The Berlin Uprising of June 1953 started off with a strike by furious construction workers in the capital city. The tradesmen had been toiling away to finish work on a prestige building project in Berlin, and were outraged by demands to increase productivity without getting any extra money. This came at a time when people were already annoyed by the tightening of border controls and the enforced collectivisation of agriculture; the new demand was basically the straw that broke the camel’s back. And so, the workers staged a walkout.
Things escalated pretty quickly as the strike gathered support – the following day on 17 June, hundreds of thousands of furious Germans gathered in the streets of Berlin to protest Walter Ulbricht. To put it simply, the workers hated the General Secretary and wanted to rejoin the West. As you might imagine, Ulbricht wasn’t having any of this – he called in Soviet troops, who arrived in heavy duty tanks to put an end to the uprising once and for all.
Despite such a forceful ending to the rebellion, the updated policy on work productivity which had made the workers so mad was retracted. You don’t ask, you don’t get, right? Unfortunately, the protest also resulted in the Stasi being given more powers and resources to prevent potential unrest in future, but more on that later.
Some other things you should know? While the rebellion also prompted the USSR to abandon plans for a re-unified Socialist Germany, it strengthened the position of the Federal Republic of Germany and paved the way for the election of Konrad Adenauer and the admission of West Germany into NATO. Although not as well known as the Hungarian and Czechoslovakian Risings, it resulted in the continued division of Germany until post-Cold War unification in 1990. So, a lot.