Friedrich Dürrenmatt – star author was bugged by the Swiss secret service for almost 50 years

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The Bernese writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt was under state surveillance for almost half a century. This is shown in his fiche, which has now been published for the first time.

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Spied author: A fiche was also drawn up about Friedrich Dürrenmatt.

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The officers listened to Dürrenmatt's phone and noted, for example, his illnesses and political commitments.

The officers listened to Dürrenmatt’s phone and noted, for example, his illnesses and political commitments.

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Dürrenmatt could no longer submit an application for his own secret files - he died in December 1990.

Dürrenmatt could no longer submit an application for his own secret files – he died in December 1990.

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  • During the Cold War, almost one million people in Switzerland were registered as potential threats in so-called fiche.

  • One of these fiches was also made for the world-famous writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt.

  • Dürrenmatt was bugged and his illnesses and political commitments noted.

For fear of communist activities, the Swiss state spied on numerous left-wing activists, politicians and organizations, particularly between the 1950s and late 1980s. The state security card index contained over 900,000 dossiers, so-called files.

Friedrich Dürrenmatt, whose works are still compulsory in schools, was also monitored for almost 50 years. This is shown by the secret files and the 17-page files on the world-famous Bernese writer, which the “Sunday newspaper” publishes for the first time. The officers listened to Dürrenmatt’s phone and noted, for example, his illnesses and political commitments.

Dürrenmatts Fiche was opened as early as 1941. As a result, on May 17, he joined the university group of the “Federal Collection” (ES), which was regarded as the successor organization to the National Front, which was dissolved in 1940. At their meeting, Dürrenmatt “expressed the wish to also include extreme National Socialists, ie those who were in favor of joining, into the ES or its university group. In his opinion, only a connection is possible anyway, ”reported a policeman who was present. Dürrenmatt later distanced himself from his membership in the ES and described it as “nebulous partisanship for Hitler”.

Another reason for listening to Dürrenmatt’s phone was his friendship with the art historian and Marxist Konrad Farner, who lived with his family in precarious circumstances. Together with fellow writer Max Frisch, Dürrenmatt collected donations for Farner. A copy of the two authors’ circular was immediately attached to the secret files. “In connection with the relief operation, it became known that Farner is apparently also receiving quite a lot of support from Dürrenmatt,” says the fiche.

However, Dürrenmatt had witnessed the fishing scandal in November 1989, in which the extent of state surveillance became clear (see box). He let his thoughts flow into his famous speech about Switzerland as a prison: “The prison does not need walls because its prisoners are guards and guard themselves.” Dürrenmatt could no longer submit an application for his own secret files – he died in December 1990.

Between 1900 and 1990, index cards, so-called files, were kept at the headquarters of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Bern, containing information on around 900,000 people and organizations. The federal police’s rage brought to light by a parliamentary commission of inquiry (PUK) in 1989, which had been set up to investigate the resignation of Federal Councilor Elisabeth Kopp. The contract also included a detailed investigation of the state security activities and data collections on so-called files (tabs) operated by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office. The PUK report provoked an outcry in the country and showed that almost everyone whose activities could be interpreted as left-wing in the broadest sense ran the risk of being fiscated by state security officials.

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