Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall by Tim Mohr was released on September 11, 2018. I’m not into punk rock, but my friend Jim Breslin is and he had posted on Facebook that this was a good book, so I thought I’d take the plunge and bought a used copy on Amazon.com
From the Introduction:
“The craze surrounding the Beatles – as well as demonstrations and a near-riot by hundreds of kids in Leipzig in October 1965 after authorities there banned almost all the local Beat bands – elicited commentary directly from head of state Walter Ulbricht during a meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party:
‘I am of the opinion, comrades, that we should put an end to the monotony of the Yeah Yeah Yeah and whatever else it’s called. Must we really copy every piece of garbage that comes from the West?'”
And so it began, a crackdown on music in the Eastern Bloc. But that wouldn’t stop the kids in East Germany, where everything about their lives was controlled by the government, including their schooling, housing and professions.
In 1977, Britta Bergmann saw a picture of the Sex Pistols from pictures in a magazine that had been given to her sister by someone who had visited West Germany. Immediately, she could relate to someone…anything! She began changing her look and attitude to punk. As time passed, she would find other punks (they stood out!) and they would form bands denouncing the government and their own personal lack of freedom.
This book is amazing. It tells the story of the creation of punk rockers in East Germany and their fight for freedom…freedom of speech and freedom to live their lives the way they wanted (it was against the law not to work in East German). It tells the story of the harassment and abuse by not only the Stasi, but by the ordinary people who would tell them Hitler should have killed them. And how Stasi snitches would infiltrate their illegal bands and organizations and report back (only government licensed bands could play in public). For over 12 years they fought with lyrics, with protests and their bodies when they would be arrested, interrogated, beaten and locked up.
This is the book that they should have as required reading for high school students. If you want to know what was really going on before the fall of the Berlin Wall, this book will not only tell you through the eyes of the punk rock movement, but also through the environmental and peace movements that would eventually join them in fighting for change. And for that reason…
I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!