Daily Archives: 3 January 2021

Under Surveillance in East Berlin, 1964

From The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue, by Frederick Forsyth (Penguin, 2015), Kindle pp. 110-111:

It takes time to accustom oneself to being under surveillance morning, noon, and night. Some people are badly unsettled to know that their office and apartment are heavily bugged; to see the figures in long raincoats pretending to be window-shopping on the streets as they follow you around; to watch the black car with darkened windows moving into position in the rearview mirror on the highway.

My own recourse was to take it as lightheartedly as possible, to realize that even the goons coming up behind are human beings, albeit only just, and we all have a job to do.

It did not take long to find the main “bug” in my office. There was a television, a four-valve model that happened to have five. When I removed the fifth, there was a television repairman on the doorstep within an hour. Before answering the bell, I replaced the fifth valve, then went to make a coffee in the kitchen while he fiddled inside the cabinet. A very puzzled technician left an hour later with profuse apologies for the disturbance.

Opposite the office was an apartment block and, right opposite my own windows, a single black aperture that was never closed and whose lights never came on. The poor mutts sitting beside their telescope must have nearly frozen to death in winter when the night temperature went down to ten below. At Christmas I sent over a bottle of good scotch whiskey and a carton of Rothmans King Size, asking the concierge to send them up to the number I figured had to correspond to the window. That night there was a brief flicker from a butane lighter, and that was all. But it was not all fun and games, and yanking the tiger’s tail needed a bit of caution.

One of the nastiest pieces of work in the regime was the press secretary to the Politburo, a certain Kurt Blecha. He had perhaps the falsest smile on earth. But I knew a few things about Master Blecha. One was his birthday, and another was that in the thirties, he had been a red-hot member of the Nazi Party.

Captured in 1943 on the Eastern Front, he had taken no time to convert to communism, being plucked from the freezing prisoner-of-war camp and installed in the retinue of exiled German Communist leader Walter Ulbricht. Blecha returned with the Communist veteran on the tails of the Red Army in 1945 to become part of the puppet government, the most slavish of all the satellite regimes.

At Christmas, Easter, and on his birthday, I sent him an anonymous greeting card at his office. It was bought in East Berlin but typed on a machine in the West Berlin office of Reuters, in case my own machine was checked. It wished him all best, with his Nazi Party membership number writ large and purporting to come from “your old and faithful Kamaraden.” I never saw him open them, but I hope they worried the hell out of him.

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