By 1981, a nascent punk scene began forming in church basements and town squares. But the consequences of looking like a punk or forming a band were dangerous. Getting hauled in by the Stasi—the East German secret police—for brutal interrogations became a daily or weekly occurrence for punks ... By 1983—the 'Summer of Punk'—many of the original punks were serving prison sentences. But the flame was lit, and the torch was carried on by hundreds of kids who formed bands, squatted buildings and spoke out against the state ... Compulsively readable and beautifully researched, Burning Down the Haus records the critical role that punks played in the German resistance movements of the 1980s, up to and beyond the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
This account of the rise of punk in East Germany is openly the work of a devoted fan of that scene. Tim Mohr is upfront about his emotional investment in the topic. The book he has created is fervent and personal. Its language is impassioned, to the extent that the narrative is broken by inserted slogans and chants, and apparently calm accounts suddenly explode in exclamation points and ecstatic profanity ... Mohr sets up overt parallels between East Germany and modern America. He compares East German people’s tacit collaboration with an oppressive state to 'white America’s collective shrug at the militarization of its police forces and the ongoing flood of evidence of horrific police brutality: They’re not coming for me.' Even more pointedly, in his preface, Mohr remarks that 'East German police—unlike our own—could not murder people in the street with impunity.' ... Mohr’s version of punk is deeply personal and stands in opposition to nearly all kinds of authority, including the authority of the disinterested historian
As Tim Mohr’s original and inspiring Burning Down the Haus shows, music could make all the difference in the world ... Yet Burning Down the Haus is more than an exciting yarn. Mr. Mohr has written an important work of Cold War cultural history, and his first-hand interviews are invaluable evidence.