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July 2003 - Nr. 7


The Editor
Elizabeth Kuehn
Brahms Violin Concerto
Rachel Seilern
Multiculturalism Day
Hier O.K. Berlin!
KW and Beyond
A Gift of Music
STV Weiss-Blau Bayern
Dance Experience
German School
Young Philharmony
Willkommen in Toronto
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Diefenbaker Award
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CeBIT America
German Peace Prize
June 17 Uprising

Germany Marks 50th Anniversary of June 17 Uprising

   TWIG - On Tuesday (June 17), people across Germany commemorated the 50th anniversary of a popular uprising against totalitarian rule in communist East Germany. As part of the anniversary events, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, President Johannes Rau and Speaker of Parliament Wolfgang Thierse laid flowers at a memorial in a Berlin cemetery for those killed in the uprising. They also observed a minute of silence in remembrance of the more than one million persons who took to the streets in 1953 in the name of freedom and democracy.

The Bundestag and Bundesrat also underscored the importance of this event at a joint parliamentary session. President Rau referred to the uprising as "a great event in German history" and thanked the courageous men and women who carried it out. Parliamentary Speaker Thierse called for the uprising of June 17, 1953 to be understood as an event that is part of the history of the country as a whole: "It is my hope that the commemorative ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the uprising will help to reintegrate this revolutionary event into our commemorative tradition and to keep the memory of it alive."

Fifty years ago an estimated one million people took to the streets of East Germany to protest the policies of an increasingly oppressive totalitarian regime. On June 16, 1953 hundreds of construction workers in East Berlin had openly protested against a regime-imposed increase of their workloads for no additional pay. Their spontaneous strike triggered a wave of protest in more than 700 towns and cities.

On June 17, these protests escalated into a full-blown uprising throughout East Germany. What had originally been wage claims rapidly turned into political demands for free elections and national self-determination. The regime was incapable of dealing with the uprising and called for help in suppressing it from the police and Soviet military, who crushed the revolt with their tanks.

In West Germany, June 17 was for decades observed as the "Day of German Unity," while in East Germany it was referred to as a "counterrevolutionary coup" and any discussion of it was silenced. But there was no denying that the popular uprising of June 1953 was the first in a series of courageous acts of resistance against repressive communist regimes. It was followed by the Hungarian uprising in 1956, the "Prague Spring" of 1968 in Czechoslovakia, and the so-called solidarity movement of the 1980s in Poland.

For more on the history and context of the June 17, 1953 uprising, click here.


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