An appealing, lively cultural history worth reading in an era of corporate punk nostalgia.




How a forbidden punk-rock underground fomented rebellion against totalitarian East Germany.

A translator and former Playboy staff editor and club DJ in Berlin, Mohr carefully documents a rousing, little-known Cold War story, showing how alternative culture developed in the Eastern Bloc in a similarly grass-roots fashion as elsewhere but for greater stakes. “The ethos of East Berlin punk,” he writes, “infused the city with a radical egalitarianism and a DIY approach to maintaining independence.” But during the 1980s, homegrown punks were seen as both a nuisance and threat, worthy of repression. Based in part on interviews with survivors, Mohr ably documents how regional small-scale punk scenes grew and connected nonetheless. From the start, he notes, “groups of punks started to attract attention from security forces everywhere they went.” East Germany provides a vivid backdrop to the narrative. Conformity to state-supervised existence was enforced by surveillance and informants, so punks’ embrace of abrasive music and fashion was inherently political. As the author memorializes one uncompromising early punk, “he had always hated the way his whole life was predetermined by the state.” Despite Stasi harassment and harsh prison sentences for “antisocial” acts including graffiti and subversive lyrics, punks made common cause with socially conscious churches and developed illicit performance and taping networks. Despite the state’s hostility, the punk movement was thus well-positioned to contribute to the civil unrest that fueled the Eastern Bloc’s unexpected collapse. Mohr closes by documenting how the initial punk squatters blossomed into a mass movement that helped preserve East Berlin’s dilapidated architecture. “Eastern bands,” he writes, “died off quickly after the fall of the Wall….For Eastern punks, the original enemy had been vanquished.” The author dives deep into a chronology of the ferocious early bands and committed scenesters whose rebellion carried steep risks. His writing focuses on their experiences and stays attuned to the punk ethos, only occasionally becoming rant-y or rambling.

An appealing, lively cultural history worth reading in an era of corporate punk nostalgia.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61620-843-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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