Workers Uprising of 1953 in East Germany

The Workers Uprising of 1953 in East Germany took place in June and July 1953. A strike by construction workers turned into an uprising against the East German government. The uprising in Berlin was struck down with force by the Soviet military.

In May 1953, the Politburo of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) raised the work quotas for the East German industry by ten procent. On June 15, some 60 East Berlin construction workers began to strike as their superiors had announced a pay cut in case the work quota wouldn't be met. Their demonstration the following day was the spark that caused an eruption of protests throughout East Germany. The strike led to work stoppages and protests in virtually all industry centers and large cities in the country.

The original demands of the protestors, such as the reinstatement of the previous, lesser, work quotas, turned into political demands. The workers demanded the resignation of the East German government. The government, in turn, turned to the Soviet Union, which struck down the uprising with mitilary force.

Today it is still unclear how many people died during the uprising and in the death sentences which followed. The official number of victims is 51. After the evalution of documents, which have been accessible since 1990, the number of victims appears to be at least 125.

In spite of the intervention of Soviet troops, the wave of strikes and protests was not easily brought under control. In more that 500 towns and villages there were demonstrations even after June 17. The highpoint of the protests was in the middle of July.

In memory of the uprising in East Germany, West Germany established the June 17 as a national holiday, and the section of Unter den Linden in West Berlin was renamed Straße des 17. Juni.


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