Poznan uprising 1956

In June 1956, the first general strike broke out in Poznan and the first public street demonstrations against the Communist policy started here (Poland) at the time. The protests were bloody suppressed by the military and militia, and the event itself was downplayed by the propaganda of the Polish People's Republic as "events in June" or even completely hidden / concealed.

Poznań was a major industrial center in Poland. The dissatisfaction that arose was already growing in the autumn of 1955. The staff of the largest factory in Poznań, (Hipolit Cegielski Poznań), complained about the falsely collected “tax” that had been stolen from the workers for the last three years. It concerned more than thousands of workers and more than 11 million PLN were looted from their income. However, the management did fail to meet these demands of the strikers because they were attached to the communist regime.

To indicate why the people took to the streets, it is perhaps a good idea to look at the slogans they used:

The determination of the protesters grew literally minute by minute; gradually the mood radicalized. The slogans with social and economic content were like: “We demand a raise in wages”, “We want to live as people”, “We want bread”, “Down with these norms”, “We are hungry” and were accompanied by anti-communist and anti-governmental : "Down with the exploitation", "Down with the red bourgeoisie", "We want freedom", "Down with Bolshevism", "Down with the communists", "We demand free elections under UN control ”. There were also slogans with anti-Russian and anti-Soviet content: "Down with the Russians", "Down with the Muscovites", "Down with the Russians, we demand a truly free Poland"

On June 28, tension increased among the protesters. An announcement was made of an arrest of a "workers delegation" in Warsaw on June 26, and the protesters split into two groups. The larger group went to the jail, broke into it and released 257 prisoners. However, the delegation was not found, as the information provided turned out to a rumor…. Some protesters began to destroy prison records. Others again confiscated the premises of the prosecution and court, papers were thrown on the street and burned, and equipment was partially demolished.

In the afternoon of June 28 1956, the communist authorities sent regular military units to the city of Poznan. Initially the 19th Armored Division and the 10th Armored Division, then the 4th and 5th Infantry Divisions. In total, 9,983 soldiers, 359 tanks, 31 armored cannons, 36 armored cars, 6 anti-aircraft guns, 880 cars, 68 motorcycles and several thousand weapons were sent to the city ... These troops fought in the streets with groups of civilians armed with 250 weapons , including 1 MG from a fallen militia post and bottles of gasoline. The protesters managed to take over two tanks from which they tried to shoot at the building of the Provincial Office of Public Security. In total, 31 tanks were destroyed or damaged

Op 29 juni ‘s avonds zei premier Józef Cyrankiewicz in een radiotoespraak : Any provocateur or madman who dares to raise his hand against the people's government, let him be sure that the people's government will cut him off!

In the course of the fighting around the city, it is estimated that 70 civilians, 4 soldiers and 4 officers were killed and about 600 people (on both sides) were injured.

The arrests of the participants in the protests began on June 28 and were intensified in the following days. Needless to say, they were treated extremely cruel. In total about 250 people were arrested, including 196 workers. Intensive “investigations”, combined with the torture and ill-treatment of suspects, carried out by a large group of officers from Warsaw, aimed to prove that the perpetrators of the events on June 28 were provocateurs of opposition organizations and foreign agents… .. This is however not proven nor was it true.

One of the results of the June 1956 uprising in Poznań was the reactivation of associations. During Stalinism, the Poles were forced to remain silent and adapt to the system. It was only after the wave of changes and protests in 1956 that society rejected the fear that paralyzed them and began to express its views. Most of the people who spoke, however, did so anonymously because there were still fears of repression. Anonymous inscriptions and pamphlets appeared on the walls of buildings, in means of communication, on benches and many other places. Poles also expressed their opinion by means of letters to e.g. to family and friends, to workplaces in Poznań, to the press and radio, to the public prosecutor's office, to party and trade union bodies.

Open festive gatherings were organized at various workplaces from the end of June. They aimed to support the position of the Polish United Workers' Party and to condemn the “events in Poznań”. The conduct of such gatherings was generally in accordance with the government scenario, but there were gatherings at which people spoke (very) critically about the ruling system and against the resolution imposed by the authorities condemning the Poznań demonstrations.

And although these were the first (bloody) steps towards a detachment from the communist regime, which was primarily driven by Russia, it was only in the years 1980-1989 after (yet again) massive protests led by Lech Wałęsa of the Solidarność union and with support. by the pope initiated the fall of communism. A new constitution then finally turned Poland into a democracy.

And where the revolt in 1956 was hushed up as much as possible by the then government and literally beaten to death, now there is a deserved attention for the revolt of that time. There are now several monuments that commemorate those days and there is even a small (free) museum about those uprisings. See: http://www.wmn.poznan.pl/odwiedz-nas/muzeum-powstania-poznanskiego-czerwiec-1956/ for more information.

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