Beginning as a strike by 300 construction workers in East Berlin on June 16, 1953, what would become known as the East German Uprising rapidly spiralled out of control of the authorities.
This led to greater and greater measures being employed to stop the uprising, which only intensified the reaction on the part of the protestors. The flames of rebellion were fanned by West German radio, which broadcast the news all over communist-controlled East Germany, leading to a wave of sympathetic strikes across the entire nation that continued for some days after the 17th.
An estimated 40,000 protestors gathered in East Berlin the next day, and numerous other rallies, strikes and protests took place elsewhere in the nation. In the capital, the protests were brutally suppressed by Soviet troops, with nearly 500 deaths caused by rioting or summary executions, and just under another 2000 people injured. More than 5000 people were arrested for their roles in the uprising.
In later years, the anniversary was celebrated as a national holiday in West Germany, under the name of the “Day of German Unity”. In East Germany, it was remembered, but celebrated rather more furtively.
We Didn’t Start The Fire – Billy Joel