Book asks if Bruce Springsteen helped bring down the Berlin Wall

Wed Jun 26, 2013 5:25pm EDT
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By Michelle Martin

BERLIN (Reuters) - Almost 25 years ago, Bruce Springsteen gave communist East Germany its biggest ever rock concert in a performance that fuelled a spirit of rebellion and may have contributed to events that brought down the Berlin Wall, a new book says.

In "Rocking the Wall", U.S. journalist Erik Kirschbaum says the rock star's music and his anti-Berlin Wall speech helped to inspire more than 300,000 fans at the concert in East Berlin, and millions more watching on television, to strive for freedom.

Germany was divided into East and West in the wake of World War Two and by the time of the Springsteen concert in July 1988, the Berlin Wall had been up for almost 27 years, separating 17 million East Germans from their West German counterparts.

They were growing restless and impatient for reforms.

The author uses eyewitness accounts, interviews with Springsteen's manager and translators, documents from concert organizers and files from the Stasi secret police to tell the story of how "The Boss" ventured behind the Iron Curtain and, perhaps unwittingly, mobilized his fans.

"It's great to be in East Berlin. I'm not for or against any government. I came here to play rock 'n' roll for you, in the hope that one day all barriers will be torn down," Springsteen said at the concert 16 months before East Berliners tore down the wall.

Kirschbaum, a Reuters correspondent in Berlin, argues that this short speech, delivered in German, touched a nerve in a country without freedom of speech, where the media was censored, political opposition was all but non-existent and those trying to escape the Wall risked being shot by border guards.

"It was a nail in the coffin for East Germany," Joerg Beneke, a Springsteen fan who was at the 1988 concert, told Kirschbaum. "We had never heard anything like that from anyone inside East Germany. That was the moment some of us had been waiting a lifetime to hear."   Continued...

Singer Bruce Springsteen and the E-street band perform during their concert at Molinon Stadium in Gijon, northern Spain June 26, 2013. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso