Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
In Berlin-Kreuzberg three things are absolutely impossible.
You can´t walk through Görlitzer Park without being pestered by what is now swarms of local drug-pushers, offering you a wide assortment of product at very agreeable prices (as many a city guide-book will tell you).
You can´t have a 3-room flat at a price that would not require selling any chosen organ or body part to pay for it. And we are talking renting, not buying here.
And you cannot live in Kreuzberg – with “live” meaning longer than a year, speaking at least some broken German and with direct contact to the natives (everything else counts as “passing through”) – without knowing who Rio Reiser was.
TON STEINE SCHERBEN (Clay or Sound, Stone, Shards) were the Kreuzberg band and the German rock band. From the beginning of the 1970s into the early 1980s the group formed by Rio Reiser, whose real name was Ralph Christian Möbius, wrote and performed songs that became the anthems of the so called new left movement. In Berlin-Kreuzberg it meant, above all, the Hausebesetzung scene – the squatters.
The Mother of All Kreuzberg House Occupations, the occupation of the old Bethanien Hospital (Bethanien Krankenhaus) in Mariannenplatz between 1971 and 1972 became the inspiration for Ton Steine Scherben´s first “anthem”, Rauch-Haus-Song.
After the band´s concert at Berlin´s Technische Universität on December 8th, 1971 its members, followed and accompanied by their audience, entered the building of the old hospital in So 36 which by the order of the city authorities was to be torn down to make space for a new motorway and a housing project. The building they occupied received the name of Georg-von-Rauch-Haus after a young activist of West Berlin radical left scene shot by the police in Eisenacher Strasse in Berlin-Schöneberg four days earlier.
Rauch-Haus-Song was released on the band´s album Keine Macht Für Niemand (No Power For Nobody) from 1972. Next to Macht Kaputt Was Euch Kaputt Macht (Destroy What Destroys You), Ich will nicht werden, was mein Alter ist (I Don´t Want to Be Like My Old Man) and Der Kampf geht weiter (The Fight Goes On) it defined the spirit of the era. Those were the songs of Kreuzberg but also the songs of the whole generation that refused to follow in their parents´ footsteps. Rio Reiser´s hoarse voice became the voice of the new young Germans.
No wonder then that the band chose to sing exclusively in German, too. This made them the first German rock band ever to perform songs in their mother tongue. Udo Lindenberg came much later.
And even though the members of Ton Steine Scherben chose to go their respective ways in 1985, their legend and the legend of Rio Reiser who continued to sing and write songs until his premature death in 1996 has never lost its rebellious, revolutionary shine.
Judging by the crowds that gathered yesterday at 1pm at Tempelhofer Ufer 32 in Kreuzberg to witness the unveiling of the memorial plaque for Reiser – T-Ufer 32 as they called it was Reiser´s and his friends´ home from 1970 until 1975 – for many old and new Kreuzbergers Reiser is still very much alive. And just as in the big hit from his first solo album Rio I called König von Deutschland, for them he never stopped being “King of Germany”.
By the way, the unveiling ceremony speeches held yesterday by Reiser´s friends almost all included a little reference to the half-ironic fact that the frontman of “Die Scherben” or “The Shards”, as the band were usually referred to, was given a memorial plaque made of porcelain.
Maybe this should be interpreted simply as a sign that for all of us, even those shattered and broken the most, there is always the comforting thought: that it makes no sense to worry too much as with time all pieces will come together anyway. And what can be left is smooth surface on which somebody will be happy to read our name.
Here are some photos from the unveiling ceremony.
The memorial plaque for Rio Reiser can be seen next to the entrance to the house at Tempelhofer Ufer 32. The next U-Bahn station is Gleisdreieck.