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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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East German Uprising

This is a collection of primary source documents related to the East German uprising of June 1953. The uprising started with a strike by East Berlin construction workers on June 16th. The next day it spread throughout East Germany and was violently suppressed by the Soviet Army. The documents in this collection are from Russian and German archives and cover the period between April 1952 and October 1953. There are memorandums, minutes of conversation, decrees, cables, and reports on the development during the uprising. Some documents in the collection refer to the Soviet military intervention, including the movement of troops and equipment by the Soviet Army. There are 14 cables from June 17th - the second day of the uprising, describing the situation and its development. Other documents refer to reactions to the uprising and its conclusion. (Image, Berlin, 1953)

  • April 01, 1952

    Conversations between Joseph V. Stalin and SED leadership

    The first discussion between the delegation of the SED leadership and I. V. Stalin in Moscow. Pieck, Grotewohl, and Ulbricht inform Stalin of the situation in East Germany, the situation in the SED, and ask for economic help.

  • April 07, 1952

    Notes by Wilhelm Pieck on the discussion with Stalin

    Wilhelm Pieck's notes on the final discussion with Joseph Stalin regarding the defense of East Germany, the situation in the East German country side, the plight of the engineers, other issues.

  • April 07, 1952

    Conversation between Joseph V. Stalin and SED leadership

    The second conversation between Stalin and the SED leadership during their trip to Moscow in April 1952. Stalin discusses the political and military situation in East Germany and asks about the status of economic development in the GDR. The SED delegation asks Stalin to approve the transfer of raw materials to East Germany.

  • January 02, 1953

    CPSU CC Resolution Approving the Deployment of Border Guards along the Eastern Border of the GDR

    CPSU CC Resolution Approving the Deployment of Border Guards along the Eastern Border of the GDR

  • March 11, 1953

    Memorandum of Discussion at the 136th Meeting of the National Security Council

    The US National Security Council discusses the effect that Stalin’s death had on Soviet policy and on Communist Parties outside of the USSR, as well as the opportunity it provided the US to use Stalin’s death in a psychological strategy to influence the Soviets. The Council also discusses the possibility of negotiations for a settlement with the Soviets in Korea.

  • March 18, 1953

    Draft Instructions for General Vasilii Chuikov and Vladimir Semyonov regarding GDR Control of Borders

    Draft instructions of the Soviet leadership to its representatives in East Germany, advising that the SED requests for East German control of the border with West Germany are "unacceptable and grossly simplistic."

  • April 18, 1953

    Memorandum on the German Question, from Georgi Pushkin and Mikhail Gribanov to Vyacheslav Molotov

    Memorandum summarizing the state of discussions between the Soviet Union and the Western powers on various issues regarding Germany, including political, economic and unification issues.

  • April 18, 1953

    Memorandum from Ivan Turginov, 'On the Western Powers’ Policy regarding the German Question'

    Ivan Turginov reports on the policies of the Western powers on the German Question. Special emphasis is given to the public opinion in western countries with regard to Western and Soviet policies towards occupied Germany.

  • April 28, 1953

    Soviet Foreign Ministry Memorandum, 'Regarding Further Measures of the Soviet Government on the German Question'

    Memorandum on further issues regarding the German Question. The memorandum discusses further actions to be taken by the Soviet leadership in order to respond to developments in the Western controlled sectors of Germany and to increase Soviet influence with the German people.

  • April 30, 1953

    Cable from N. Spencer Barnes to US Department of State Reviewing Developments in the GDR since Stalin’s Death

    Barnes analyzes developments within the GDR following Stalin’s death. Although there was an initial period of confusion within the SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany), it has been confirmed that Ulbricht is now directing SED and is continuing to implement socialization policy, though perhaps less dramatically than in the past. Barnes suggests that the Soviets may also be striving, to some extent, to decrease zonal tension.

  • May 02, 1953

    Memorandum from Vladimir Semyonov to Vyacheslav Molotov Evaluating the Prospects for a Successful Resolution of the German Question

    Memorandum to Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov on German reunification. The memorandum reviews the developments following the East German proposal of an "all German" conference and the Soviet proposal for a German peace treaty.

  • May 06, 1953

    Memorandum from Lavrentiy Beria to the CPSU CC Presidium regarding Mass Defections from the GDR, 6 May 1953

    Excerpt of a memorandum from Lavrentiy Beria to the CPSU CC Presidium regarding mass defections from the GDR. By early May 1953, declining conditions in the GDR finally started to draw the attention of the Soviet leadership. Lavrentiy Beria’s 6 May report to the CPSU Presidium is one of the first high-level documents to reflect concerns about the situation, in particular the increased flight of farmers and small businessmen brought about by the forced socialization policy. Beria may have been prompted to submit this report by the discussion of the German issue at a CPSU Presidium meeting on 5 May.

  • May 08, 1953

    USSR Foreign Ministry Draft Memorandum, 'On Further Soviet Government Measures Pertaining to the German Question'

    Memorandum from the Soviet Foreign Affairs Ministry on Soviet foreign policy options with regard to the German Question. The memorandum looks at the effects on Soviet policy toward the western powers in the context of the Postdam conference and at the future state of the Soviet-East German relations.

  • May 15, 1953

    Memorandum from the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs to Vladimir Semyonov, 'On the Question of Preventing the Defection of Inhabitants from the GDR to West Germany'

    The large-scale migration of GDR’s population to West Germany is becoming a major issue in Germany. The SCC in Germany, the SED, and GDR government discuss and outline measures for preventing this defection in the future.

  • May 18, 1953

    Memorandum from General Vasilii Chuikov, Pavel Yudin, and Ivan Il’ichev to Georgii Malenkov Critically Assessing the Situation in the GDR

    The Soviet Control Commission in Germany reports statistics and a detailed assessment to Malenkov, analyzing the migration of the East German population to West Germany. It also includes proposals for implementing measures to prevent further departure from the GDR.

  • May 29, 1953

    CIA Report Evaluating Vladimir Semyonov’s Appointment as Soviet High Commissioner for Germany

    A CIA report presents an analysis of the dissolution of the Soviet Control Commission (SCC) and the return of V.S. Semyonov to Germany as the Soviet High Commissioner for Germany.

  • May 29, 1953

    Cable from Ambassador Charles Bohlen to John Foster Dulles regarding Transfer of Soviet Control in East Germany to Soviet High Commissioner Vladimir Semyonov

    Bohlen informs Dulles of the transfer of Soviet Control in East Germany, which does not yet provide much indication of future Soviet policy in East Germany except the solidification of East Germany's continued existence under the control of the USSR.

  • June 02, 1953

    Otto Grotewohl’s Notes on Meetings between East German and Soviet Leaders in Moscow

    Consulations between Soviet and GDR leaders to improve the economic situation in GDR

  • June 02, 1953

    Cable from Major General Wilton B. Persons to Col. Robert L. Schulz Explaining the Department of State’s Views on the New Course

    The U.S. state department comments on East German announcement to ease government policies following the East German Uprising. They believe the Soviet Union intends to compromise with Western powers on Germany before the rearmament of the Federal Republic through the European Defense Community plan.

  • June 02, 1953

    USSR Council of Ministers Order, 'On Measures to Improve the Health of the Political Situation in the GDR'

    Council of Ministers of the USSR Order to improve the political and economic situation in GDR