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Chronicle 1961

In the night of the 12 to the 13 of August, Walter Ulbricht, as SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Ger.: Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands)) party leader and Chairman of the National Defence Council of the GDR, (German Democratic Republic [East Germany]. (Ger.: Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR)) gave the order to seal off the sector border in Berlin. Having obtained the agreement of the Soviet Union a few days previously, and with the support of the Soviet troops in the GDR, the regime closed off the last route for escape from the Party dictatorship: in the early morning of August 13, border police started ripping up streets in the middle of Berlin, pieces of asphalt and paving stones were piled up to form barricades, concrete posts were driven into the ground and barbed-wire barriers erected. more
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    • 1961

      4 April

      During the Easter holiday the number of GDR refugees leaving for West Berlin via East Berlin shoots up: more than 4,000 GDR refugees are registered at the Marienfelde Reception Centre in West Berlin. On 8 April, the West German Ministry for All-German Affairs issues a statement on the "West-East Migration" and the increase in the tide of refugees from the GDR on RIAS radio.


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    • 1961

      4-6 April

      During a meeting in Washington, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and US President Kennedy both voice fears that a serious Berlin crisis can be expected within the year. There are no practicable military counter-measures in place to respond to a blockade of access routes to Berlin, if this were to happen.
    • 1961

      9 April

      Dean Acheson, US President Kennedy’s special adviser, discusses future NATO policy with West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, particularly with regard to the alliance’s nuclear arsenal. The next day, speaking to American journalists, the Chancellor expresses criticism of the present attitude of the USA to NATO: "For some time now, I have been very concerned about the way NATO is developing. Particularly because there is no leadership." He says the fact that the Americans are hoping for disarmament negotiations with the Soviet Union should not result in any slackening of efforts to improve NATO’s nuclear tactics and strategy.
    • 1961

      10 April

      A 36-year-old married labourer from the GDR who has fled to the West talks about the way his family was harassed just for their Catholic faith – and because he travelled to West Berlin in 1960 for the anniversary of his mother-in-law’s death. Report by a GDR refugee, 10 April 1961 (in German)
    • 1961

      11 April

      The District Court in Jerusalem begins to try the former SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann, one of the people most responsible for the deportation of European Jews to Nazi extermination camps. The Israeli secret service had tracked down Eichmann in Argentina in May 1960, abducted him and taken him to Israel. On 11 December 1961, Eichmann is condemned to death and hanged on 31 May 1962.


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    • 1961

      12 April

      The Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin carries out the first manned space flight. As with the successful launch of the first earth satellite, "Sputnik", in October 1957, Gagarin’s flight is exploited for propaganda purposes and celebrated as a proof of the "legitimate superiority of communism" and as "the greatest triumph for Soviet science".


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    • 1961

      12 April

      The GDR parliament (Volkskammer) passes a "Code of Labour Laws" based on the Soviet model. All "working people" are promised the right to a job. But the Code provokes disappointment in the GDR: the number of working hours per week remains unchanged, the right to strike is not mentioned, and, with its numerous restrictions, the "right to work" turns out to be a statutory compulsion to work. more
    • 1961

      12/13 April

    • 1961

      17 April

      The attempted invasion by Cuban exiles in the Bay of Pigs in Cuba fails over the course of a few days. The attack on Castro’s regime has been supported by the CIA and approved by US President Kennedy, and the fiasco deals a heavy blow to the international reputation of the USA.


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    • 1961

      27 April

      Negotiations on trade between the GDR and the USSR for the period 1962 to 1965 come to an end: the Soviet Union pledges to deliver more raw materials and food than previously planned and says it will also give the GDR help to bolster its currency – but not the amount desired by the SED. The supply of raw materials to the GDR remains in deficit, investments have to be cut in all economic areas and the objectives of the Seven-Year Plan need to be lowered accordingly. more
    • April 1961

      In April 1961, 19,803 people flee from the GDR. Of these, 49.4 percent are young people under the age of 25.
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