouflaged my light touch of embarrassment and explained my version of how to get started into business connection. I showed leaflets of technical items I had brought with me: hi-precision-tape recorders, ITV-cameras, measuring equipment for metal surfaces and a variety of other items, all of Japanese origin.

In answer upon my inquiries regarding the financing of my wares Mr. Schepe replied that first class institutions were behind them and therefore no problems would occur in obtaining financing since the supply of those required items would be considered to be of a high priority. Transactions, to be done through transfers via third countries on switch-basis or further detours, I asked about, were absolutely no need for further divisions. His interest focussed on big data-processing equipment generally, as well as portable computers, that were in use on aerospace capsules. He even mentioned the German makers, like Siemens, Telefunken and others, who were also producing this type of equipment and asked me, incidentally, whether I also had contacts to these firms. In answer to my question whether such huge appliances would be financed by themselves, he answered that those big purchases would be handled via DIA - authority. His company and the people behind him would - in accordance with their usual policy - be interested even in those appliances of which an embargo has been imposed by the West. Upon my objection regarding the enormous risk of those transactions, he replied that they would first of all be interested in merely performance descriptions, operation instructions, manuals, and so on. Thus, as he explained there was really no need for them to purchase the actual items themselves. To obtain merely the performance files etc. they would be willing to pay sums of say 1000 to 2000 Deutschmarks, and perhaps even more, depending on value of the information.
With this he had let "the cat out of the bag".
"Mr. Schepe", I answered him,"I am honestly interested in real business transactions. Furthermore I am willing to serve a commission for you, payable in valuta, in an account of a West-Berlin bank or anywhere else - but espionage, that`s not my business. Kindly accept this proposal as a serious offer made in good faith.". He shook his head in a manner as if I'd misunderstood him, "No, no, we don't see that in such way..". Meanwhile the old-fashioned phone on his bare desk rang and listening to the shreds of his answers I gathered that he was being asked whether I appeared already and how the things are developing...

The clock showed it was noon. He didn't invite me for Lunch, but we agreed to meet at a later date and I drove to a restaurant, the well-known "Ganymed". It still exists ( 5, Schiffbauerdamm ).

I had an slight uncertain feeling of a latent danger and tried everything to avoid any provocation. I wished to avoid getting arrested by Stasi men posing as civilians, and took great care to keep open my way back to West-Berlin.

One hour later we met again. Mr. Schepe now stated frankly what he wanted to receive and presented a list of items much in demand, which he wanted to get within a fortnight. This included items such as

      1) Radar appliances for flight-control (Telefunken), items ARSR-WB,ASR-WB ASR-3/2, ASR-4, ASR-P,
          with detailed data in view of scope, frequency series, impuls performance and -sequence.
      2) Transmitters (Siemens), FM 12-400; PPM 6-400.
      3) Appliances made in USA, especially to Laser-units and some types of transmitters
      4) Digital computers (Telefunken, T.S.R.)
      5) Informations on m/s Radio Engineering Laboratories, Div. of Dynamics Corp. of America, Long Island,
          New York N.Y. 1100, furthermore a RCL Credential Brochure and Color Map "Troposcatter".

I took note of these and hastened to say good bye in view to my departure time back to Hamburg. I returned safely with my rented car across the border, and flew back home. "If you could imagine, Mr. Roosen, the number of businessmen who have been here already and how their business increased to a much larger scale.." - This argument of Mr. Schepe was not worth a second thought let alone to act on it in accordance with their wishes. Meanwhile time passed and I received a letter, dated Dec.20th, 1966:

Letter of conspiracy firm

Translation: "Dear Mr. Roosen, upon your news that you couldn't visit me due to your sickness, I had hoped to get another proposal of a date from your side.
It is a pity, that I have waited thus far in vain.
I hope that you will feel well again soon and that you are handling your Christmas business successfully. I would like to ask you please, to propose another date for your visit. At the same time I hope that your efforts in getting results as to our committments have succeeded, since my friends have already asked about it several times.
If you would like to arrange a visit I would like to propose to meet with you on the Jan. 6th, 1967 at 11am.
With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year, I send to you my best regards. I am looking forward to your answer, confirming the proposed date of visiting me, with much interest. Schepe".

Now, already little pressure from them. I had set my mind on entering the New Year without any stress with regard to all the efforts in the past having been in vain. So I answered:

"Dear Mr. Schepe,
I thank you very much indeed for your kind lines dd. Dec. 20th and regret very much at being unable to accept your proposal regarding another visit on January 6th, 1967.
My efforts up to now to enter into a business relationship with the authorities of the DIA in the DDR remain regrettably, without any acceptable results. I must mention, regarding the chance of a resumption of negotiations, that even in the future there will not be any openings at all for handling transit of cargo on my account. It is my feeling that I should not be condemned for entertaining only those business opportunities which obviously seem to have a chance of materializing and do not incur travel expenses associated with fruitless ventures.
The range of my offered appliances of mainly Japanese origin are known. If there should occur concrete intentions to embark on business opportunities in Japanese transistor-sets, I will be ready to enter into such a business activity. In view of the amount of total expenses in the past in vain, for visits etc. I propose to act only when an order involves a volume of not less than US$ 10.000 per order and shipment I have received as well as an advisement from my banker confirming receipt of an Irrevocable and confirmed L/C to my account.
I do hope that you appreciate my situation. With my best wishes for the New Year, I would like to remain, Yours faithfully, G.R."

I was relieved. I didn't mind what had happened up until now; but noted however, that no further travel into East-Germany would be possible. On the other hand there would be none of the uncalculable risks associated with what might have happened. Aside from the costs of the travel expenses I didn't lose very much. I was happy - and it seemed to be the mainthing - that I had not lost my honour.

                     An entry in my guestbook is welcome at any time. Thank's in advance!

                              More informations as to STASI are to be seen under http://www.bstu.de/

      I am much obliged to Mr. John Milloy, Kingston, Canada for translation into English.The author

© Gustave Roosen An e-mail for me?