Uprising of 1953 in East Germany

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Protesters marching through the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

The Uprising of 1953 in East Germany took place in June and November 1953. A strike by Berlin construction workers on June 16 turned into a widespread uprising against the East German government the next day. The uprising in Berlin was violently suppressed by tanks of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (ГСВГ, Группа советских войск в Германии) and the Volkspolizei. In spite of the intervention of Soviet troops, the wave of strikes and protests was not easily brought under control. There were demonstrations even after June 17 in more than 500 towns and villages. The high point of the protests was in the middle of July.


[edit] June 16

In May 1953, the Politburo of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) raised the work quotas for East German industry by ten percent. On June 16, between 60 and 80 East Berlin construction workers went on strike after their superiors announced a pay cut if they didn't meet their work quota. Their numbers quickly swelled and a general strike and protests were called for the next day. The West Berlin-based Radio in the American Sector reported about the Berlin events and thus probably helped to incite the uprising in other parts of East Germany.

[edit] June 17

By dawn on June 17, 100,000 protesters had gathered in East Berlin, with more arriving throughout the morning. Many protests were held throughout East Germany with at least some work stoppages and protests in virtually all industrial centers and large cities in the country.

Soviet Tank in Berlin

The original demands of the protesters, such as the reinstatement of the previous lower work quotas, turned into political demands. SED functionaries took to the streets and began arguing with small groups of protesters. Eventually, the workers demanded the resignation of the East German government. The government decided to use force to stop the uprising and turned to the Soviet Union for military support.

Around noon, the Volkspolizei had trapped many of the demonstrators in an open square. When dozens of T-34 Soviet tanks arrived, a battle followed, leaving 51 dead.

[edit] Legacy

Protestors throwing stones at a tank

In memory of the 1953 East German rebellion, West Germany established 17 June as a national holiday. Upon reunification in October 1990, the "Day of German Unity" was moved to 3 October, the date of formal reunification). The extension of the boulevard Unter den Linden in West Berlin, called Charlottenburger Chaussee, was renamed Straße des 17. Juni following the 1953 rebellion.

The event is perhaps best remembered in the following poem by Bertolt Brecht.

The Solution
After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

[edit] References

  • Database of the International Literature on the Uprising of June 17th 1953 in the GDR
  • Ulrich Mählert. Der 17. Juni 1953, ein Aufstand für Einheit, Recht und Freiheit. Berlin: J.H.W.Dietz, 2003.
  • 1953: The East German uprising on libcom.org
  • Alexandra Richie. Faust's Metropolis: a History of Berlin. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1998.
  • Ann Tusa. The Last Division: a History of Berlin, 1945-1989. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1997.
  • BBC: Berliner recalls East German uprising (by Ray Furlong)
  • Hope M. Harrison. "Driving the Soviets up the Wall: Soviet-East German Relations, 1953-1961."
  • Christian F Ostermann. "Uprising in East Germany, 1953: The Cold War, the German Question, and the First Major Upheaval..." Central European University Press: 2003.

ca:Sublevació del 17 de juny

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Uprising of 1953 in East Germany

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