History

A guitarist takes on the state – Wolf Biermann and the GDR

Musician Wolf Biermann played his guitar and sang about the inadequacies of the GDR. In 1976, he was expelled from Communist East Germany.

He had long viewed the “Workers’ and Peasants’ State” as an attempt to create “heaven on earth.” For him, the question was the best way to do it. And that brought the poet and singer-songwriter up against the high and mighty. When Biermann sang out against “those up there,” East German leader Erich Honecker decided to deal with him himself. The state tried to get rid of the awkward singer several times before a real chance came in 1976: After allowing Biermann to perform in West Germany, it denied him the right to return. There was a storm of indignation in both East and West Germany. Prominent artists, among them Günter Kunert, Manfred Krug and Armin Müller-Stahl, as well as numerous East German citizens, protested against the party leadership’s decision. This film examines the events surrounding Biermann’s expulsion and looks at the effect it had on the nascent opposition in the GDR in particular. It also looks back at the most important phases of Biermann’s career, showing rare footage of his performances in both East Germany and on West German TV while talking to East German civil rights activists as well as Biermann’s friends and colleagues. In addition to the story of Wolf Biermann’s expulsion from his own country, a picture emerges of a state that would not allow criticism in any form.

Categories: History

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