Being a punk rocker, while certainly not limited to geography, is a whole hell of a lot easier if you live in the suburban U.S. rather than an oppressive Communist country, especially in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. A mohawk and ripped clothes may have gotten you detention in Orange County, CA, but was just as likely to get you a visit from the state police or a few nights in jail if you lived in East Germany at the time.
Tim Mohr, who lived in Berlin throughout the ’90s, deftly covers what it meant to be a punk during the oppressive Communist rule of East Germany. The book tells the story through numerous people–all in their teens and early 20-somethings at the time–who knew the rules they were living under where unjust and found a way to fight back through the clothes they wore and the music they listened to.
Most first discovered punk through smuggled-in mix tapes or music magazines from Western Germany. Despite the constant harassment they faced, they still adopted the punk ethos and lifestyle, even if it meant they could (and did) lose their jobs, be isolated from family, and often end up in prisons.
But, as Mohr describes, thanks to perseverance and a sometimes-uneasy partnership with environmentalists, aging hippies, and certain churches, they helped fan the flames to a movement that ultimately led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and their repressive government.
Despite covering some pretty dense topics and history here, Mohr’s conversational writing style, along with the compelling first-hand stories, makes for a fantastic read.