Concert That Changed the World

Rocking The Wall was a concert given by Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band on the 19th of July in 1988. The concert was of such importance that many debate if it was a reason why the Berlin Wall came down. The concert was in an area called Weissensee. 300,000 people attended the concert, and less than half payed for the tickets because it was so easy to get in. East Germany had a youth organization which let the concert happen becuase they wanted to connect with the east-Geman youth at the time. They wanted to be on good terms with the youth and hoped that by letting the concert happen they could absolve some of the frustration among that demographic. Bruce Springsteen spoke to the crowd with his famous quote:

  • “I’m not here for or against any government. I’ve come to play rock ‘n’ roll for you in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down”.


This concert took place in and during the governance of the German Democratic Republic. This government was a result of the allies ‘splitting’ Germany after the second World War. The UK, France and United States all chose the western sectors to govern while an eastern portion was assorted to the then still Soviet Union, making the GDR practically communist for all intents and purposes, or at least controlled by communist politics.

This government lasted a little over 4o years and succsessfully managed to suppress upheaval and resistance for its time. It had competitive sports teams and was known worlwide as a symbol of the Cold War, on behalf of the Soviet Union of course. A big tesnion point was this country in particular and Berlin, because a literal wall had been erected that ran through the city to prevent citizens from emigrating from the east side to the west side. The east side metaphorically and literally represented the Soviet Union while and the west side the west: The United States and the rest of the allies from World War Two.

In 1961, a wall had been erected to prevent emigration of East-German citizens to the west or elsewhere. Shortly after the government had been established a mass emigration of East-Germans occurred. The west side offered more opportunity and prosperity, and wasn’t about to be consumed by communism (A big reason for most people leaving, especially with Marxisim-Leninism about to be introduced as compulsory schooling). Lots of families were also about to be torn apart, and so people were leaving as soon as they could, preferrably to the west, to escape this scenario. As soon as the wall had been erected, it restricted movement from inside to out and from outside to in making it a symbol of oppression as seen by the rest of the world. The wall was officially called the “Anti-Fascist Protective Wall” by the GDR, impying the western sovereignty to be fascist in nature.

A while later in the time of the late 80’s, the government was becoming increasingly pressured from the inside and out and was looking for solutions to win back sentiment from its citizens. Slowly the people were becoming fed up, and even though a secret police force existed to stomp out any disloyal to the system (the punishments being prison, torture and even execution) the government was indeed beginning to dissolve slowly from mostly the inside. Optimistic about winning back favour from the people, the government started to allow more concerts and influence from the west in hopes of staying the unrest emanating from its population. The concert was eventually allowed in 1988.

“Springsteen went to East Berlin in 1988 to fulfill a seven-year urge to play for the East Germans who were denied the freedom to go to West Berlin to see his concert there during The River tour in 1981. He spent an illuminating day as a tourist in East Berlin then during a darker era of the Cold War and the desire to play there wouldn’t go away. The hardline Communists ruling East Germany said no at first but seven years later Springsteen finally managed to get approval from the Communist powers in East Berlin while he was in the middle of his Tunnel of Love Tour”


The sale of tickets to this concert was not open to the public, and only people who were civil servants or loyal to the system were given the chance to purchase them officially. However, assuming you knew a person like that you could get the tickets from them. Tickets to this concert had eventually been in circulation once they were printed and 150,000 people ended up buying tickets for the show. The rest of the 300,000 stormed the gates and weren’t held back once the amount of people that showed up did. A scandal had occured shortly before the concert:

“He got a shock, however, a day before the concert when he arrived in East Berlin and discovered that the Communist regime had labeled his show a “Concert for Nicaragua.” Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau made it clear that he did-not, could-not, would-not, and definitely-will-not-do a concert for Nicaragua. Worried that Landau might cancel the concert, the East Germans quickly tore down the “Nikaragua im Herzen” banners from the stage and concert grounds. But they couldn’t change the face of the 150,000 tickets already sold with the slogan “Konzert für Nikaragua” printed on them. So Springsteen decided he would set the record straight from the stage in the middle of his concert.”

“About an hour into the show, Springsteen pulled a crumpled note out of his pocket with some phonetic German lines written on it to deliver one of the most powerful appeals for freedom made anywhere during the Cold War. The audience was hungry for his message and starved for freedom, and they were fed up with the Stalinist government and its aversion to reforms. He was still annoyed that the local East Berlin organizers tried to put a Communist stamp on his concert when he stepped up to the microphone and said in German: “I’m not here for or against any government. I’ve come to play rock ‘n’ roll for you in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down.””

The quote above describes perhaps the most memorable moment of the show, the iconic line which everyone remembers as his message to East Germany.


This can be seen here.

In conclusion, an argument can be put forth that this was a concert of an unusually influential nature and inspired change perhaps in the whole of Europe. Maybe the world. Many people had theorized at that time that the Wall would not last longer than a couple of years, and it didn’t. Riots ensued, demonstrations took place and the entire government had been flipped on its head in a matter of months. The concert wasn’t a reason for the government falling, not directly at least, but it was responsible for sparking a fire of hope in the youth that change is possible and change did happen. Germany reunited and one of the biggest symbols of the Cold War dissappeared forever.



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