Archive immortalizes East German Punk rock scene

Wed Jul 20, 2011 7:09am EDT
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By Kalina Oroschakoff

BERLIN (Reuters) - A punk rock pioneer of former communist East Germany (GDR) has opened the world's first archive about the underground GDR youth culture which survived oppression and infiltration by the state's repressive regime.

Michael Boehlke, who fronted a band called Planlos ('Aimless') told Reuters that choosing to be a punk rocker in affected every aspect of your life.

To be a punk in the communist state meant an end to job prospects or further education. Interrogations, jail time, and pressure from the secret police to become an informant on the local punk scene characterized day-to-day life.

"The police interrogated me every day," said Boehlke, adding that prison time was an ever-present possibility for everyone.

After he wore a home-made t-shirt sporting the battle cry "When justice becomes injustice, resistance becomes duty," he was threatened with three years in jail, until his girlfriend agreed to act as an informant. He says she did not tell them anything material about the scene.

And while the feared Stasi secret police never managed to infiltrate Boehlke's band Planlos, two members of another major East German punk band -- Wutanfall ('Tantrum') -- turned out to be government informants.

To bring this history to a broader audience, Boehlke has collected 5,000 photographs, hours of 8 mm video material and original tapes of almost the entirety of the East German punk music in an archive in Berlin's northeast district of Pankow.

"I don't want some West German to tell me how the punk scene was in East Germany," Boehlke said, now sporting short grey hair and business attire, rather than the ripped clothes and black leathers of a punk.   Continued...