At the Ref Desk (9/16/20): Worst thing about chat reference : the number of times you get cut off. Sucks. [more...]

Berlin 1987: Summer of Hönkel

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 6/3/07 (1:38pm)

With all the talk of anniversaries, I thought I'd mention the "Summer of Hönkel" which happened in West Berlin twenty years ago.

It was a hectic period of cultural ferment and turmoil. "Hönkel" -- which I think was a beer -- was supposed to represent this vast chaotic mix.

I was reminded of it most recently by this picture in Flickr. The picture is of a supermarket that went up in flames in the course of a riot on May 1 1987. My house was across the street from the supermarket.

[more after the jump...]

The turmoil on that day would be repeated annually every May 1 for years to come. But equally as intense as the conflicts in the street was the vibrancy and creativity of every other aspect of life in Berlin.

That's why people -- particularly young people -- moved there. It was a wild and crazy place to live. It was also a huge amount of fun. You had squats and clubs and a lifestyle that went 24 hours a day.

Some of this existed elsewhere but in Berlin you had the added context of being an island of exuberant freedom completely surrounded by a communist dictatorship.

Just about the best description of it I ever read was spray-painted appropriately enough on the Wall. It read:

Berlin Ost : KZ;
Berlin West : Bonnie's Ranch

In other words: 'East Berlin - Concentration Camp; West Berlin - Nut House'.

Update: Thanks to 'Ruebenkraut' for giving me permission to post his image. You can see a larger version by going to his Flickr Page.

He mentions in a note to me that "Hönkel" wasn't a beer but rather a reference to the sound of rocks hitting a metal surface.