Germany marks bloody 1953 East German uprising

14th June 2013, Comments 0 comments

Germany's president Friday said an uprising in the former communist east that was suppressed by Soviet tanks 60 years ago should become more anchored in Germans' consciousness.

Joachim Gauck, the former East German rights activist who became president last year, urged for what began as a workers' strike and snowballed into a widespread uprising on June 17, 1953 to be "common knowledge".

Addressing the Bundestag lower house of parliament, he urged for the hundreds of East German victims of the Soviet regime by 1953 to finally be given a place in "our collective memory".

Although the date was made former West Germany's national day shortly afterwards, it was replaced by October 3 as the country's state holiday following German reunification in 1990 after the end of the Cold War.

Gauck recalled how as a 13-year-old he witnessed the initial euphoria when workers began striking in action that quickly turned into a revolt against the communist regime, spreading from city to city.

Faced with stone throwing demonstrators, the Soviet army and East German police fired on the crowd. At least 50 people were killed and some 15,000 arrested.

Gauck told lawmakers, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also grew up in the former East Germany, that the June 1953 uprising was more than a workers' revolt and showed Germans were also capable of resistance.

He added that Germans had been at the start of an emancipation process which continued with uprisings in Hungary three years later, followed by Czechoslovakia and Poland, culminating in the peaceful end of East Germany and the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

© 2013 AFP

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