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June 13, 2021

Amazing Photographs Capture Punk Scenes in East Germany During the 1980s

Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s there were new movements within the German punk scene, led by labels like ZickZack Records, from Hamburg. It was during this period that the term Neue Deutsche Welle (New German Wave) was first coined by Alfred Hilsberg, owner of ZickZack Records. Many of these bands played experimental post-punk, often using synthesizers and computers.

In the 1980s, many new punk bands became popular in the scene and developed the so-called “Deutschpunk” style, which is not a generic term for German punk rock, but an own style of punk music that included quite primitive songwriting, very fast rhythms and politically radical left-wing lyrics, mostly influenced by the Cold War.

Because of repressions by the state of East Germany, there was only a secret punk scene that could develop there. One of the most popular bands were probably Schleim-Keim, who also got popular in West Germany. Only in the last years of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) did the government allow some bands like Feeling B or Die Skeptiker from East Berlin, but those bands were criticized in the scene for cooperating with the government. Some of these bands applied for and received “amateur licenses” to allow them to perform in state-sanctioned venues, while still maintaining connections with the underground East German punk community.

Harald Hauswald’s pictures show everyday life in the GDR in all its facets, between SED dictatorship and underground opposition. Hauswald, who was born in Radebeul, went to East Berlin himself after an apprenticeship as a photographer and became part of the scenes he documented there. With all clarity, his photographs, taken from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, articulate the dignity of those portrayed, the transformation of East Berlin’s urban space, and the work of oppositional groups and youth cultures in an East German republic marked by decay.

Bluesmass, Berlin, 1983

Punks in East-Berlin, 1985

Alternative church congress (church from below), Berlin-Friedrichshain, 1987

Punkrock concert in a church hall of the protestant church, Karl-Marx-Stadt, Saxony, 1985

Alexanderplatz, Berlin-Mitte, 1988

Backyard concert in the Schliemannstrasse with the band Rosa Extra, Berlin, 1982

Early punks, Kastanienallee, Berlin, 1982

Rock concert at the open-air theatre, Berlin-Weissensee, 1990

Weinbergsweg in Berlin-Mitte, 1988

Rock concert at the open-air theater, Berlin-Weissensee, 1990

The band “itching”, street party in front of the youth club “impulse”, Berlin, 1981

Kurt Wanski, In the zoo, Berlin-Friedrichsfelde, 1988

Backyard concert in the Schliemannstrasse with the band “Rosa Extra”, Berlin, 1985

Hirschhof, Berlin, 1985

(All photos by © Harald Hauswald / OSTKREUZ)


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