Fresenhagen was a rural community in north Germany which was started in 1975 by members of the german band, Ton Steine Scherben.
In 1974, the left-wing german band Ton Steine Scherben bought an old farmhouse in Fresenhagen, Schleswig-Holstein, a couple of miles from the Danish border. Partly influenced by the Trans-Love Energies communal project involving the US band MC5, the band had already lived a communal existence for nearly five years in West Berlin – Kreuzburg ( mostly in the “T-Ufer”), and were famous for their support of squatting projects. A couple of members stayed in Berlin, but the rest moved out to the country.
Land in sight:
The band moved into the house on 1st. June 1975, and continued the communal lifestyle. They arrived on a rainy day, and then had 3 months of sunshine. There were 16 members, and they had the ideal of living and working together, with no boss and with common property. The farm was pretty run-down and the thatched roof leaked, so they began to renovate the farmhouse themselves. They had to repair the thatched roof, which they managed to do themselves with the help of an local thatcher. Almost all of the communards had pieces of garden which they cultivated, planting radishes, tomatoes and hemp. One band member had a horse, another a billy goat. They had hens, but did not know that it was necessary to put an egg into the nest to stimulate the hens to lay more. The sixteen members lived in six rooms, and they had 15 DM per day to live on, less than 1 DM each! When there wasn’t enough to eat someone had to go to Flensburg, where “proletarian shopping” (shoplifting) took place. For the group, it was important that this expropriation of foodstuff did not take place near home.
Contacts with the locals:
There was good contact with the neighbours, and a number of the group helped the local farmers with manual work, being “paid” with farm products. They were able to borrow a tractor and wagon for transport of materials during the renovation work. On the other hand, the group did carefully protest about the amount of pesticide which sometimes came in clouds over the land, and after seeing how some local farmers treated their animals, a number of the group became vegetarians.
A musical new start:
Part of the idea of going back to the land was to get away from being the “houseband” of the west-german left-wing subculture. They dissolved the band (not for the first time) and saw themselves as a land commune whose members made a bit of music. They renamed themselves as “Zirkus Feuerstein”. However, after a six months pause, when they finally returned to the stage in a local disco in Niebüll (the owner was the thatcher) it was again as “Ton Steine Scherben”.
Problems and departures:
At six o’clock in the morning on an August day in 1975, the commune in Fresenhagen got an unexpected visit from some old aquaintances from Berlin – two bus loads of police surrounded the farm. Various police departments had sent officers,including the drug squad, the anti-terrorist unit, and the office dealing with minors (a number of the commune members were under age). The official reason for the raid was that one of the youths had not been regularly attending the vocational school where he was supposed to go. However, after a search, the police left, taking with them only a couple of letters sent to the commune by a friend who was in prison. However, the presence of the younger members became more and more of a problem. They got on the nerves of the older members, using windows instead of doors, making everything dirty, and, day after day, listening to “Paloma Blanca” , the summer hit by the George Baker Selection upto 30 times in a row. The younger communards were bored with land life, and in the autumn the five “Kurzen” (short ones) went back to Berlin. Later in the year, one of the other communards left after a conflict where it became clear that it made no sense for him to be there. He had been the only one who had not really got into the life on the land, he had kept on wearing his satin “rockstar” suit, and had decorated his room with coloured plexiglass, saying that they should knock the farm down and rebuild it as a sort of sci-fi plexiglass palace. At the end of the year, two further members left but without conflict this time. Within six months, the Fresenhagen kommune had shrunk to half its original membership. Two band members lived about an hour away by car, and it was this group of ten who performed the concert in Niebüll not long after.
There was a gap of a number of years before their next album came out in 1980. During this time they were involved in a number of projects including making a couple of records for children and some collaborative work with a gay theatre group. The number of people living at Fresenhagen continued to shrink, partly due to conflict with Rio Reiser, the main song writer.
The band broke up in 1985. The lead singer, Rio Reiser, died in Fresenhagen in 1996. The then Prime-Minister of Schleswig-Holstein gave permission for Rio to be buried there.
The former commune is now called the “Rio Reiser Haus”, and is a centre for meetings and concerts, with a guest house, a recording studio and a museum.
“Keine Macht für Niemand“, (The history of Ton Steine Scherben) by Kai Sichtermann,Jens Johler and Christian Stahl, Schwarzkopf + Schwarzkopf Verlag, Berlin 2000.
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