June 13, 2001
Newly published documents on the landmark worker-led uprising of June
1953 in East Germany show that the crisis was far more widespread and protracted
than previously believed. The documents, obtained from the files
of the former ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) of East Germany, the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), as well as other former Soviet bloc and
American archives, also prove that the scale of the crackdown was much
larger than official sources had indicated.
The new records included in this volume will contribute to the ongoing
heated debate in Germany over the nature of the uprising and the planned
construction of a memorial to those who died during the unrest.
“The 1953 uprising was a pivotal event in the Cold War -- the first
serious disorders to occur in the ‘workers’ paradise’,” says the volume’s
editor, Christian F. Ostermann, currently Director of the Cold
War International History Project in Washington, D.C. “They not
only became an early reference point for later civil outbursts in Hungary
1956, Czechoslovakia 1968 and Poland 1980, but they also foreshadowed the
ultimate demise of the GDR in 1989.”
Highlights from the volume include:
Top-level transcripts of the East German leaders’ meetings with Joseph
Internal documents showing deep tensions within the East German leadership
Detailed Soviet and East German postmortems of the riots revealing extent
of demonstrations and difficulties in crushing the uprising, even through
U.S. proposals to expand covert operations against East Germany, including
encouraging “elimination of key puppet officials”
The new volume, Uprising in East Germany, 1953: The Cold War,
the German Question, and the First Major Upheaval behind the Iron Curtain,
is being published by the Central European University Press in Budapest
as part of the “National Security Archive Cold War Document Reader” series.
The book is a product of a joint research venture by The
National Security Archive (George Washington University) and the Cold
War International History Project (Woodrow Wilson International Center
for Scholars), both based in Washington, D.C.