Double Spy is such a fascinating account of this secret world of counter-espionage. One gets the impression reading it, that in some ways you had quite an interesting time during this experience? Would this be accurate to say?
– Yes, it was interesting. Spy-work is an activity for which one is asked. This kind of job is not offered in newspapers or on the net nowadays. A combination of factors made me interesting to the East Germans: 1. Of course they’d followed me during my first visit in 1963 and thought I was able to cope with stress; 2. As a journalist I had an entry almost everywhere. 3. In Holland I was not suspected, since I was politically active in the party in Holland that was most against communism; 4. They thought I would be loyal to them because of my girlfriend. For the Dutch BVD it was of interest to Holland accept the free offer of a loyal young Dutchman to work for them and spy-out the foreign espionage department of the Stasi in the way they worked.
Were you shocked by the conditions of life in East Germany when you first visited? What struck you the most about the conditions?
– At that time – mid-sixties – the standard of living in the GDR was not much less than in Western Europe. America was well ahead. East Germany was by far the most developed and industrialised country in Eastern Europe. Under the Honeckers industry lacked re-investments. Most of the “profits” had to be used for the massive repression of the East German people. They wanted to treat the East Germans like the Russians had been treated, both under the Czars and communist leaders: by the knout, the whiplash used for criminals. In 1972 Erich Honecker staged a coup that ousted Walter Ulbricht from the throne and 17 years later the GDR was bankrupt and the Wall broken.
What about the element of danger and risk for you and your friends? You do say in the introduction that it was not dangerous, but was that always the case?
– Yes. It was not dangerous for me in East Germany. The number 2 spy-organisation in the world never uncovered me. I hid behind my smile, my chess books, and in particular by being normal, very gray normal. And I abused my epilepsy where I thought it was in my interest, like refusing alcohol, or being very slow in understanding. The longer I spied in the GDR the more well known I became and the less attractive it became to arrest me in case I was uncovered. I was endangered in the West, in Holland in particular. But here I was backed by the BVD.