Uprising of 1953 in East Germany

From Academic Kids

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17June1953DemonstratorsInBerlin.jpg
Protestors marching through the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

The Uprising of 1953 in East Germany took place in June and July 1953. A strike by Berlin construction workers on June 16th 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 that 500 towns and villages. The high point of the protests was in the middle of July.

Contents

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. Radio in the American Sector directed many of the demonstrations, deciding when and where they would be held, and broadcasting instructions in German.

June 17

By dawn on June 17, 100,000 protestors 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.

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17June1953TankBerlin.jpg
Soviet Tank in Berlin

The original demands of the protestors, 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 massacre followed. It is still unclear how many people died during the uprising, and by the death sentences which followed. The official number of victims is 51. After the evaluation of documents accessible since 1990, the number of victims appears to be at least 125. Higher estimates put the number of dead at 267. This does not include the thousands of reprisals which followed the uprising

Legacy

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17June1953StonesAgainstTanks.jpg
Protestor throwing stone against tank

In memory of the uprising in East Germany, West Germany established June 17 as a national holiday (until 1990, when it was succeded by the October 3rd, the date of formal reunification.) The section of Unter den Linden in West Berlin was renamed Straße des 17. Juni.

References

  • Database of the International Literature on the Uprising of June 17th 1953 in the GDR (http://www.ib.hu-berlin.de/~pbruhn/juni1953.htm)
  • 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: (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/2997736.stm) Berliner recalls East German uprising (by Ray Furlong)

de:Siebzehnter Juni 1953 it:Moti operai del 1953 in Germania Est

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