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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)

  • June 20, 1953

    Special Report No. 2 of the WUBP in Wroclaw (Poland), Regarding Spillover from Events in Berlin

    Polish repercussions following the recent East German Uprising are reported, including hostile public opinions by “ethnic Germans” towards the GDR government and the Soviets. It is noted that hostile commentaries often cite “imperialist radio broadcasts” as a source of information.

  • June 21, 1953

    Diary Entry from US HICOG James B. Conant on the Effects of East Zone Troubles on Russian Policy

    Conant briefly speculates over possible complications with Russian policy as a result of the East German Uprising.

  • June 21, 1953

    Memorandum from Karl Schirdewan to First Secretaries of the District Leadership of the SED

    Schirdewan orders the First Secretaries of the District Leadership of the SED to employ party members to seek out personal conversations and inquiries with individuals in the GDR after the East German Uprising. He provides specific questions for Party members to ask, in order to determine the temperament of the workers towards the GDR government and suggestions for improvement.

  • June 21, 1953

    CIA Current Intelligence Bulletin on Comments by Charles Bohlen and the Deployment of Soviet Troops

    Charles Bohlen, ambassador to the Soviet Union, speculates on liberalization reforms in East Germany and their potential impact on Soviet leadership and the reaction of other Satellite nations, following the East German uprising.

  • June 22, 1953

    Minute from Selwyn Lloyd to Winston Churchill, Reflecting British Perspectives on the Berlin Uprising

    Lloyd emphasizes Germany’s large role in the unification of Europe, and the importance of maintaining the sympathies of the West German population. He provides suggestions for how to proceed in Germany, and requests Churchill’s views on the matter.

  • June 22, 1953

    The Report to the SED Central Committee

    The authors blamed "hostile forces", with direct support and under the leadership of American agencies and the peoples' enemy and the warmongers in Bonn, for having organized an attempt for a "fascist coup" in the GDR in the period from 16 June 1953 to 22 June 1953. The authors admitted, however, that the party had failed to mobilize broad segments of the working class for a unified and offensive appearance against the provocation and for suppression of the coup on the 17th and 18th.

  • June 22, 1953

    Secret 'Report on the Events in Berlin on 16 and 17 June 1953,' from P. Naumov, Correspondent in Berlin to D.T. Shelipov, Editor-in-Chief of Pravda, 22 June 1953

    Naumov in his report gave a very detailed account of the events in Berlin on 16 and 17 June 1953.

  • June 23, 1953

    CPSU Central Committee Memorandum to the SED Central Committee, Enclosure to Minutes No. 40 from the SED Politburo Session of 21 June 1953

    In response to a request for aid by the SED CC, this memorandum from the CPSU CC states that the Soviet government will provide assistance to improve the distribution of goods to the GDR population, and recommends immediate measures be taken to reduce confusion and increase trust in the SED government.

  • June 23, 1953

    Special Report No. 4 of the WUBP in Wroclaw (Poland), Noting the Spread of Rumors about East Germany

    This report to the Director of Cabinet of the Minister of State Security Section of Information in Warsaw discusses developments and hostile public sentiment throughout the Voivodship of Wroclaw following the East German Uprising.

  • June 24, 1953

    CIA Information Report 'Continuing Resistance Among Workers'

    A CIA report states updates regarding East German workers, many of which had fled to West Berlin during the uprising on June 16-17, and their plan to continue resistance at their place of employment.

  • June 24, 1953

    CIA Intelligence Memorandum, 'Indications of [Soviet] Intentions in Europe'

    This CIA report states that the recent uprising revealed the Eastern German Communist regime’s dependence on Soviet military force to maintain power and enforce order. Based on activity of Soviet forces, indications of future Soviet intentions in Germany and in Europe are also discussed.

  • June 24, 1953

    Report from Vasilii Sokolovskii, Vladimir Semyonov, and Pavel Yudin, 'On the Events of 17-19 June 1953 in Berlin and the GDR and Certain Conclusions from these Events'

    The authors accuse "fascist and other organizations, working primarily under the leadership of American intelligence," to be responsible for the uprisings in Berlin and other GDR cities. The authors stated that "Adenauer intended to exploit this disenchantment to strengthen his position before the upcoming Bundestag elections in August-September of this year." The CC SED is accused having not paid attention to short-lived strikes in early June. According to the authors "the events in Berlin on 16-19 June were completely unexpected to the leadership of GDR". Finally the authors drew a few conclusions and gave some recommendations "in order to correct the situation in the GDR."

  • June 25, 1953

    Summary of Discussion at the 151st Meeting of the National Security Council

    American response to East German protests, plans of action toward the Soviet Union, question of defectors from socialist countries, implementation of passive and active resistance in socialist countries.

  • June 26, 1953

    Secret Memorandum from Secretary of the Moscow Committee N. Mikhailov to Nikita Khrushchev

    Mikhailov reports to Khrushchev that mass rallies had taken place in 14 large factories in Moscow in response to the June uprising in East Berlin. He reports that the workers had been protesting “provocative” acts by West Germans and American occupiers to disturb peace in the GDR.

  • June 27, 1953

    Report from Lieutenant-General F. Fedenko to Lieutenant-General N.O. Pavlovskii

    Fedenko stated that the strikes and demonstrations in the GDR from 17 to 19 June 1953 had been prepared beforehand by the so-called Center of Strike Movement located in West Berlin.

  • July 01, 1953

    Memorandum of Informal Psychological Strategy Board Meeting

    The United States Psychological Strategy Board discusses implementation of previously-discussed plan, NSC 158, as well as other proposals for responding to the East German riots.

  • July 01, 1953

    Telephonogram from Miroshnichenko and Lunkov to Semenov, [early July 1953]

    On 17 June, the Soviet military had stopped all cross-sector travel, causing widespread resentment among many East Germans who worked in the Western sectors or crossed them on their way to work. Under pressure from the East German population in the days following the uprising, SED leaders and local Soviet High Commission officials urged Semenov, then in Moscow for the Extraordinary CPSU Plenum, to normalize the traffic situation in Berlin. Semenov, following Molotov’s orders, informed Ulbricht that the question of free movement across the sector border “must be decided by the [German] comrades themselves, taking the situation into account.” On 7 July, tram and metro traffic between the sectors in Berlin was restored.

  • July 01, 1953

    Czechoslovak Communist Party Information Bulletin

    This bulletin contains information regarding the public reception of the GDR government’s response to the events in Berlin. According to the report, most Czechoslovak workers were indifferent to the GDR government response to the uprising, though kulaks, former entrepreneurs, were hopeful for the return of their businesses and free enterprise.

  • July 01, 1953

    Letter from Lavrentiy Beria to Georgii Malenkov Reflecting on the Events of Spring 1953 (Excerpt)

    Letter from Beria to Malenkov discussing the events which took place in East Germany in the spring of 1953. Beria also discusses his actions after Stalin's death, asking for the forgiveness of the CPSU CC Politburo.

  • July 02, 1953

    Protocol #1 of the Meeting of the Vyshinskii Commission for Drafting a Proposal to the USSR Council of Ministers Pertaining to the GDR

    This contains resolutions regarding proposals for Soviet aid and planned measures in the GDR for economic policy and development.