Monday, August 24, 2009

The Puhdys Look At The Berlin Wall





One of the greatest rock bands of all time is in my opinion, the Puhdys. The East German government tried to limit the influence of pop music from the west by having East German bands that they kept under their watchful eye. Bands during the had to have some training in communist ideas on art and music. They needed to pass security clearance in order to play or record professionally. It was the price of doing business. The Puhdys did a very good job of balancing their duties to artistic truth as they saw it with the demands of the regime. They did a fairly good job of speaking the truth and staying out of jail. Their lyrics sounded pretty universal themes about love and life that resonated no matter what side of the Berlin Wall you lived on.

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, Germany had been divided politically for 45 years and with a physical wall for almost 30 years. the collective experience of living under communism versus living in the West created a deep division that survived the fall of the wall. There is still a sense of "Ossi" and "Wessi" identity that runs very strong.

The Puhdys did a song after the Berlin Wall fell and after reunification called "Du Braver Soldat".
which translates as "You Faithful Soldier." The subsequent lyrics cast the title in a bitterly ironic light. I have often wondered how ordinary East Germans view the old regime in retrospect. I was particularly curious about the Puhdys, who had to do a balancing act of speaking allegorically if they had anything subversive to say. The song "Du Braver Soldat" satisfied my curiousity about their feelings about the old regime. I am presenting the German original lyrics and a very rough English translation as well as a video of still photos with "Du Braver Soldat" as accompaniment.

Du braver Soldat
kannst Du Dich erinnern an die Nacht
mit Deinem Gewehr
hast Du die Grenze bewacht.

Mitten im Frieden
traf mitten ins Herz Dein Schuß
am Stacheldraht
hast Du eine Hoffnung zum Schweigen gebracht.

Hast Du als Mensch denn auch daran geglaubt Soldat
daß der, der gehen will, kein Recht zu leben hat.
Oder hast Du vielleicht nur selber Angst gehabt.

Du braver Soldat
sahst Du keine Zweifel im Visier
sahst Du sein Gesicht
oder fiel er mit dem Rücken zu Dir

Du braver Soldat
kannst Du ruhig schlafen in der Nacht
und ist Dir auch klar, daß ein Befehl Dich zum Wahnsinn gebracht.

Hast Du als Mensch denn auch daran geglaubt Soldat
daß der, der gehen will, kein Recht zu leben hat.
Oder hast Du vielleicht nur selber Angst gehabt.



You faithful soldier
Do you remember the night
with your weapon
you guarded the border.

In the midst of peace
your shot to the heart
on the barbed wire
reduced hope to silence.

Soldier,did you personally believe
that those who wanted to leave
had no right to live?
Or were you perhaps
only fearful for yourself?

Faithful soldier
did you see any doubt through your gun sight?
Did you see his face?
Or did he fall
With his back to you?

Dutiful Soldier
Can you sleep peacefully at night?
And is it clear that a command brought you to madness?

Did you personally believe
That those who wish to leave
had no right to live?
Or were you fearful for yourself?


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It is twenty years since the Berlin Wall fell. As that chapter in German history fades from current events and into history it is worth remembering that ordinary North Koreans function in the repressive machine of Kim Jong Il's regime. I can not listen to the Puhdys sing about East German border soldiers without wondering if such crises of conscience are now troubling the hearts of North Koreans. I hope and pray that the day will soon come when the Puhdy's song is translated into Korean and sung in Pyongyang.





video

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