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Sunday Documentary: Berlin Riots (1953) – British Pathé

East Berliners throw rocks at a Soviet tank during the riots of the 17 June 1953 Uprising on the streets of East Berlin - Still from Berlin Riots British Pathé Newsreel

Photo: Still from Berlin Riots British Pathé Newsreel

Berlin Riots is a British Pathé newsreel reporting on the 17 June 1953 uprising of workers against the Communist regime in East Germany.

A general feeling of discontent with social and economic conditions in East Germany had been building for some time but the events of June 1953 were the first major acts of rebellion against the government.

On 16 June, in protest against state demands for increased production quotas, construction workers on Karl-Marx-Allee, then named Stalinallee, laid down their tools and marched towards the House of the Ministries on Leipziger Strasse.

This initially small-scale act of defiance acted as a catalyst for thousands of dissatisfied workers and calls grew for a general strike.

By the next day people had taken to the streets of many of East Germany’s towns and cities and as the crowds swelled so did the demonstrators’ demands.  They were by now calling for the resignation of the government and free elections to select a replacement.

The East German government turned to the Soviet Union for help in quashing the rebellion and Soviet tanks and troops rolled through the streets of East Berlin.

The riots are remembered in Berlin in the name of the Strasse des 17. Juni, which leads from the Brandenburg Gate, passing the Soviet War Memorial and the Siegessäule, to Ernst-Reuter-Platz.

There is also a memorial in front of the former House of the Ministries (now the Ministry of Finance) in the form of an enlarged photo of rioters under a glass panel set in the paved square.

Berlin Riots (1953) – British Pathé

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