It was an anti-communist protest that ended with dozens dead. Today, half a century on, Poland has been remembering the workers’ uprising in Poznan. Some who gathered were there in 1956 when strikers clashed with the authorities. It was not the first such revolt in the Soviet bloc. Protests had taken place in Berlin three years earlier.
But Poznan helped inspire some of those who rose up in Budapest soon afterwards which in turn helped create the climate for the “Prague Spring” of 1968. Symbolically, the Polish President invited his counterparts from Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to take part in today’s commemoration.
On June 28 1956, factory workers fed up with their conditions and low salaries went on strike. This was the spur for others in Poznan to express their anger. A massive demonstration erupted. The Secret Police headquarters was attacked and prisoners set free. Repression was bloody. Around 100 people died. Nearly 1,000 more were injured.
Some say the spirit of what happened helped trigger resistance that would eventually lead to Solidarity – the trade union instrumental in the fall of communism in Poland.