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—on this day 29 years ago.
Go beyond the episode:
- Tim Mohr’s Burning Down the Haus
- For photographs of East German punks, peruse the online gallery for the exhibition Ostpunk! Too Much Future
- We’ve compiled a playlist of DDR punk songs—many of them demos or live recordings from the ’80s—which include hits from Namenlos, Schleim Keim, Planlos, and Müllstation, of varying sound quality
- For something a little less scratchy, check out this 2007 remaster and rerelease of Feeling B’s songs from the Ostpunk era, Grün und Blau
- If you understand German, check out the documentary Too Much Future: Punk in der DDR. Another good one, sadly only available on DVD from Germany, is Flüstern und Schreien, which was released in 1989.
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.
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Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!
Music featured from Namenlos (“Alptraum”) and Schleim Keim (“Kriege machen menschen”). Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.
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