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Sex, Thugs and Rock 'n' Roll

Sex, Thugs and Rock 'n' Roll: Teenage Rebels in Cold-War East Germany

Mark Fenemore
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qcpvk
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  • Book Info
    Sex, Thugs and Rock 'n' Roll
    Book Description:

    A fascinating and highly readable account of what it was like to be young and hip, growing up in East Germany in the 1950s and 1960s. Living on the frontline of the Cold War, young people were subject to a number of competing influences. For young men from the working class, in particular, a conflict developed between the culture they inherited from their parents and the new official culture taught in schools. Merging with street gangs, new youth cultures took shape, which challenged authority and provided an alternative vision of modernity. Taking their fashion cues, music and icons from the West, they rapidly came into conflict with a didactic and highly controlling party-state. Charting the clashes which occurred between teenage rebels and the authorities, the book explores what happened when gender, sexuality, Nazism, communism and rock 'n' roll collided during a period, which also saw the building of the Berlin Wall.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-229-0
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    In the West, historians have begun to explore the role played by gender in politicising the personal during the course of the cold war. One approach is to emphasise the ways in which ‘powerful men’ (with their fingers on the trigger) ‘imagined masculinity’.¹ The language of brinkmanship, it is suggested, was dominated to a remarkable degree by themes of masculine toughness. Those with the power to obliterate hundreds of millions of people around the globe spoke as if they were settling a playground dispute.² Again and again the language used by American statesmen was straightforward, blunt and posited on a...

  8. Chapter 2 Gendering the GDR
    (pp. 19-42)

    The first GDR constitution in 1949 granted women equality before the law, the right to work and the right to equal pay for equal work. The 1950 Law on the Protection of Mother and Child ended the previous right of the husband alone to make decisions on marital matters, cleared the ground for establishing a range of social services for working mothers (such as kindergartens) and ‘dramatically expanded the opportunities for married women’s employment outside the home’.¹ Yet, in spite of the SED’s bold propaganda claims about the future of women in socialism and massive state support for women’s involvement...

  9. Chapter 3 Remasculinisation
    (pp. 43-53)

    Germany’s catastrophic defeat in the Second World War, numerous commentators (contemporaries and historians) have argued, caused a deep crisis in conceptions of masculinity.¹ Far from returning from the war as all-conquering heroes, German men (when they came back at all) returned humiliated, defeated and dejected, having failed in their ‘historic mission’. They came home to find how easily they could be replaced by women in the workplace and by other men in the bedroom. ‘German men felt cheated, hurt, and humiliated. For the returning soldiers, women’s independence and autonomy (including sexual autonomy) became a huge problem.’² The two post-war German...

  10. Chapter 4 Re-education
    (pp. 54-68)

    The SED inherited a population severely damaged by war and an education system polluted by National Socialism. Its leaders viewed education as the key to restoring what had been lost and to creating new, more equal relationships between men and women. This chapter explores the SED’s attempts to re-educate society and argues that they contained mixed messages. On the one hand, its leaders undertook a massive transformation of the education system in the hope of removing the historic inequalities of class and gender.¹ On the other, the educational message itself contained an inherent gender bias. Although quick to challenge class...

  11. Chapter 5 A Teenage ‘Revolution’?
    (pp. 69-84)

    Unfortunately for the SED, its attempts to mould the younger generation according to its own notions of what was good for them were undermined not only by gendered forms of inherited immunity, but also by the development of new forms of teenage identity. It proved impossible for the state to prevent ‘its’ youth from becoming subject to alternative, competing influences. The most important of these was Western media, which offered young East Germans alternative interpretations together with up-to-theminute news about the latest music, ideas and fashions. The modernisation the regime so desperately strove for and sought to impose from above...

  12. Chapter 6 Street Culture
    (pp. 85-99)

    An emphasis on physical toughness, territoriality and standing up for oneself and the group to which one belonged had long been part of the self-understandings of adolescent, working-class males. The arrival of American-influenced youth culture allowed the blending of old and new forms of masculinity to form a novel and potent masculine self-image. For the politically disinterested and educationally disengaged, becoming a worker and a man were the be-all and end-all of existence, a black-and-white stance unsullied by grey, araison d’êtrethat owed nothing to the SED regime. Although their emphasis on outward appearance appeared new and strange to...

  13. Chapter 7 Sexing Up Socialism
    (pp. 100-117)

    Equating their own brand of state socialism with the best interests of youth, SED leaders sought to monopolise and control the free time of ‘their’ teenagers. Expropriation of time for relaxation and unforced interaction took place under the cloak of ensuring that young people used their time ‘sensibly’. As a result their own sense (Eigen-sinn) was denied. The consequence was an official youth policy that was out of touch with young people’s interests and needs and a youth organisation that proved repeatedly incapable of competing with alternative forms of leisure and culture. A major survey carried out in 1969 found...

  14. Chapter 8 Remilitarisation
    (pp. 118-131)

    Militarism is a belief system that is ‘based on the assumption that military values and politics are conducive to a secure and orderly society’.¹ Militarism ‘manifests the excesses of those characteristics generally referred to as machismo, a term that originally connoted the strength, bravery and responsibility necessary to fulfil male social functions’.² A society does not have to be at war to be militaristic. Factors like the extent to which political leaders have military backgrounds; the extent to which military uniforms are a persistent feature of public sphere; and the proportion of national resources that are devoted to military expenditure...

  15. Chapter 9 Rock ’n’ Roll
    (pp. 132-155)

    Rock ’n’ roll was an international phenomenon that transformed expressions of masculinity and femininity throughout Europe.¹ The rocker scene was ‘downright macho’, but it was a ‘modernised form of machismo’.² It constituted a rejection of the military ideal, in which boys were expected to dress smartly and to behave in a controlled manly fashion. The new stress on casualness contrasted sharply with the stiff, uniformed masculinity of yesteryear and was marked by an aversion to all that was formal and in uniform. What had once been held up as dashing, smart and brisk (zackige) was now dismissed in favour of...

  16. chapter 10 Manufacturing Consent
    (pp. 156-183)

    The building of the wall was the ultimate display of force by a state. The GDR no longer saw any need to disguise its intention to defend itself (if need be by aggression). Members of theKampfgruppenwere photographed standing upright and steely-faced at the border (in front of the Brandenburg Gate) stemming by force the flow of bodies and ideas between East and West.¹ Three days after the border was closed, the FDJ issued an appeal to young men in the name of ‘the Fatherland’ calling on them to volunteer for military service. ‘Every real man [ganzer Kerl] who...

  17. Chapter 11 Making Men Out of Them
    (pp. 184-205)

    The building of the Berlin Wall, on 13 August 1961, dramatically increased the scope for militarisation. With the introduction of conscription, in 1962, all eighteen-year-old males now had to submit to military training and discipline.¹ Conscription was designed not only to increase the defensive capability of the GDR, but to establish control over male youth. It provided a year and a half in which the authorities could ‘take them firmly in hand, set clear boundaries, apply pressure’ and, it was hoped, bind them to the regime.² Male youth was to be ‘broken in’.³ ‘The leather jackets and flat tops [Bürstenjonnys]...

  18. Chapter 12 Predatory Males
    (pp. 206-236)

    After deposing Ulbricht, Erich Honecker was at pains to emphasise how different he was from the older man. Having built his career on opposition to reform, he nevertheless initiated a period of liberalisation and limited toleration, coinciding with the 1973 international student games (Weltfestspiele). A film to mark the occasion shows Honecker distributing very large flagpoles to slim, long-legged blondes with FDJ shirts and miniskirts. He is then filmed passionately embracing a symbolic (and uniformed) female veteran of the North Vietnamese Army (while the translator looks on with a mixture of bemusement and alarm). Elsewhere delegates of all races and...

  19. Chapter 13 Conclusion
    (pp. 237-242)

    The date 9 November 1989 marked not only the fall of the Berlin Wall, but also the premiere of the GDR’s first and only gay feature film. The key moment in the film is when Philipp, a young teacher having difficulties accepting his own sexuality, is given a talking to by the elderly homosexual, Walter. Played by Werner Dissel with his deep, chain-smoker’s voice, his serious, worn-out face and bloodshot, heavy-drinker’s eyes, Walter was the image of the communist old fighter.

    Only once did I experience true love … that was fifty years ago. His name was Karl. I was...

  20. Postscript: Where Are They Now?
    (pp. 243-244)

    Manfred and Christa have been happily married for over forty years since meeting in the CapitolMeute. They live with his mother and a big dog in the house Manfred grew up in. They continue to enjoy rock ’n’ roll although they also listen to country music. Manfred was less bitter about having been imprisoned for six months than the fact that the Stasi wiped his prized collection of original rock ’n’ roll recordings. The digitally remastered versions available on CD are no replacement for the originals that he taped from AFN. He remains a passionate collector. In recent years...

  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 245-268)
  22. Index
    (pp. 269-278)