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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)

  • August 08, 1953

    Cable from James B. Conant to John Foster Dulles

    Conant suggests that while US policy towards East Germany should, on principle, encourage the “spirit of resistance” brought about by the East German Uprising, it is believed that Communist authorities will continue to use brutal tactics to restrain such resistance, and therefore US initiatives towards the situation should be restrained as to not provide East German authorities an opportunity for more brutal repressions of the population.

  • August 08, 1953

    Conclusion from Reports of the SED District Leadership from 7 August 1953

    The SED District leadership reports on the public opinion towards the New Course of the Party and Government. One of the most significant challenges stated is the public dissatisfaction towards the coal and energy supply.

  • August 20, 1953

    Memorandum from Leonid Brezhnev to Nikita Khrushchev

    General Secretary of the CPSU CC, Brezhnev, reports to Khrushchev about the New Course of the SED and the political mood of the population of the GDR. Although improvements are being made and productivity is increasing, there is still a general lack of popular support and trust in the decisions of the SED.

  • August 25, 1953

    Stenographic Transcript of Conference with the Delegations that Returned from the GDR

    Report of a Moscow delegation on their impressions of the situation in East Germany. They describe grievances at the root of the June 17 uprising and make suggestions for improvements to the GDR factory system.

  • September, 1953

    Report of the Polish Diplomatic Mission in Berlin for the Period 21 June - 31 August 1953

    Polish ambassador to the GDR, Jan Izydorczyk, reports on the internal political situation in the GDR as a result of the June riots. New plans and proceedings deliberated at the 15th Plenum of the SED CC are also discussed.

  • September 08, 1953

    Radio Free Europe Report on the Strikes in Plzen during Early June 1953

    Account of a 31-year-old locksmith who took part in the protests in Plzen.

  • September 10, 1953

    CIA Information Report, 'Aftermath of the Riots'

    A CIA report presents information about the aftermath of the East German Uprising and known plans and actions taken by the SED in terms of arrests and reconstruction efforts.

  • September 25, 1953

    Draft Instructions to Chuikov and Semyonov

    In March 1953, Moscow had declined Ulbricht’s request for tightening up the sector border in Berlin, then the major loophole in the SED leadership’s efforts to seal off East Germany. In the aftermath of the demonstrations and unrest in Berlin, the SED leadership apparently tried to reintroduce the idea of increased “border security” in Berlin. Eager to salvage whatever was left of its political position as a champion of German unity, Moscow again held such measures as politically “disadvantageous” and “unacceptable.” Certainly, the Kremlin was also aware of the continued widespread resentment among the Berlin and GDR population which made any more restrictive measures a risky undertaking. Instead, the Soviets urged the SED to increase its “fight against hostile elements” in West Berlin—an issue that would become more and more the focus of Soviet attitude on Berlin.

  • October 16, 1953

    CIA Information Report, 'Estimated Damage as a Result of the June 16/17 Mass Demonstrations'

    A CIA report presents an assessment of the damages and monetary value of the damages following the East German Uprising, estimated by East German governmental offices.

  • December 11, 1953

    National Security Council, NSC 174, Draft 'United States Policy Toward The Soviet Satellites In Eastern Europe'

    This report by the National Security Council discusses Soviet control over Eastern Europe, barriers to Soviet control of the satellites, and the power threat that consolidation poses to the United States. As a result, the NSC recommends that United States pursue a policy of resistance towards Soviet domination of its Eastern European satellites, and should impose pressure and propaganda to weaken Soviet influence.

  • January 19, 1954

    Central Intelligence Agency, NIE 12.4-54, Probable Developments in Eastern Germany Through 1955

    Estimating the current situation and probable developments in East Germany through 1955.