Postcard from... Berlin


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The Independent Online

The Sex Pistols made a deep impression on Frank Willmann. He first listened to their music at home in communist East Germany at the age of 14. By the time he was 17, he belonged to the group of around 900 East German punks who were subjected to almost daily humiliation and insults from the regular police, the Stasi, and ordinary citizens. “We were banned from all the pubs, discos and youth clubs and on the street we were called scroungers,” he recalls.

Mr Willmann, now 49, has just compiled a book on the little known East German punk scene. It contains dozens of photographs of kids in leather jackets and bin liner trousers with safety pin-pierced cheeks. Accounts by erstwhile scene members explain how the authorities saw them as enemies of the state because of the way they looked. Only the Protestant Church provided the occasional venue for concerts.

In the decade that led up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, punk was an unrecognised dissident movement which mocked East Germany's old fashioned repressive communism. But by 1984 nearly half of Mr Willmann's punk friends had been locked up. He applied to leave the country and the communist regime was glad to get rid of him. The wall fell five years later.