Behind the scenes of the 1945 Potsdam Conference
The Cecilienhof Country House was the last palace built by the Hohenzollern dynasty. It was built between 1913 - 1917 as an English country home and the last German crown couple William and Cecile of Prussia resided here until 1945. After their move, the palace was chosen to host the Potsdam Conference.
From 17 July to 2 August 1945, the summit of the 'Big Three' took place in Potsdam - attended by President of the United States Harry S. Truman, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (followed by his successor Clement Attlee), and the Soviet Head of State Joseph Stalin.
The Potsdam Conference is considered one the most important historical events of the 20th century. It is seen around the world as a symbol of the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, which led to the division of Europe and the erection of the Berlin Wall. The Potsdam Agreement adopted at Cecilienhof laid the groundwork for a new order in Germany, Europe, and the world after World War II. The border installations that stood not far from the building from 1961 to 1989 were an indirect result of the Potsdam Conference and thus also a part of the palace’s history.
The country house is now a museum in memory of the Potsdam Conference. In 2012, Matthias Simmich, the curator of the museum, managed to locate a living witness of the Conference - Margaret Joy Hunter, who was Churchill's assistant during his time in Potsdam and was part of the British delegation.
Although private notes during the conference were strictly forbidden, the then 19-year old turned a photo album into a diary. Mr. Simmich is now very grateful for her courage - while she was unable to enter the palace back then, her diary includes observations, passports and maps that were drafted specifically for the delegation members and invitations to dance events. In 2012, Mr. Simmich went to visit the then 87-year old in her house in South London.
A few months later, Mrs. Hunter was invited by the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg to revisit Potsdam – for the first time since 1945. The highlight of her stay was the visit to Cecilienhof Country House, where she managed to see the exhibition that she had helped put together. You can listen to Ms. Hunter tell her story in the Palace's multimedia guide.
Potsdam Conference 1945 – Shaping the world
In 2020, the summit of the three victorious powers of the Second World War – the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union – had its 75th anniversary. At the round table in the Cecilienhof Palace, the heads of state Truman, Churchill (Attlee starting on 28/07/1945) and Stalin deliberated about the future of Germany and a political and territorial reorganization of Europe and the world. The negotiations began on 17 July and ended on 2 August 1945 with the “Communiqué on the Three Power Conference of Berlin”, which would later enter into history as the “Potsdam Agreement”. The simultaneous onset of the Cold War would lay the cornerstone for the subsequent division of Germany and of the world. The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August, to end the Pacific War, triggered the nuclear arms race of the great powers in East and West. Decisions and agreements made in Potsdam influence world politics up to today.
On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Potsdam Conference, the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg (SPSG) shows a special exhibition, from 1 May 2020 to 31 October 2021, at the site of the conference in the Cecilienhof Country House.