Critical, undesired, expatriated: Artists in East Germany | All media content | DW | 04.11.2019
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Culture

Critical, undesired, expatriated: Artists in East Germany

Following a concert in West Germany in November 1976, musician Wolf Biermann was expatriated from the German Democratic Republic. After protests, other artists ended up wanting or having to emigrate from East Germany.

November 13, 1976: It's the Cold War and Germany is divided into East and West. On this date, East German singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann gives a concert in the sports arena of the West German city of Cologne. He is 11 years into a ban on public performances in his country, the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR).

Three days later, he learns from a radio report that the GDR has expatriated him. A wave of protests ensue. Citizens across East Germany begin anonymously distributing protest leaflets and initiating opposition campaigns. Prominent East German artists call on the state leadership to revoke the expatriation, but the leaders remain steadfast in their decision. Over the next few months, numerous artists and intellectuals are arrested, with many of them ultimately wanting or having to leave the GDR. The expatriation of Biermann triggered a process that helped lead to the collapse of the Berlin Wall 13 years later, the wall that had separated East and West Germany.