Herta Müller Ad-hoc Collection at CNSAS
The Herta Müller Ad-hoc Collection at CNSAS focuses on the case of the Romanian-born German writer Herta Müller and the way in which the Romanian secret police, the Securitate, monitored the development of her cultural opposition towards the communist regime. The documents of the collection show that Herta Müller came to the unwanted attention of the Securitate as her writings shed a negative light on “socialist reality” and they intensified their informative surveillance of her as her prose reached a larger and more international audience.
București Strada Matei Basarab 55, Romania 030167
Show on map
Provenance and cultural activities
The Herta Müller Ad-hoc Collection at CNSAS (the Romanian acronym for the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives – Consiliul Național pentru Studierea Arhivelor Securității) reflects the development of her cultural opposition from the perspective of the Romanian secret police, the Securitate. The documents of the collection show that the Securitate took notice of the non-conformist and potential damaging content of her writings about “socialist reality” and intensified their informative surveillance of her as her prose reached a larger and more international audience. Of the five fonds of the archives of the former Romanian secret police, the Securitate, the documents of the Herta Müller Ad-hoc Collection at CNSAS can be found only in the Informative Fonds.
Herta Müller’s “informative surveillance file” (In Romanian dosar de urmărire informativă) contains three volumes and was registered under the code name “Cristina.” The first volume opens with the official decision to begin informative surveillance against the name of Herta Müller in February 1983. The decision was motivated by the fact that in her writings published in Romania in the previous year she approached “subjects with social and economic content, slipping in interpretative and tendentious ideas about our state.” The delay between the publishing of her first book Niederungen (Nadirs) and the opening of informative surveillance was due to the fact that the predominantly ethnic-Romanian Securitate had to rely on translators in order to deal with the literary works of German authors. As a result, the documents that follow in the file are notes from German-speaking sources and informers collected before the opening of informative surveillance. They underline how Herta Müller’s short stories allegedly distorted “the social-economic realities (…) especially in rural areas” and misrepresented and sometimes openly mocked the local state and party authorities. The file includes a plan of measures for organising the informative surveillance of Herta Müller, involving an exhaustive collection of information about her personal and professional life. Special attention is given to her professional status, as many informative notes covering the last part of the year 1983 record her losing her job as a teacher of German language in a high school in Timișoara. Also during 1983, the Securitate continued to collect reports from its sources and informers about Müller’s non-conformist writings. The turning point in their informative surveillance of her came at the beginning of 1984 when the Securitate found out that a West German publishing house was interested in re-publishing her first volume. Thus, the following documents, mostly reports and informative notes covering the entire year of 1985, trace the growing concern of the Romanian secret police in the face of the enthusiastic reception of Müller’s novel in the German world. Indeed the Securitate intercepted and translated her personal correspondence with the German publishing house who had published Niederungen (Nadirs) and with other cultural institutions that invited the Romanian writer to their events. Her literary success abroad contrasted greatly with her increasing professional marginalisation. Informative notes record how Herta Müller was forced to resign from her positions as she constantly refused to comply with the official requirements concerning her teaching activity. The Securitate documents, especially the notes of analysis regarding the development of the informative surveillance, together with reports and informative notes covering the years 1985 and 1986, mention that Herta Müller together with other German writers signed a collective memorandum addressed to the local Party secretary in which they denounced the lack of artistic liberty and the involvement of the Securitate in curtailing their freedom of speech and hindering their artistic initiatives. Also, reports and notes of analysis regarding the informative surveillance of 1985 and 1986 identify the foreign (German) connections of Herta Müller as further evidence of her anti-regime activities. Moreover, in order to document other allegedly “hostile” actions by her against the communist regime, the Securitate continued to collect reviews of her new writings which took the form of notes from its German-speaking sources and informants and also informative notes about speeches and interviews granted by Müller on the occasion of her many trips to Germany. The last documents in the first volume of the informative file of September 1986 (notes of analysis, internal correspondence between the Securitate’s local branches) outline the main phases of Herta Müller’s cultural opposition, recording her and her husband’s requests for emigration, and the approval of their requests. Also, the file contains the Securitate’s plan for “compromising and isolating” Herta Müller in Germany so that her criticism of the communist regime would be marginalised by the discussion of her literary work and its denigration of the Swabian community in Romania (I 233477 vol. 1).
The second volume of the informative file contains a personal record regarding Herta Müller. It includes basic biographical data and the reasons for her surveillance by the Securitate, and underlines the development of her cultural opposition to the communist regime, including her foreign connections with German diplomats and intellectuals and with the radio stations Radio Free Europe and Deutsche Welle. The rest of the documents, especially official reports, record Herta Müller’s request for emigration to West Germany and the approval of her request (I 233477 vol. 2).
The last volume, covering the years 1986 and 1987, contains transcriptions of and reports about conversations recorded by the Securitate in Herta Müller’s house. Placed in reverse order and not always observing the chronological order, the documents focus on the situation of German writers in Romania, Herta Müller’s criticism of the communist regime and its cultural and economic policies, her foreign connections and plans for travelling abroad, her relations with and persecution by the Securitate due to her refusal to become its informer, and her nonconformist literary work. They also include several photographs taken by Securitate officers during their surveillance of her (I 233477 vol. 3).
Description of content
The documents in the Herta Müller Ad-hoc Collection at CNSAS were organised by the Romanian secret police, the Securitate according to its operative interests and bureaucratic rules in the category of a three-volume file in the Informative Fonds. The Securitate opened an informative surveillance file (dosare de urmărire informativă) against the name of Herta Müller in February 1983. From February 1983 until the beginning of 1987, when Müller emigrated to West Germany, the documents created by the former Romanian secret police, the Securitate, trace the development of her cultural opposition to the communist regime. The informative surveillance was triggered by the publication of her first book, Niederungen (Nadirs), in 1982. The Securitate developed a plan of measures for organising the informative surveillance of Herta Müller, involving an exhaustive collection of information about her personal and professional life. Thus, the informative notes and official reports contain reviews of her nonconformist literary works, details about her professional marginalisation in Romania and her success abroad, intercepted correspondence, mostly translated into Romanian, with the German publishing house in West Berlin that had published her first book and other German intellectuals in Romania and West Germany. Moreover, the file also contains notes of analysis regarding the development of the informative surveillance of Herta Müller, recording the main stages in her cultural opposition to the communist regime, the Securitate’s use of sources and informants in monitoring her “hostile” activities against the regime, including contacts with foreigners and Western media, and finally details regarding her request for emigration to West Germany. The informative file contains personal records on Herta Müller created by the Securitate, which also focus on the development of her cultural opposition to the communist regime, and the episode of her emigration to the West. The file includes transcriptions of and reports about conversations recorded by the Securitate in Herta Müller’s house, during which she expressed her criticism towards the communist regime and its cultural and economic policies, and spoke about her relations with the Securitate and her foreign connections and plans for travelling abroad. The last category of documents is made up of photographs taken by the Securitate officers who were involved in the informative surveillance of Herta Müller.
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 1000-
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 0-9
- photos: 0-9
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Müller, Herta. 2009. Cristina und ihre Attrappe oder Was (nicht) in den Akten der Securitate steht (Cristina and her dummy or What is (not) written in the Securitate’s files). Göttingen: Wallstein.
Author(s) of this page
- Marin, Manuela
ACNSAS, Informative Fonds, file 233477 vol. 1-3
Petrescu, Cristina. 2013. “When Dictatorships Fail to Deprive of Dignity: Herta Müller's 'Romanian Period'.” In Herta Müller: Politics and Aesthetics. Edited by Bettina Brandt, Valentina Glajar, 57-86. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Petrescu, Dragoș, interview by Marin, Manuela, September 10, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection