East German Punk Movement

A German punk taking a chisel to the Berlin Wall.


During the 1980's, while punk bands such as the Clash and The Ramones were fighting back against the societal oppression that they faced in the United Kingdom and the United States, respectively, the Punk movement in East Germany was legitimately spilling blood to combat the lock down that they faced from the German Democratic Republic, or GDR. Following conflict in Berlin, East Germany started construction on “August 13, 1961…to build a barbed wire and concrete “Antifascistischer Schutzwall,” or “antifascist bulwark,” between East and West Berlin.” (History). This was done to prevent East Germans from defecting to West Germany and greatly weakening the former state as well as creating a physical representation of the disconnect between cultures.

After having endured 18 years of violence and oppression, the East German movement, influenced by Western culture, started to appear in 1979 as teenagers had finally had enough. In a state where musicians had to file permits as well as perform for the government before they would be allowed to play for the public, punks were considered to be enemies of the state and had to deal with “spies and stiff jail-time penalties or even exile for rebels.” (eurokulture). Simply being a member of the punk community meant being ostracized from society as well as relinquishing any chance for a future: no job or education opportunities and the constant threat of being arrested or worse.

In a surprising move, the Punker/Punkerin found sanctuary in the East German protestant churches as the government had no hold over religious organizations in the state and could use no information gathered from their observations. The church would allow punks to play shows, congegrate, and communicate without the constant threat of the GDR looming over their heads. Meanwhile, the Stasi, or state security officer, tried to get to infiltrate the scene or get friends to turn on each other. This was somewhat successful in that the amnesty promised by the government was too good to pass up for some. Others, however,would become informants only to feed the Stasi false information. However, in 1989, changes occured within the GDR, causing the fall of the socalist regime and the Berlin Wall officially came down in 1990.

1984 - a Punk facing down a line of soldiers.


The Punk movement was and continues to be a vehicle to spread ideas and values among different cultures. It helps to connect people together across vast distances, regardless of race, color, or creed; The need to be open-minded and willing to accept new ideas is always a necessity. Many people in the punk scene were left-handed, which reflected on the overall creativity of the movement. Children were forced in school to write with their right hand, but the Punk movement allowed people to be themselves without having to worry about punishment from within. The East German scene used Western influence to create something wholly new and chaotic, but still managed to convey their message to the general population. In a scene that promotes free thinking or thinking for one's self, This is significant in that it is one of the few positive relationships shown between organized religion and the Punk movement.

Teenagers these days are thought to be lazy or apathetic; however, this shows that, when given a reason to fight and care, the youth can come together to and create a powerful movement that can cause real change. Ideas are powerful and when an idea spreads to enough people, governments can fall as seen in the recent Arab Spring protests.

A German Punk show in a church basement.


Following World War II and the Cold War, Germany was left in a devastated state, but yet they managed to come together and rebuild their country into something decent and respectable; today, they are one of the wealthiest country in the European Union. Despite these setbacks, Germans, young and old, have had the tenacity to realize that the situation they were in was extremely wrong and something drastic needed to be done in order to bring about positive change. Simply being in the minority of a situation does not mean that voices can not be heard and great things cannot be accomplished. While there is a lack of focus on materialistic needs, the clothing worn by punks denotes a sense of individuality and unity as well as a way to distinguish between groups. German punk music is also predominantly political as well as societal issues, such as Sexismus (sexism), Rassismus (racism), and LGBT rights. While the Cold War may be over and the Berlin Wall down, the German Punk movement continues to have a serious presence in the German music scene.

Recently, a former punk, Michael Boehlke, who played in a German punk band called Planlos (Aimless) opened an archive in Berlin to commemorate what they accomplished in the late 1970's and 1980's. It contains a collection of Stasi notes and memorabilia that had been collected prior to the fall of the Wall.


Antifascistischer Schutzwall - Antifascist Bulwark

Stasi - State Security Officer

Punker/Punkerin - Punk

Sexismus - Sexism

Rassismus - Racism

Planlos - Aimless

Works Cited

“Berlin Wall.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://www.history.com/topics/berlin-wall>.

Christie, Tom. “Punk Bloc: Secret Lives of East German Rockers Who Outlasted the State They Defied.” The Daily. N.p., 28 Sept. 2011. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://www.thedaily.com/page/2011/09/28/092811-arts-music-ostpunks-1-5>.

Oroschakoff, Kalina. “Archive Immortalizes East German Punk Rock Scene.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 20 July 2011. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/20/us-germany-punks-archive-idUSTRE76J2B320110720>.

“PUNK Kultur-East Germany’s Rebellion | EuroKulture.” PUNK Kultur-East Germany’s Rebellion. Eurokulture, 12 Feb. 2011. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://eurokulture.missouri.edu/?p=14428>.




ger/101/2012/fall/jim_m.txt · Last modified: 2012/10/17 08:44 by jpmichalik
Except where otherwise noted, content on this wiki is licensed under the following license: CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Recent changes RSS feed Donate Powered by PHP Valid XHTML 1.0 Valid CSS Driven by DokuWiki