In Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall
(Algonquin Books, 2018), Tim Mohr
examines East Germany punk rock and its role in the collapse of the East German dictatorship. Starting in the late 1970s, a small group of East Berlin teens started listening to the Sex Pistols through British military radio broadcast to troops in West Berlin. Punk became life-changing. With so much future dictated for teens by the East German dictatorship, punk was a revolutionary philosophy that gave the youth a way to reject the society around them and build a new one. In Burning Down the Haus
, Mohr shares the stories of the early punk scene as it formed in East Berlin, as youth formed bands and created sites of resistance. Mohr relates how the youth endured torture by the Stasi (East German secret police), being spied on by friends and their families, being fired from jobs and expelled from school, and imprisoned and beaten by police. The punks fought back, pushing to bring down the East German government throughout the 1980s. Instead of leaving East Berlin, the young people chose to remain and fight against the regime, creating revolution in their own communities. Through interviews with individuals who were part of the scene as well as letters, Stasi files, and other primary research, Mohr presents a comprehensive exploration into the lives and histories of the young people who openly fought to end the East German dictatorship by using the ideologies of punk rock and creating their own scene.
Rebekah Buchanan is an Associate Professor of English at Western Illinois University. Her work examines the role of narrative in people’s lives. She researches zines, zine writers and the influence of music subcultures and fandom on writers and narratives. You can find more about her on her website, follow her on Twitter @rj_buchanan or email her at email@example.com.