Extremely Negative, Extremely Threatening? Western Youth Cultures in The German Democratic Republic (DDR) in the 1980’s, 17 November 2016


Wolf-Georg Zaddach is a scholarship-holder at the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes) as well as research assistant and lecturer at the department of Musicology, University of Music Franz Liszt Weimar/Germany. Recent publications and talks have dealt with heavy metal as culture and music, jazz history and theory, as well as the music industry. He frequently performs as a guitarist live and on recordings. For further information, see: www.wolfgeorgzaddach.com, www.zaddachmusic.com/home.

During the 40 years of its existence, youth in socialist East Germany, the German Democratic Republic (DDR), were frequently fascinated by youth cultures and popular music from the West. For the state, Western youth cultures were understood as ‘hostile influences’ targeting East German society with the goal of destabilizig state socialism. This was the era of The Cold War and bloc confrontation. In this presentation, I will discuss how youth cultures in the 1980’s, especially heavy metal, were tagged by the state as ‘extreme’ in order to criminalize and contain them. I will show on the one hand which strategies the state’s secret service, the Stasi, established to fight those youth ‘extreme groups’; on the other hand, I will discuss how heavy metal nonetheless became one of the major youth cultures during the 1980’s. For this, certain practices of listening, sharing, and ‘doing’ metal will be in the focus. A third perspective draws on how the discourse on metal changed: In particular, with publications and a rather positive perspective on metal, cultural mediators like journalists and scholars attempted to integrate the ‘extreme’ heavy metal into the socialist music culture. To illustrate the different perspectives, I will show several images of Stasi files, fan practices and magazine articles.