This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
A production of RIAS, Radio in American Sector, Berlin, features an American reporter and actuality of the events in Berlin of June 16 and 17 , 1953, also features man on the steet interviews.
Rundown: Transcribed from disc label:
Introduction by Mayor Ernst Reuter.
Workers walkout, June 16.
Street Interviews, June 17th.
Soviet tanks in East Berlin.
Red Flag pulled down.
Martial Law proclaimed.
Guns of the People's Police.
Scapegoat Willi Goettling is murdered.
Interview with the Goettling family.
Descriptive interviews on uprising.
Uprising spreads through East Germany.
Mass funeral for victims. Mayor Ernst Reuter.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 24793
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
Carlin documented the story of what happened on nine hundred fifty three in East Berlin and the. This is. Why he felt his band funny. That they have not. Come. With. The Naked City. People. Come up with a. Better. Behind. This has such a power in. The company. Makes available to you. Just. Take place. The story of something that nobody thought could happen. This is the story of the Stephan thousandth of June one thousand fifty three thousand the workers of East Berlin and the Soviet zone of Germany rose up in revolt against their communist government thorough way the mask of lies and showed the world the living face beneath it is the story of what people who live under communism really think of communism it is the story of the pride and courage and integrity of the human spirit which will not be held down by any terror threat proclaims the message that tyranny can be resisted that the big lie can be thrown in the face of the big liar despite his secret police and his kangaroo courts the message that the big lie can be met with the big troops listen to this story. That is that they. That has auto growth of all the quisling prime minister of the East German government saying that party and populace are one that the communist government of East Germany enjoys the support and trust of the government well listen to this. That is the refutation of the big lot that is the sound of Soviet Russian tanks and communist German police shooting into the crowds who are expressing their real opinion of the communist government with which they feel such solidarity those are the real shots not something manufactured from sound effects equipment in a studio and now listen to this. And that is the big truth. That is a few men and women speaking with a voice from eighteen million throats we want our freedom that is what was being said in word and indeed throughout the Soviet zone of Germany on the seventeenth of June one thousand nine hundred fifty three and on the days that followed we will tell you what happened during those days to do so we must go back about three weeks on May twenty eighth the government of the so called German Democratic Republic announced that in accordance with wishes expressed by the workers themselves production quotas were to be raised by ten percent in other words the workers would be required by law to do ten percent more work for the same pay in simple English the speed up an institution that the capitalist exploiters of the working class left behind about a generation ago and on the morning of June sixteenth after the past had come slowly to a boil the workers made it clear whether the speed up was in accordance with their wishes stallion L.A. the showplace of East Berlin or all those nice modern Moscow style apartment houses are going up to prove what communism does for the working class and all of a sudden about fifteen hundred of the working class the construction workers who are building these houses have thrown down their tools and are marching up the street at first it was only the eighteen men working on block forty and block after block others joined them as their numbers swelled traffic came to a standstill like communists in the government buildings lock their doors and their windows all the time the procession would reach the Alexanderplatz with a groan as three thousand people from the sidewalks join the demonstrators like shadows in unison decrease the production quotas lower the prices of the state owned stores down with the government we want but are not an army the strike of the workers and the styling in a layer become a demonstration by all of East Berlin that huge crowd turned on the Wilhelmstrasse and came to a halt in front of the House of minister is in the Leipzig or a straw so the crowd demanded to see the communist bosses grow out of all the old brick. Two functionaries were sent out to quiet them down for an answer the government had made mistakes and that the ten percent increase in the production quota had been withdrawn the crowd shouted them down and said they wanted more than just left like kept calling for growth of all the old brick it's a Ganza rain heavily but all through East Berlin protest groups were in motion for the first time in twenty years East Berlin was speaking its mind to the communist mentality the first thing to do when something unpleasant happens is to pretend it isn't there a few discontented people out in the streets very well the communist will put a lot of contented people in the street a meeting with hastily called in the free beach that Palast in downtown East Berlin party functionaries and members of the so-called free German youth the blue shirted Nazi type youth organization for order to attend they got out their placards and their banners with the incredible slogans and marched down the middle of the road to prove that everybody was happy go to volunteer risk gave speeches and the next day in the communist press this meeting was the big news not the uprising throughout the city to find anything out about it you had to look very carefully until you found a little item at the bottom of page one of noise starts from the official Communist or on Tuesday groups of fascist provocateurs smuggled in from West Berlin caused incidents in the Democratic sector of the Early in the population join the people's police in opposing the bandits who are scattered and driven off no starts and needless to say did not mention the fact that after the mighty affair in their free speech that passed when the comrades in the blue shirts were marching off they ran into the workers who were demonstrating there were sharp clashes the first of the incidents of large scale violence that became characteristic of the days that followed as the communists proved with every tank and machine gun they had that the people were on their side. Berlin June seventeenth one thousand nine hundred eighty three all through the night truckloads of communist German police motorized Russian infantry armored cars and Russian tanks rolled into Berlin from the outlying barracks by dawn they were encamped throughout the city ready for trouble and the trouble came seven AM workers gather in the streets factories and offices are unable to begin work groups of demonstrators form columns and march toward the center of town breaking through police cordons and running individual police units eight am already about fifteen thousand and one of the government buildings and the like took a structure that they demand free elections and resignation of the government people's police move into the crowd with club nine A.M. The workers from the Henning start steelworks march through Berlin on their way to the government district. Of course have sent out German speaking reporters to cover events for its German audience what you will hear now is an on the spot report in English made especially by Riaz for this occasion. Standing in. The street is completely filled with the striking workers. Taking this route to the center of the Soviet sector. I can see the direction. From. The five to six thousand workers a good many of them are still. Trying. To. Protect their eyes from the glare of the furnace when they're working some people have paper. Over their heads to protect themselves from this dismal rain that keeps falling although the rain doesn't seem to be dampening either the fires that have been started or the spirit of the crowd. Let me ask this man here. Was. Is anyone at work today. But. Nobody working he says it was time and this strike is a real pleasure. The Communist Party or the socialist Unity Party. And all the workers are spinning that thousands and thousands. Of them shouting in unison. We won't be slaves. Young men nearly knocked the microphone out of my hand not in the resignation of the government this is an amazing thing that's happening here an exciting and significant and a moving thing. Nine thirty A.M. Eastern manners overrun with demonstrators the cars of government officials are being overturned and set on fire trucks of the people's police are burning in front of the police headquarters across the street the Soviet bookstore mashed on your road is being demolished the books and pamphlets are being burned on the sidewalk throughout the city the propaganda both of the national pride are being torn down and set afire ten AM trouble on past and I've left one of the main crossover point between East and West Berlin a crowd of several thousand sets fire to the police yet a group of six policemen is cornered in the form of state owned department store they surrender and seek asylum in West Berlin eleven A.M. normal life in East Berlin has come to a complete standstill the software has stopped running most stores are closed units of the people's police move through town trying in vain to disperse gatherings Soviet troops arrive in greater numbers at the Brandenburg Gate the red flag is torn down and replaced by the black red gold of the West German Federal Republic here is the Riyadh report. At the Brandenburg Gate the situation is tense this is the boundary between the British and the Soviet sectors right at the head of on to then and then which runs down into the Soviet sector. On the British side as quantum motorized infantry is drawn up I'd say about fifty or sixty yards from the sector boundary with their rifles their car beans ready in case of trouble and from here you can see why they're on the alert because just on the other side of the Brandenburg Gate three No No four perhaps you can hear the roar of the motors. Yes here comes up a St Louis before the Russian B. thirty four nine. And I'm thinking it was a should be tried the others it's completely blocking off or didn't lead in all four tanks. Returned guns are moving the reading back and forth covering the ground the milling around on the western side of the Brandenburg Gate and a good many people are taking cover behind the pillars of the gate feeling quite in securing sure Russian soldiers are lined up across under London in front of the times so father Tommy guns are still over there on his phone. And know what's happening over just when I actually considered it let me go here please I'm trying to see what's happening over there or I see two young fellows up climbed up on the Brandenburg Gate and they're trying to pull down the yes they're trying to put on the red flag that's mounted on the top they're working on the cords at the base of the flag for the hunched down trying to keep the flagpole between themselves in those Russian tight but you after all could fire at any time but they don't seem to be firing right now. From. Washington on the. Lookout he was shouting and waving hi. Dr the out of the this is perhaps one of their lives. Like let alone the crew of The Hobbit who were going to have an interview with the heart of a man granddaughter is I think somebody shouted at the construction workers who saw it all a just put on the red flag and yes now I can see the cars waving the black red gold and there they are going to high school with a retcon is that of a few moments ago in the meantime I'm trying to find the two men who tore down the red Maclean. Out of the street and somebody shouted nobody was hurt and now the two men carried on the shoulders of the crowd. Eleven thirty A.M. a crowd of fifty thousand collects in the loose at the other end of winter den Linden the money the portrait of World Communist Party boss is set in flames noon June seventeenth Soviet T. thirty four tanks and motorized infantry of occupied all key positions in East Berlin these Berlin radio proclaims a state of martial law they feel this meet their commandant than this Soviet different Victor was formed well order of those so they come under. Laws here by proclaiming the Soviet seconder of Berlin in all demonstrations assemblies and other meetings of more than three persons on the streets and in public buildings prohibited all fourteen vehicle traffic will cease between the hours of nine pm and five A.M. disobedience of us all it will be punished by martial law. Is over. The box and I know you are with this announcement of martial law the communist puppet government of East Germany made its formal declaration of bankruptcy it admitted that it was not able to maintain order over the population that had according to the communist myth elected it by a ninety nine percent majority it needed the muscle of the Red Army to keep the people from tearing down the whole flimsy phony dishonest structure and Big Brother did his job well his soldiers rolled out their tanks loaded their automatic weapons cordoned off the streets and shot down the workers who still insisted on committing the crime of expressing their real opinion the first fatal shots were fired on the Potsdamer Platz at about one o'clock in the afternoon the react reporter was there. You know that we are now in Potsdamer Platz actually inside East Berlin the demonstrators are in complete possession of the square I should say about two or three thousand of them at the scene as one of destruction. All around me pirates are burning propaganda balloons and piles of signs with slogans on them and here to my right a rather elaborate propaganda effort is going up in flames it's a sort of display of huge portraits of pique. Surrounded by slogans and the flames the flames and up over their faces. A couple of hundred yards down the line. Russian tanks are Station. Just standing there motionless buttoned up and the people don't seem to be very afraid of them at any rate they keep adding material to the fires but I do notice that they leave a sort of no man's land of roughly fifty or sixty yards between themselves and the tanks and stretching down. Is a whole row of trucks with people's police in them but it seems they too are not doing anything to stop this demonstration here on the flux and now I'll try to get you a report on what's going on inside East Berlin. I. Think. That the Russian armored cars came up and the two people were killed or they killed. A worker he says was run over. The people. Russian tanks. Into the crowd. And already the people seemed. Station just waiting for something like this to happen and I was standing ready. Here. I could see a good many nurses in their. Uniforms and. Commotion over there a man is being. As he seems to be wounded so some of those shots must have gone into the crowd I just. Heard. Get a little bit closer. Because. The police. Shooting stop shooting they're saying one. Of us. Almost simultaneously with this brutality another tragedy of a tragedy that human rights as clearly as anything can the criminality of the communist system the line and already been laid down that fascist agent provocateur with their headquarters in West Berlin where the cause of all the trouble it was necessary to find such a nation and since of course he did not exist it was necessary to invent him. And so at four P.M. on the afternoon of June eighteenth the following announcement was heard over a communist radio Berlin the little the country gave doesn't really go. On that it is here but I don't see that Willie Goodling those of us in the West Berlin who was acting as a foreign spy and who was an organizer of the disturbances in East Berlin has been condemned to death by shooting for the photo you sent home. Right on down get this and that goes on that you get a sniff you know I do want people up with a guy playing was not an agent he was nothing but a poor unemployed truck driver thirty five years old with a young wife and two young children he was completely on political belong to no party his only community activity was church welfare work he was on his way back from collecting his weekly unemployment compensation on June sixteenth when he was stranded in the Soviet sector by the strike of the subway workers he was arrested on the street by the East Berlin police who were picking up people at random the fact that he was from West Berlin was sufficient he was murdered in the afternoon of June seventeenth Riaz visited really getting his wife that evening you can hear her heartbreak we have substituted an English translation for the original German QUESTION When did you see your husband for the last time. There. You can hear people. Saying I want to get him some room thank you you can see him. On Tuesday he left here at nine thirty to get his relief money and I have not seen him since where did your husband pick up this relief check who couldn't have. Been like his own in that way and he usually took the route through the Soviet sector. I'm. Just awesome. I mean this is just my money but and I want to like. Yes he took the streetcar and then the subway and then the Street guy came to save money my husband was always very quiet and his dad was your husband in any political party or did he have anything to do with politics and I'm. Looking to get the end of the beginning. And then I had no family. Then I think I'm nuts and there's no never we have been married for twelve years and I'm not it was really a happy one my husband lived only for his family his children were everything to him really Girling his mother is also here in the apartment in writing. This is gurgling Is it conceivable that your son was guilty. And next time you should kind of then soon. You know least. You know someone mentioned. That it's not just because. He did not take part in anything he was not in the party nothing nothing at all he was shot unjustly I just cannot believe that he will not come back again it is a tear in East Berlin the demonstrations continue but gradually as the iron fist of the Red Army closed over the city they came to offer Soviet tanks and troops at the main crossings and martial law so well illustrated by the summary execution of Willie Goodling had their intended effect the strikers were given apart lost their impetus went home by nightfall a city was quiet with the calm of death. There we asked reporter return to the Fox time a plot at about seven Here is what he found it is now seven o'clock in the evening and the picture here on Potsdamer Platz is a good deal different from what it was earlier this afternoon to my left the Columbus house the building where the six people policeman surrounded earlier today is in flames which is completely gutted the building and now West Berlin firemen are trying to put it out over on the other side of the square Russian soldiers and these are all in police and have drawn a line and they're just standing there man every three or four yards far as I can see in either direction where there are guns their rifles in position just just standing guard and not doing anything about fire behind them that the Russian tanks are still posted in the Leipzig a Strasser and one has the feeling that the Russian military is completely in control and that martial law is really going to be enforced by the crowd here is the end out to maybe two hundred fifty or three hundred people who are there keeping well over to the west really inside of the square rather quiet and you can see that they're keeping a close watch on the soldiers and people's police because this afternoon at about three o'clock a very serious incident took place the people's police suddenly and we're not getting any warning at all been fire into the much larger crowd that was collected here at that time and they killed and wounded several dozen if you can still see the blood stains on the street and sidewalk. So far so far I have not been able to find out just how many were killed or wounded but our little group has gathered around me here let me ask whether anybody is here who saw what happened is going to you know. It's always. Been mentioned. A moment that wait a minute I want to translate what he said it was frightful to see how the Salvos went off one after the other and the people threw themselves to the ground he said you saw some of them arriving on the ground all covered with blood and everybody was calling medic and police now what happened then. I'm going. To understand. The point at last. Moment he says that they were carried bleeding heavily to the hospital trucks ambulances there was not enough room in the trucks for all of them and some of them were put in police cars and taken away as fast as possible vest and. Off in the empty lot to the left. A moment kitchen is pulled up and another truck from which Russian soldiers have unloaded duffel and now they're pitching tents and they have them against the background of the ruins of the what was the former chancellor eight where Hitler committed suicide in one thousand nine hundred five. Russian soldiers are whacking all around the perimeter of East Berlin East Berlin is in a state of the and the Soviet zone what was happening in the rest of East Germany on the seventeenth of June despite the real Russian soldiers despite the state of martial law some people managed to slip through into West Berlin as a matter of course they came to realize to report what they knew knowing that we would carry their voices back into the zone of silence here is a summary of what they had to say mag divert workers marks to the city with a sign Magda bird follows Berlin the courthouse is stormed funny political prisoners are freed from jail the red labor union headquarters are right people's police fire and twelve thousand workers from the Karl Liebknecht heavy machinery plant killing five martial law declarative two o'clock Leipzig workers from the KIRO heavy machinery plant and the freights head that works go on strike over power police who try to stop them. Free German youth headquarters demolished a crowd of thirty thousand stormed the radio station mayor Rula his force to march with the demonstrators carrying a sign saying down with the government martial law declared Brandenburg steel and railroad workers strike political prisoners freed from jail prosecuting attorney bank and are known as the hangman of Brandenburg severely mall highly workers' strike in the line isn't that a gasoline plant on the moon a synthetic rubber factory line a work set on fire strikes in the hull a pump works Mohanlal and gross kind of coal mines for cal machine tool plant martial law rather than strikes and demonstrations throughout the city ten thousand gather at the City Hall planned for general strike frustrated by declaration of martial law read to no secret police chief hated on beaten to death by angry crowds the airlifts almost all factories are on strike and they are forced to take part in the demonstrations political prisoners freed from the women's jail and government officials hide in the attic are found and thrown down the stairs the mayor is forced to tear the pictures of starlings on the wall martial law cab the entire workforce of the hootin coming out west goes on strike sixty fellow workers freed from the cellar where the secret police were holding them prisoner plant guards disarmed youth organization headquarters and police station raided guns taken from the People's police and thrown in the river martial law and similar reports from Weimar from Air Force from candidates Ghana Barnum and Tao said look the expelled Koenig's was to house first and better climates our I sleep in better fed Potsdam Sawston better now you know where to go to how to bridge that and from dozens of other cities and towns throughout the Soviet zone of Germany. And the communist dictators still pretending that the little man wasn't They're still sticking to their Big Lie persisted in the fiction that this whole mighty outburst of opposition and hatred was the work of Western agents who had somehow managed to seduce several million friends of communism to violence against communism the propaganda machine ground out this line every newspaper article and radio commentary took up the refrain and Soviet military commander Dobro over the man who had murdered really got going even went so far as to state in a note to the three Allied commanders in Berlin that a major general of the United States Army had been observed at the sector boundary directing operations inside the Soviet zone dozens of alleged spies and agents were executed which will probably never know how many and many thousands were arrested it might be mentioned only in passing that the Constitution of the so called German Democratic Republic specifically guarantees the right to strike June eighteenth nineteenth twentieth or twenty first twenty second every ten yards along the entire length of the bond between East and West Berlin Soviet Russian soldiers stood guard letting no one class in either direction Russian tanks and armored cars backed them up on the main thoroughfares the Bravo insisted that this measure was necessary to keep Western fascist monopoly capitalist warmongers Spiers and bandits from coming in and making more trouble but of course the real reason lay elsewhere the world most not be allowed to observe it first hand the measures by which the back of the workers resistance was broken nor that you merely ation of the socialist Unity Party puppet government led government with a ninety nine percent popular support which would simply abdicated its functions to the read occupation authority and then on June twenty third three little holes were opened three streets could be used by the several thousand to have been marooned in West Berlin and to wish to return to the Democratic sector. And somehow nobody wished crowds gathered at the three crossover points eager to rejoin their families but after they got there they lost their nerve very few were willing to entrust themselves to the mercies of the people's police who had been firing at them less than a week before and they were nigger and so what lay in store for them beyond the barrier they would not venture across and so the Communists had to roll out loud speaker trucks to entice them home they could be heard every day all day at the three little holes in the Iron Curtain. People of Berlin do not believe the inflammatory broadcasts that really are they are Andro and ridiculous do not listen to the war mongers who are not interested in maintaining peace and restoring German unity all public transportation is running all the stores restaurants etc are open to take this opportunity to come home not a hair of anyone's head will be hard to not let yourself be frightened or in. Riyadh was honored that as usual the communists felt obliged to characterize its factual news reporting as inflammatory and ridiculous in the communist world the truth is indeed inflammatory on June twenty third the city of West Berlin did honor to those of its citizens who had lost their lives on June seventeenth the Riyadh reporter attended the room or your services before the city hall here is the conclusion of his report we are here on the road all build the plots in front of the West Berlin City Hall where the memorial services are taking place for eight West Berliners who were killed on June seventeenth by communist fire their writer has just finished speaking his words of farewell and now the police escort is leading the cavalcade of hearses up to the row of coffins. The vehicles are moving slowly through the huge crowd which completely fills the square here people who have come from all over the city to pay their last respects to the dead and now the hearse is have drawn to a halt except the first which moves off of the first coffin. The coffins are standing on top of the posts here in front of the steps of the city hall and before the coffin can be moved the men must lift decides that you Nasa's are flowers to cover the catafalque is empty it holds no coffee it is there in honor of where they got playing. Now as the coffins are place one by one in the houses you can hear the strains of. An income. Or to Dish an old German music for solemn occasions of this song I had a comrade. The spectacle here is a moving and impressive one you can feel the intensity of the emotion that has brought these thousands of people here on this this on comfortably hot afternoon. The facade of the city hall is completely draped in black male writer John Stroud an hour and the other speakers are standing on the broad steps of the city hall the area where the coffins are placed is surrounded by tall black collars torches explaining their talk. Then then there's a slightly raised plot where the relatives of the dead men are seen. Standing now with heads uncovered the women in black veil and behind them the huge crowd of mourners bread's out even up onto the roof all taken off their hats the coffee's are removed and there are tears in the eyes of many of those near me. One by one the seven houses are moved up in the coffins and placed in by the music played. And then they moved on past and formed a column waiting. Now the last has has taken on its burden and the Freedom up above our heads here has begun to let its voice. And now the cavalcade with the motorcycle guard at its head is moving slowly slowly along the narrow lane through the dense masses of people. All heads are turning to watch the receding perception. All the catafalque empty don't know me well a technique still has its heap of flowers on it as these victims of communists by over there fighting. Against the big guy now dead on the treads of. The truth implanted in the naked and defenseless hearts of men is a slight and negligible think it cannot hope to strike the tyrant down its weight is as the weight of a pebble against the armor of a T. thirty four. It has no more hope of victory than had David naked and armed with a pebble against Goliath the giant on that morning in the valley of terror. This is again. We do not know how many men have been. Executed by the companies since the sixty's of. The monitors sizes for some offices and in the name of office and you have just. These men gave said lives as a testimony here today beauty in among. Enough the id's that ever lifted itself to me it is as if each one of them very peak this and you would eloquence up dance. Specifics of freedom better with dedicated and is a dedicated over yes every day. For the sake of Ness and dignity also in The Reader I believe said. Freedom equally from God but that's true it's just a guess and. There was a. That none of us who enjoys the blessings of freedom gets a high price these men paid their forfeit him and this pledge.