News, Politics

East German Man Receives Contest Prize 45 Years Later

Image: Gorgalore
The wall theat seperated the east and west sides of Berlin (the capital of Germany) was covered in graffiti, art, and imagery such as this. Image: Gorgalore

Gunter Zettl won a radio contest in 1969.

He correctly identified a song the radio station played, and he sent a postcard to the station with the name of the song (“Painter Man,” By The Creation).

Last week, 45 years later, he was finally given his prize.

The reason for the delay was political.

Following World War II, in 1945, Germany was separated into two states: East Germany and West Germany.

At the time, Zettl was a teenager living in East Germany. Pop music was banned in East Germany at the time.

The CBC radio show As It Happens interviewed Alex Buchholz, the former head of the radio station in Germany.

Buchholz talked about the remarkable events that led to the delay in Zettl receiving his prize.

He said that Zettl’s postcard was confiscated (taken) by the East German police in 1969 before it got to the radio station.

“They wanted to prevent youngsters in the East, Communist part of Germany to listen to western radio stations. They thought the western style of living did not fit the communist style of living and pop music was something regarded as being dangerous to their system,” Buchholz told the CBC.

Then, the police created a file on Zettl. They wanted to fill it with papers that documented his “bad” behaviour, like trying to contact a forbidden radio station, and listening to pop music.

In 1990, East Germany and West Germany were reunited.

East Germans were allowed to take a look at the “secret” files the police had kept on them.

When Zettl saw the postcard in his file, he re-sent it to the radio station.

The people at the station were “very much astonished,” Bucholz told the CBC.

They invited Zettl to the radio station’s 50th birthday celebration, where they brought him onto the stage and gave him his long-overdue prize—a copy of the record “The Painter.”

Zettl, now 62 years old, was given his prize by the man who, in 1969 was the host of the radio station that had run the contest.

Zettl doesn’t have a record player, so they gave him a digital copy as well as a physical copy of the song.

Related link
Listen to the CBC’s interview (5:54) with Axel Buchholz on the CBC’s website.

By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
The government of East Germany believed that pop music was dangerous. In your opinion, do you think music is potentially dangerous? If yes, how so? If not, why not?

Reading Prompt: Responding to Texts
Upon receiving Mr. Zettl’s letter, the radio station invited him to their 50th birthday celebration and gave him a copy of the album as well as a digital copy of the song. Did you think this was a fitting response? What would you have suggested?

Make judgements and draw conclusions about the ideas and information in texts and cite stated or implied evidence from the text to support their views  (OME, Reading: 1.8).

Evaluate the effectiveness of both simple and complex texts based on evidence from the texts (OME, Reading: 1.8).

Grammar Feature: Past Perfect (Verb Tense)
While many people are familiar with the past, present, and future tenses, not nearly as many are aware of how these tenses can be changed in subtle ways to communicate different things. For example, the “past perfect” tells the reader that something occurred before another event in the past. In today’s story, the phrase “had run” is written in the past perfect tense. Given the definition provided above, how do you know?

Zettl, now 62 years old, was given his prize by the man who, in 1969 was the host of the radio station that had run the contest.