The Nation, “Anarchy in the GDR”

Burning Down the Haus, a new book by journalist Tim Mohr, details how a small group of East German teens kick-started a movement that contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The 1970s were oppressive years in the German Democratic Republic; there was no space, literal or philosophical, to live outside the system, let alone criticize it. Upon hearing The Clash and the Sex Pistols via forbidden British military-radio broadcasts, a handful of young people began to embrace the punk mentality, dressing differently, and shaking the foundations upon which authority had been built. And despite the best efforts of the East German secret police, aka the Stasi, the movement grew throughout the 1980s, as punks developed their own little world, disconnected from society. Punk was the soundtrack to the million-person demonstration on November 4, 1989. A few days later, the Wall came down.

Mohr, who arrived in Berlin in 1992 and now lives in Brooklyn, learned about this history and has spent 10 years documenting it in as much detail as possible, recognizing too the parallels with modern society.

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