New York Times, By Alison Smale,
Published: June 17, 2013
BERLIN — The German president recalls it as an electrifying moment. One of Berlin’s most resplendent avenues is named simply the “Street of June 17” in remembrance. But the heady, short-lived uprising by hundreds of thousands of East Germans 60 years ago on Monday has never lived in history as the more famous anti-Communist revolts that followed — in Hungary and Poland in 1956, in Prague in 1968 and in Poland again in 1980-81.
Joachim Gauck, the first Easterner to be president of the reunited Germany, was 13 at the time, living in the Baltic port of Rostock, he told Parliament in a quietly emotional speech on Friday. “But I remember very clearly the sense of euphoria that the dockworkers were on strike,” Mr. Gauck said. “I was sure that something new was under way.”
It took 36 more years before East Germans rose up en masse again, and the Berlin Wall fell. And now, almost 24 years after that, Mr. Gauck sits in Bellevue Palace, and Angela Merkel, another Easterner, in the Chancellery. So commemorations of the 60th anniversary were infused not just by Germans’ penchant for marking round dates but also by a sense of putting the 1953 uprising on more of a pedestal.
As Ms. Merkel noted Monday, the revolt was the forerunner to 1989. Norbert Lammert, the president of Parliament’s lower house, wryly lauded the event’s place in the “the not-so-rich history” of Germans fighting for liberation.
The uprising actually began on June 16, 1953, when construction workers in East Berlin marched down what was then Stalinallee to the seat of the Communist government, demanding that it rescind an increase in work hours and calling for a general strike the next day.
That call to strike was broadcast by RIAS — Radio in the American Sector, in West Berlin — and picked up throughout East Germany. As historians now know, from studying archives after Communism’s fall, more than one million people in about 700 cities, towns and villages heeded the summons to strike and demonstrate on June 17.
But the revolt — the first uprising against the Soviet rule imposed on Eastern Europe after 1945 — was swiftly put down. The Soviet high commissioner, Vladimir Semyonov, declared a state of emergency and sent Soviet tanks into the streets in several cities, said Manfred Wilke, a prominent historian who specializes in East Germany.
Professor Wilke noted that the uprising originated in Moscow. In 1952, he said, Stalin decreed a tightening of Communist rule in the Soviet zone of Germany: collectivization of agriculture, attacks on the middle class and the Evangelical Church, the raising of a 300,000-strong army.
Loyal East German Communists embarked on the harsh course, but after Stalin died in March 1953, his successors in Moscow reversed it, in part because of their alarm that 500,000 East Germans had fled to the West in the months after Stalin’s 1952 decrees (the Berlin Wall had not yet been built). East Germany’s Communist leaders were told of the new Moscow line on June 4, 1953, and after much wrangling they issued a decree that admitted “the party has made mistakes,” Professor Wilke said.
That admission, combined with the lengthening of the workday, prompted the workers’ march down Stalinallee, the professor added in a telephone interview.
Lutz Rackow, now 81, was one of the few journalists to chronicle that march. Invited to lunch with a dozen or so other witnesses at the presidential palace on Monday, he expressed joy. “This is historically overdue,” Mr. Rackow said. “I love what is now happening.”
Several hundred yards away, on the Street of June 17, which pierces the park between Brandenburg Gate and old West Berlin, Karin Netzband, 70, has run a snack stand for more than 40 years. She was only 10 when the uprising happened, but she said she clearly remembered the Soviet tanks and the stone-throwing. Ms. Netzband drew parallels — as did more official speakers, like Mr. Lammert — with what is happening in Turkey today. In East Berlin, she said, it started with workers’ demands; in Istanbul, “it all started with a park, and now they’ve begun demanding more freedoms and democracy too.”
But there is more to the story….
The picture below is the protest against the Soviets in front of the still burnt out Reichstag in 1948.
So, here is proof that Germans do not just “go along to get along”!
But what do they not tell us in the New York Times article? They don’t tell you is that there had also been strikes and mass protests in western occupied Germany after the war against the so-called “liberators” who were deliberately starving the Germans, until former President Hoover intervened as I mentioned in another recent post.
The picture below is from the Winter of Hunger Demonstration in Krefeld, 1947
The sign says “We want coal and we want bread!” (‘Kohle’ means coal but is also a slang term for money, so it is unclear if coal for heating or money is meant in this context. It could be either).
Please note that there was never any such mass dissatisfaction and no such mass revolts against the NS government of Hitler….EVER! Why not? Because there was no need for it. Hitler delivered them from slavery and misery. He delivered what he had promised: work, food and a better life for everyone!
Yes, there were Marxist dissenters and agitators who did not want to do their part for the German recovery effort, who were working instead against the will of the German people (as expressed through the legitimate NS govt). THEY got sent to labour camps until they figured out what was expected and required of them in the new Germany.