June 17, 1953 – People’s uprising in the GDR

Uprising of the people in 1953

1953 is remembered in Berlin and across Germany as the year East Germans rose up in protest against the state.  On the morning of June 17, thousands of Berliners joined a crowd of construction workers marching in protest from their workplace on Stalinallee along Leipziger Straße to the seat of the GDR government.

But the unrest was not confined to that one day or to East Berlin, or even to East Germany. After the death of Soviet dictator Stalin, people throughout the Eastern Bloc demonstrated against Communist rule and the economic hardship and lack of political freedom often attending it. What all these protests had in common was that they were suppressed by Soviet tanks.


To mark the 70th anniversary of the June 17 uprising Kulturprojekte Berlin and its partners the Federal Foundation and Berlin Commissioner for the Study of the Communist Dictatorship in Germany created an exhibition that shows evocative images of the people’s protest and how it was stopped by Red Army tanks and GDR security forces. The pictures do not offer a precise chronological account of the events, as some things – such as how the uprising started in East Berlin – were simply not photographed. But they do show the courage of the protesters calling for freedom and democracy even in the face of Soviet military might.


Courage born of desperation: A protestor on Potsdamer Platz hitting a Soviet tank with an iron bar. By far the most demonstrators and onlookers have retreated behind the sector border to the British part of Berlin.
© Photo: 70 Jahre DDR-Volksaufstand/Bundespresseamt der Bundesregierung/Perlia-Archiv/Bild Nr. 203037

As well as the central exhibition on Unter den Linden, photos have also been mounted at key sites linked to the uprising in Berlin: today’s Karl-Marx-Allee, where the protest march started; the Federal Ministry of Finance, where it ended; Potsdamer Platz, where poignant scenes of individual demonstrators desperately throwing stones at Soviet tanks were captured; and the cemetery on Seestraße, where the victims of the uprising’s violent suppression were buried.




To mark the 70th anniversary of June 17, 1953, events are taking place all over the city: More information here!


Simone Leimbach

Abteilung Ausstellungen und Veranstaltungen

Dr. Bjoern Weigel

Wissenschaftliche Leitung
Ausstellungen und Veranstaltungen

Stephanie Richter

Referentin der Abteilungsleitung Ausstellungen und Veranstaltungen