Smarty Pants Podcast

Berlin Bops

How East German punks tore down the wall that divided them

By Stephanie Bastek | November 6, 2020

When disaffected teens in East Berlin first heard the Sex Pistols on British military radio in 1977, they couldn’t have known that those radio waves would spark a revolution. In the DDR, or East Germany, everyday life was obsessively planned and oppressively boring. To be punk was to be an individual, someone who wasn’t having any of the state’s rules. That didn’t exactly endear punks to the Stasi, the DDR’s dreaded secret police. Punks lost their jobs and families, were spied on for years by their own friends, had their homes searched and trashed by the police, and were even thrown in prison for dissidence. But every time the state cracked down, the punks only fanned the flames of resistance, ultimately firing up a nationwide, mainstream protest movement. American writer, translator, and former Berlin DJ Tim Mohr joins us on the podcast to tell the story of how punk rock brought down the Wall. This episode originally aired 29 years to the day after it came tumbling down, November 9, 2018.

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Music featured from Namenlos (“Alptraum”) and Schleim Keim (“Kriege machen menschen”). Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.

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