On June 16, construction workers on East Berlin’s Stalinallee go on strike in protest against a state-mandated rise in work quotas. On June 17, the strike becomes an uprising that spreads to many other cities in the GDR and culminates in the demand that the SED regime be removed and free elections held in all of Germany. The uprising is brutally crushed by Soviet troops, and several hundred people are killed, more than a thousand injured, and many arrested. On August 4, the West German parliament declares June 17 a national day of remembrance, the “day of German unity.”
The refugee transit camp Marienfelde opens on August 22 in West Berlin to take in people fleeing the GDR.
The “Berliner Ensemble” headed by Bertolt Brecht moves into a theater of its own, the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in East Berlin’s Mitte borough.
East Berlin’s Tierpark zoo opens at Schlosspark Friedrichsfelde on July 2.
The airline “Deutsche Lufthansa der DDR” (known as Interflug after 1959) puts the Schönefeld airport, taken over from the Soviet occupying power, into operation on September 16 as the GDR’s first commercial airport.
The Berlin Town Hall, rebuilt after the war, is officially handed over to East Berlin’s lord mayor, Friedrich Ebert, on November 30.
Construction of the city expressway begins in West Berlin.
The new construction in the city center in the 1950s culminates with the International Building Exhibition (Interbau) held in West Berlin. Core pieces of the exhibition are the Hansaviertel area, designed by many different international architects and in conscious opposition to the socialist housing erected along Stalinallee, and the Congress Hall (Kongresshalle) in the Tiergarten park.
The hundred-thousandth apartment to be constructed in West Berlin with public funding since 1945 is officially handed over on June 21.
The restored New Guardhouse (Neue Wache), built in 1818 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel on the avenue Unter den Linden in East Berlin, is reopened in August. From 1960 to 1990 it serves as a GDR “Memorial for the Victims of Fascism and Militarism.” Since 1993 it has been a “central memorial” of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Willy Brandt (SPD) is elected Governing Mayor of Berlin on October 3 in West Berlin. He holds this office until December 1966.
In September, in one of the few joint projects to take place during the Cold War, the restoration of Brandenburg Gate, badly damaged during the war, is concluded when the quadriga (restored in West Berlin) is returned to the top of this historic monument (located in East Berlin).
On November 27, Soviet party and government head Nikita Khrushchev responds to the constant stream of refugees leaving the GDR for the West via Berlin by issuing an ultimatum to the three western Allies, demanding that they withdraw from Berlin and that West Berlin be turned into a “demilitarized free city.” Khrushchev’s ultimatum is the first grave threat to West Berlin’s survival since the blockade of 1948/1949.
On June 18, Germany’s president Theodor Heuss (FDP), takes Bellevue Palace (Schloss Bellevue), located in the Tiergarten park, as his official seat in Berlin.
In response to rising coercive measures in the GDR (forced collectivization), almost 200,000 GDR residents flee to West Berlin over the course of the year via the sector’s open borders.