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Secret Report of the Soviet Military Leadership on the Events of June 17-19, 1953 (June 24, 1953)

The Soviet military leadership in the GDR sent this secret report on the June 17th uprising to the government in Moscow. The report shows that the GDR government and the SED made serious political mistakes in the lead-up to the protests and failed to respond adequately to the population’s growing discontent. During the uprising, the GDR leadership was largely immobilized. The initiative lay entirely with the Soviet military, which eventually succeeded in suppressing the uprising.

The report recommended various far-reaching measures in response to the events. The “New Course” set by the Soviet Union was to be pursued in the GDR with the utmost resolution. In the interest of increasing the GDR’s economic growth and improving the supply situation for the population, the report also considered whether the Soviet Union should reduce or abolish the steep payments it was collecting from the GDR for reparations and occupation costs. In the political realm, the report advocated a clear separation of the responsibilities of the state and the party, as well as a strengthening of the East German parliament. It recommended that Walter Ulbricht leave the government and concentrate on his party functions. SED ranks were to be renewed at all levels. Finally, the report recommended stronger regulation of border traffic in Berlin.

Of these recommendations, it was above all the economic reforms that were implemented in the following months. Ulbricht and the SED retained their positions of power.

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Top Secret
Copy no. 1

To Comrade V.M. Molotov
To Comrade N.A. Bulganin

On the events of 17-19 June 1953 in Berlin and the GDR and certain conclusions from these events.

The following memorandum is a preliminary report on the events of 17-19 June in eastern Berlin and the GDR, on the reasons behind the disorders, and on several practical conclusions that can be drawn from the given events. As of yet, we have not been able to come to a thorough understanding of the underlying problems, since the investigation of the arrested participants of the disturbances is still at the beginning stage. The question of the events of 17 June, which constitute a great international provocation, prepared in advance by three Western states and their accomplices within the West German monopolistic capital, has not been thoroughly analyzed in this memorandum, partly as a result of a lack of factual material at the current time, and also due to the fact that the given issues have been already widely publicized in general terms in the Soviet press.

In any case, it is clear that 17 June was the so-called "X-day", that is, the day of open aggression against the democratic sector in GDR, by fascist and other organizations, working primarily under the leadership of American intelligence.

The setting of "X-day" for 17 June as the day of aggression by the fascist elements was, it seems, due to the following reasons: a/ the announcement by the CC SEPG [Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, known by the German acronym SED; hereafter, SED] Politburo on 9 June of this year, of the new political and economic direction of GDR, the enactment of which would have foiled any chances of the somewhat significant support for the fascist aggression by the populace of the GDR; b/ the American effort to stave off further growth, within a broad range of social circles in Western Europe, of opposition to the aggressive policies of USA, and its effort to stem the rise in Western Europe of a consensus with the Soviet Union and the accompanying movement towards peace on the basis of recognizing the Soviet Union's dominating influence in countries of people's democracy, including in the GDR. This is demonstrated by the coinciding aggression in both Czechoslovakia and GDR on the eve of the Bermuda conference of three Western states; c/ the Americans and the Adenauer-Ollenhauer clique took into account the disenchantment among the workers and other laborers with the situation in GDR, stemming from the errors made by the CC SED and the SCC [Soviet Control Commission] during their implementation of the policy of so-called "accelerated construction of socialism." Adenauer intended to exploit this disenchantment to strengthen his position before the upcoming Bundestag elections in August-September of this year; d/ clearly, the provocation of June 17 by the Western states and the government of Adenauer was intended to turn the Soviet Union away from its present course in its relations with GDR.

This memorandum contains three main parts: I. The course of events in the GDR on 17-19 June; II. The Economic problems facing the GDR in light of the events of 17-19 June; III. A few conclusions and recommendations.

I. The course of events in the GDR on 17-19 June.

1. On the eve of aggression.

Soon after the SED Party conference /July 1952/ and as a result of the new direction adopted at this conference towards "accelerating the construction of socialism" in the GDR, there began to arise in GDR serious and ever-increasing interruptions in the supply of goods of basic necessity, and in particular fat, meat, and sugar: in winter 1952-53 there were also serious interruptions in the supply of heat and electricity to the cities. This led to the rise of dissatisfaction, most notably within the less well-to-do sectors of the populace. In December and January-February 1952 there were isolated incidents of small and short-lived workers' strikes within a few enterprises; these, however, did not catch the attention of CC SED and SCC organs. In January-March 1953, as a part of the new "austerity regime" a number of privileges and preferential treatments, enjoyed by German workers since 1945, and in many cases earlier, were revoked with the active participation of SCC /the revocation of railroad passes, the changes in sick leave policy; the revocation of additional vacation time for sanatorium stays; the cut-backs in disability insurance for working women turned housewives and so on/. Further decreases in prices of consumer goods did not take place since spring of 1952. On the contrary, ration coupon prices for meat were increased by 10-15% under the pretext that the quality of meat products had increased. All this, as well as the increase in the price of jam and artificial honey /a product used widely by low-paid workers/, brought about dissatisfaction among workers, which was further aggravated by the party's and government's failure, following the 2nd SED conference, to take any steps to improve the situation of the bulk of workers, with the exception of the July 1952 wage increases for ITR, as well as for qualified workers in the five main branches of industry.

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