matrixmann: (Wasteland Ranger)
[personal profile] matrixmann
On June 16 in 1953, on two large construction sides in the Stalinallee (Karl-Marx-Allee today) and the side of the reconstructing hospital Berlin-Friedrichshain work stoppages appeared, which formed a small protest march that went to the Haus der Gewerkschaften and Leipziger Straße. Haus der Gewerkschaften was the residence of the Free German Trade Union Federation which was in fact founded on March 18 in 1945 in Aachen, but was only grabbed and kept up in the Soviet occupation zone. Leipziger Straße contained the seat of the government at that time.
Refused to be talked to by the trade union leaders, they were told the news of the withdrawal from the Normenerhöhung at the side of the government building, however this didn't end the protest march, which then went to the inner-city and back to the Stalinallee in steadily growing numbers.
Meanwhile the march, choirs and a stolen loudspeaker van already chanted "general strike" and the public was called for another protest action on Strausberger Platz at 7 o'clock in the morning on the following day.

Assumedly in consequence of the reporting of the radio station RIAS (Rundfunk im amerikanischen Sektor, Broadcasting in the American Sector) about the protest, representatives of the strike movement went to the station and directly spoke to the intendant, who was Egon Bahr at this time. They wanted to proclaim the general strike via radio, however the station denied them this possibility.

On the next day, by the morning of June 17th 1953, a massive upheaval began to strike all over the country.
The staffs of the factories went on strike and formed protest marches, which went to the inner cities of big towns. Administration buildings of local politics as well as police stations and jails were occupied, dozens threaded to be, the police was overwhelmed and helpless by the power of the masses they had to face.

Centers of the protest concentrated in the area of the "chemical triangle" (Chemiedreieck) around Halle, as well as the towns of Magdeburg, Leipzig and Dresden - the biggest industrial and workforce gatherings.
The numbers of participants can only be estimated, varying from 400.000 to 1,5 million people.
However the crisis was enough to force the government of the GDR into fleeing into Berlin-Karlshorst under the protection of the Soviets - the place where the capitulation to the Soviet Union was signed in the night of May 8 to May 9 in 1945 and which was the headquarters of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany until the foundation of the GDR in October 1949.

The upheaval was eventually stopped by declaring martial law by the Soviet administrative bodies in 167 of 217 existing districts in the GDR, including East-Berlin. The Soviet army and tanks came into towns and by their sheer presence the turmoil soon lost its force. Even on the day it started, the army predominantly regained control over the proceedings of events, without making use of a single shot.

During the following days and the following month, scattered appearances of protests still took place, depending on the size and importance of the factory, but they didn't nearly reach the size or impact as the fallout on June 17th.

In the history writing of the GDR, this upheaval always remained as a "counter-revolutionary attempt of a coup" (konterrevolutionärer Putschversuch), while the day was celebrated as "Tag der deutschen Einheit" (German Unification Day) in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) from 1954 until 1990.
However, the impression stated by Otto Grotewohl, Ministerpräsident of the GDR ( = premier, later called "Vorsitzender des Minsterrats", Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the GDR), in a declaration distributed by the Rundfunk der DDR (Radio of the GDR) at 2 o'clock in the afternoon of June 17th was not entirely by chance, as to RIAS played a big role in broadcasting and reporting about the uprising, especially in Berlin.
Even on the day June 17th, it aired a call of the senior of the West German DGB (deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, Confederation of German Trade Unions, founded on October 12th 1949 in Munich, active trade union until today) Ernst Scharnowski for the East Germans to seek for their Stausberger Plätze (transl. for understanding: squares) everywhere.

Modern history writing recognizes that without the efforts of RIAS the upheaval would have never become that powerful as it took place, but connections to a foreign initiated action right from the start could not be found.
The reactions varied from mourning (West Germany) to the idea "it's the Soviets' plan" (United States), "it was their right to end the turmoil" (Great Britian, Churchill), national insecurity (Soviet Union, especially in regard to Stalin's death on March 5 1953; Poland due to the same strategy of Normenerhöhungen in even a stricter manner) and declarations of sympathy (theoretist Edvard Kardelj from Yugoslavia).

The actual causes of this rebellion can be attributed to a chain of events and circumstances caused by the mistakes and early forced propulsive behavior of socialism by the leadership of the GDR and the Soviet Union, in distant liability also the policy of the Western Allies that ended up in the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany (→ Diversion of Germany).
In spring of 1953, there was a serious food crisis in the GDR due to the the lack of agricultural tools and machines that weren't newly handed out during the agrarian reform (Bodenreform). The year before, in fall, harvests had been very substandard - which in conclusion lead to a worse food situation than before the war.
In addition, the national budget for the military (for establishing the Kasernierte Volkspolizei, Barracked People's Police), occuption and reparation payments threatened to burst the capability of the state, which lead to the needs of raising and ever inventing new charges.
Investment mostly went into the heavy industry which had no base yet in the GDR.
In comparison, on the sides of the Federal Republic of Gemany, whose economy and supply stood pretty quickly again after the war, it was only a result of the United States' Marshall Plan that they could do so. Without the help of American credit financing and goods supply these "comfortable" circumstances couldn't have been brought up - which always went into ideological competition with the circumstances in the GDR.
The peak of the situation was reached as the Normenerhöhung was added, meaning "work more for the same money".
Although after a meeting in Moscow about the situation in the GDR and the pleas of the GDR-politicians remained unheard, a Neuer Kurs (New Course) was proclaimed. The Neuer Kurs policy was introduced not only into the GDR, but also into all the other satellite states of the Soviet Union. It contained withdrawals from new taxes, charges, rationing of ration cards for the middle class, restrictions to small private businesses, as well as offerings to farmers, people who left the GDR, easings to people who wanted their relatives to come to East Germany for a visit and intellectuals who wanted to attend conferences in West Germany. Students were taken back into schools and universities who had been driven out of them due to having religious beliefs. Also some rises of prices were revoked.

But the main problem the Normenerhöhung stayed, so that those relaxations did nothing to the working class.
In combination with the food supply problem, which couldn't be corrected until 1958 as ration cards vanished, the the blister of anger grew until there was a big bang - which was the upheaval on June 17 1953.

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