Hochschule Für Musik Hanns Eisler

Hochschule Für Musik Hanns Eisler — by Tanya Nauvel ’06

I heard about the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler (Hanns Eisler Music School) from my host, who is from the former East Berlin.

Knowing of my interest in music, she told me about a music academy that often held free student concerts. The German Democratic Republic built the music school to replace an academy located in the West sector, and named it for Eisler in 1964. The school is situated in the heart of the famous Gendarmenmarkt, a square in central Berlin rich in traditional German style whose historical buildings date to the 17th century. But once inside the school, I had to use a typically run-down GDR elevator that only reached the third floor when I needed the fourth.

I saw a bust of Hanns Eisler, who I later found out was a talented and politically active composer exiled by both pre-war Germany and the post-war United States for his communist sympathies.

This perplexed me. Why, 15 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, would a music school in modern-day Germany still honor a communist who composed East Germany’s national anthem? In general, I wondered, how did communist institutions deal with the fall of the wall and adapt to the new unified Germany?