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Submission to the Secretariat of the Central Council of the Free German Youth: Gang Activity among Young People in Berlin (December 4, 1959)

At the end of 1959, the Central Council of the Free German Youth [Freie Deutsche Jugend or FDJ], the central youth organization in East Germany, spoke out against the increasing “rowdyism” and “gang activity” of East German young people, who were supposedly under the influence of Western rock ’n’ roll and other Western cultural influences, and who were being deliberately used by the West as troublemakers. The Central Council demanded that the FDJ take harsher local action against these young people.

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The Central Council of the Free German Youth, Division of Organization-Instructors

Re: Assessment of current gang activity and punishable acts directed against the state, with particular focus on participation, incitement, and perpetration by former fugitives from the Republic or recent arrivals.

The Secretariat decides:

1. The present report is noted.
2. The present report, including the conclusions, will be evaluated with the 1st and 2nd District Secretaries at the next meeting.
3. The Division of Organization-Instructors is tasked with overseeing and organizing the measures agreed upon.

A report is to be made to the Secretariat in the 2nd quarter of 1960.

Assessment of current gang activity and punishable acts directed against the state, with particular focus on participation, incitement, and perpetration by former fugitives from the Republic or recent arrivals.


Recently there have been more and more reports that young people are ganging together, committing criminal acts, and violating the rules of Socialist communal life. In particular, they are committing crimes against the state, disrupting the public peace, committing thefts, property damage, indecent acts, and similar offenses.

The existing examples show that such gangs exist not only in large cities, but also in medium-sized and smaller cities and towns.

The starting point – i.e. gathering place – of the young people in question is not infrequently our youth club houses.

“Rock ’n’ roll fans” are most often encountered. Generally these are groups of 15-20 young people (including girls!) between the ages of 16 and 21.

These gangs combine their “demands” for rock ’n’ roll with vicious incitement against our leading comrades Wilhelm Pieck, Otto Grotewohl, and Walter Ulbricht. They appear in various GDR cities with essentially the same provocative statements. The following are known to us at this time: “We want no Pieck and Grotewohl and Ulbricht, we want rock ’n’ roll;” “We don’t dance the Lipsi or to [the music of] Alo Koll, we’re for Bill Haley and dance rock ’n’ roll;” “We are warning you, another June 17 is coming;” ”Down with the Communist pigs,” and the like.

They also move their meetings into the apartments of young people who belong to the “club.” The examples emphatically indicate that in no small number of cases, the leaders are young people who have left the GDR once or several times, or are recent arrivals. Moreover, it was determined that the organizers are located directly in West Berlin and West Germany and are directing things from there.

Arrested young people often make statements to the effect that they first wanted to pull off some “job” in order to leave the GDR and be considered a “political refugee.” They would then be given work and housing in West Berlin and West Germany more quickly.

Public engagement with these questions is not always successful.

In Frankfurt/Oder, for example, it took hard work to convince the parents of the arrested young people of their misdeeds. In the presence of their parents, the young people denied everything. Only after each was individually confronted with their parents did they admit to their actions.

In Pößnech, the incidents were addressed at a youth forum. One thousand people (especially young people) appeared. The forum did not lead to a clear distancing of the upper school students from these disgraceful acts. They merely discussed questions concerning music and did not want to grasp the connections.

The public is outraged about such incidents. However, it is not yet getting involved in social education. Here, in particular, we see omissions on the part of the state organs.

The statements by the young people who belong to these “clubs” are all geared toward recognizing rock ’n’ roll music; then they would also participate in the FDJ. They try, and in most cases they actually succeed, in having a discussion about music with FDJ functionaries. And in these situations they are also on the offensive.

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