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Most unusual of the Springsteen European shows was one in East Berlin on July 19, 1988, approximately 16 months before the Berlin Wall came down. It was organized by the socialist youth movement Free German Youth in an attempt to relieve some tension among the younger populations of East Germany by bringing in one of the most popular of Western musicians. Springsteen was extolled by state newspaper Neues Deutschland as a working-class American who "attacks social wrongs and injustices in his homeland."
The show was held at the Radrennbahn Weißensee cycling track, far away from the Wall - previous concerts held on the Western side of the Wall by Pink Floyd and Michael Jackson had given East Berlin security forces trouble in keeping youths away from the Eastern side to listen. Initial news reports estimated that there were some 160,000 fans in attendance. This was practically one percent of the German Democratic Republic's entire population. It was the largest audience of Springsteen's career to that point, and the largest ever to see a rock concert in the GDR. Much of the concert was broadcast live on both state television and radio. While some Western artists would not accept the local Mark der DDR currency and thus would not play in the GDR, Springsteen did, and was paid 1,000,000 Mark der DDR for the performance, with another 340,000 Mark der DDR being paid for the television rights.
Springsteen modified the set list for the occasion, opening with "Badlands" for the first time on the Express and making a tour debut for "Promised Land." Before playing Bob Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom," Springsteen stated in phonetically recited German, "I want to tell you, I'm not here for or against any certain government, but to play rock 'n' roll for you East Berliners ... in the hope that one day, all barriers will be torn down." GDR officials took advantage of a tape delay to delete Springsteen's words on the broadcast. The show became one of the most politically meaningful moments of Springsteen's career.
Since the initial reports, some estimates of the crowd size have been increased, often to a figure of 250,000 or 300,000. Internet posters have made claims as high as 500,000; German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle has written, "160,000 tickets were sold, but it's said that a crowd of 500,000 people celebrated.
In 2013, Erik Kirschbaum, a Berlin-based journalist, published his book Rocking the Wall: The Berlin Concert That Changed the World, which argues that the Springsteen concert was a signal event in the process that led to the Peaceful Revolution, the fall of the Wall, and Die Wende. Gerd Dietrich, a professor of history at Humboldt University, was quoted saying that "Springsteen's concert and speech certainly contributed in a large sense to the events leading up to the fall of the wall. It made people … more eager for more and more change … It showed people how locked up they really were." Thomas Wilke, who has studied the impact of popular music in East Germany, said "It was a topic of discussion for quite some time afterwards. There was clearly a different feeling and a different sentiment in East Germany after that concert."
Connolly, Kate (July 5, 2013). "The night Bruce Springsteen played East Berlin – and the wall cracked". The Guardian. London.
Purschke, Thomas (July 16, 2018). "Bruce Springsteen in Ost-Berlin im Juli 1988: Die Stasi hörte mit". Leipziger Volkszeitung (in German).
"More than 100,000 East German fans see Springsteen". The Lewiston Journal. Associated Press. July 21, 1988. p. 8D.
"How a Bruce Springsteen concert helped bring down the Berlin Wall". CBC News.
July 19, 1988 Entire Setlist FYI
Out in the Street
Adam Raised a Cain
All That Heaven Will Allow
The Promised Land
Born in the U.S.A.
Chimes of Freedom
Paradise by the "C"
She's the One
(with snippet of Who Do You Love?)
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
I'm a Coward
I'm on Fire
Because the Night
Dancing in the Dark
Light of Day
Born to Run
Can't Help Falling in Love
(Elvis Presley cover)
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Sweet Soul Music
Twist and Shout