East German Stasi feared Michael Jackson Berlin gig

Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:57pm EDT
 
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By Caroline Copley

BERLIN (Reuters) - Communist East Germany's secret police saw Michael Jackson as a security threat, fearing his 1988 concert next to the Berlin Wall would spark protests, new archive findings showed Thursday.

At a time of rising discontent in East Germany, the Stasi was worried youngsters would try to crash through security barriers to listen to the concert on the other side of the wall which had separated East and West Berlin since 1961.

"They were concerned dissident youths would call for the Wall to fall," Steffen Mayer, a spokesman for the government agency that looks after the Stasi archives, told Reuters.

"This was seen as a potential security threat given the amount of foreign media that would be present."

The Berlin Wall, which symbolized the division between the West and the Communist world fell little over a year later, in an era of change triggered by reforms of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

The Stasi had planned to broadcast the concert with a two minute delay in an East Berlin stadium to keep people away from the area. A tape of an old Jackson concert would be held on standby in case there were any problems.

But the plan was never carried out, Mayer said. Instead authorities forcefully dispersed anyone who tried to get close to the wall on June 19.

A month after the recently deceased pop icon's concert in front of the Brandenburg Gate, in West Berlin, Bruce Springsteen performed in front of 160,000 East Germans - the biggest concert in the Communist country's history.

East Germany welcomed him as a "hero of the working class," but Springsteen instead fueled widespread dissatisfaction with the words: "I came to play rock 'n' roll for you East Berliners in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down."

(Editing by Ingrid Melander)

 
<p>Pop star Michael Jackson gestures during a news conference in Munich's Olympic stadium in this June 9, 1999 file photo. REUTERS/Michael Kappeler/Files</p>