Photo. Refugees waiting to be admitted to the Marienfelde Refugee Center, August 14, 1961
© DHM-Schirner

June 2012

Furnishings for the June 17, 1953 Group (ENM-002000)

Betrifft: Einrichtungsgegenstände für den Personenkreis des 17.6.1953
Kitchen cabinet, pillow, broom with handle… - All of the furnishings that the families T., H., and P. received upon their arrival in West Berlin in 1953 were recorded by the Berlin Senate Welfare Department in a list dated June 29, 1958. These three families belonged to the “June 17, 1953 Group” – the designation assigned by Berlin authorities to refugees who fled to the West in the aftermath of the popular uprising in the GDR, and whose provisions came from a special designated aid fund.

Six binders in Marienfelde’s collection entitled “Inventory for June 17, 1953 Refugees” contain inventory lists, delivery receipts, and entries recording the material assistance that these individuals received after arrival in the West. These files also reveal the difficulties associated with starting a new life. For years after their arrival, refugees often lived in provisional housing and relied on donated or loaned furnishings, waiting for an uncertain, hopefully independent, future.

In the days surrounding June 17, 1953, a wave of strikes and demonstrations washed over the GDR. More than half a million people took to the streets to protest the Socialist Unity Party (SED), whose attempts to shape the GDR in the image of the Soviet Union had brought the country to economic, political, and social crisis. Demonstrators demanded the dissolution of the government, free elections, and the unification of Germany. The uprising was violently suppressed with the help of the Soviet military. Thousands of demonstrators were arrested and many fled to the West.