Elisha Wiesel Discusses the Ramones, Nazi/German Imagery in Punk/Hardcore

Since Holocaust survivor and educator Elie Wiesel passed away in 2016, there have been a few articles profiling his son, Elisha Wiesel, and mentioning his punk background. Howie Abrams, author of Finding Joseph I: An Oral History of H.R. from Bad Brains, interviewed Elisha for Decibel, and the piece just went online today. The interview focuses on Elisha’s rebellious adolescence and his interest in punk rock, hardcore, and metal.

The highlight of the article is when Elisha discusses his relationship with his son (and his father) vis-à-vis the Ramones:

Someone asked my son Elijah what his favorite band was, and he said, “The Ramones.” I was like, “Yeah, that’s my kid!” He in particular likes the song “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg,” which I explained to him was in part about his grandfather. His grandpa put Bitburg on the map as far as national consciousness, and he loves it because of that, and thinks it’s so cool that the Ramones wrote a song about his grandpa challenging Reagan.

Elisha also talks about the use of Nazi/German imagery in punk and hardcore:

Were you aware that at some point neo-Nazi skinheads had become some sort of factor in the hardcore scene?

The fact that this stuff was happening really only reached me through word of mouth. It was confusing sometimes. Take for instance the iron cross, which was a German military symbol, during World War II: How and why was that adopted by skinheads, even the non-racist skinheads?

 

What about the original album cover of Agnostic Front’s Victim in Pain with the prisoner about to be shot in the head by an SS officer: Did you “get” the imagery? Or was that confusing too?

Well, I listened to the music, and I read the lyrics. … For a while, I couldn’t reconcile those songs with that cover image. I thought, did they make a mistake? Was it conscious? Why would they want to use a German military image in that way as an album cover?

 

Roger Miret, the singer for Agnostic Front, says in his recent autobiography that he wanted to shock people into having to face the brutal atrocities of mankind, hence the choice of such a brutal image.

Look, I used to wear a Dead Kennedys Nazi Punks F*ck Off shirt, with the crossed-out swastika on it, and my dad would be like, “How can you wear that?” I tried to explain to him that it was anti-Nazi, etcetera, but all he saw was the swastika, and I had to stop wearing it.

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