by Grace Brecht
Faculty mentor: Professor Marcel Rotter
Punk rock developed in the 1970s and local scenes developed throughout Europe and the United States. East Germany was no exception. Despite — and because of — the brutal state-sponsored violence against and repression of anyone who did not conform to the government’s ideals, punk flourished in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik. Although the initial exposure to punk came via English punk bands on West German radio, the Eastern punks had little interest in the West and were largely anti-capitalist. Instead, they focused their attention on their own country and on the vast social reform needed there. The punks channeled their frustrations into social activism and fought against rampant corruption, government censorship and restrictions, and the resurgence of fascism, all while using punk music as an outlet for their rage and a vessel for their message. By the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the punks had shifted the narrative. Progressive political causes were more visible as a result of their activism and confrontational attitudes, and that energy followed the reunited country into the next decade and beyond. The spirit of the original East German punk scene lives on today in the politics and creative culture of Germany, especially in Berlin, and the face of the country has been forever changed because some teenagers decided in 1977 that they were ready to shape their own futures.