The Ost-Hippies of the DDR
Flower Power, peace signs and thousands of young people listening to music while sitting in the mud and smoking weed. For many of us, the Woodstock festival of 1969 is a key example of our current perception of hippies. What is often forgotten though, is the generation of flower children at the other side of the Iron Curtain. Yet, these DDR hippies upheld the Love&Peace spirit until the late 80s – at a time when many Western bohemians had already cut their hair.
It was not an easy task to fight for freedom and peace. Not for the youth in the West, but even less for those in East-Germany. It was not quite the kind of movement that fitted the ideology of the Socialist regime. Everything was done to prevent it from growing bigger. A middle-aged woman in the Stasi Museum in Berlin recalls from personal experience: “As a boy you could impossibly go to school with long hair. Teachers or even fellow students would directly send you home. You could only come back with an appropriate hair-cut, short like all the others.”
Students were expected to wear their uniforms and act together as decent socialist citizens. Joining a movement was fine, encouraged even, but then only the ironically called ‘Free German Youth’: the official communist movement. The Ministry of State Security was watching all others and punished them where possible.
DDR flower children nevertheless managed to create their own identity. Initially they would not call themselves ‘hippies’, but rather ‘blueser’ or ‘kunden’. Although they roughly shared the ideals and clothing of those in the West, they had some specific Eastern symbols. One of those is the ‘Hirschbeutel’: a bag with a reindeer motive made out of tapestry or a pillow-case. They listened to Western Woodstock stars, but also to Berliner Bands such as Engerling and Monokel.
The Ost-hippies formed a strong community that applied the bohemian values to their lives under dictatorship. The blueserscene lasted longer than anywhere else in the world. And, walking around in some neighbourhoods of Berlin, you have the feeling that the Blumenkinder are still there.