The Cecilienhof Palace, although also a royal residence, is not known for that reason alone.
It was here in July and August 1945 that the ‘Big Three’, U.S. President Harry Truman, British prime Minister Winston Churchill, and the Soviet premier Joseph Stalin met together in what we know as The Potsdam Conference.
Discussed here amongst other things, was the restructuring of Europe and the future of Germany. It was also where President Truman gave the order and then told Premier Stalin that the USA had just exploded the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in the fight to end the war with Japan.
The leaders arrived at various agreements on the German economy, punishment for war criminals, land boundaries and reparations, but failed to settle most of the important issues at hand and thus helped set the stage for the Cold War that would begin shortly after World War II came to an end.
It is only 1.5kms from the Cecilienhof Palace, and the twenty or thirty naked sun bathers we quickly walked past (maybe more on that later), and right across from the tram stop is my next story;
THE REAL BRIDGE of SPIES – THE GLIENICKER
It used to be a fairly complicated procedure to walk across the Glienicker Bridge that connects the cities of Berlin and Potsdam.
For a start it involved nerve-jangling negotiations between the two superpowers of the time, the United States of America and the Soviet Union – and some of their key allies. Razor-sharp legal brains were necessary and horse-trading skills had to be finely honed. And then negotiations could last months, if not years.
Those selected to make the journey had to be very carefully screened. And when they were finally allowed to walk onto the bridge, military and intelligence forces – on both sides – would follow them every step of the way.
These days, walking over the Glienicker Bridge is somewhat easier. You can approach it quite freely from the ferry stop at it’s base or from both east and west, and you can cross it in either direction.
Once on the other side, you can, should you wish, turn around and retrace your steps back to the other side. You can walk without stopping. You can run. Or you can pause in the middle where to this day, you can still see the faint remains of the thin white line of paint that not all that long ago was the graphic demarcation point between East and West at the height of the Cold War.
In total 40 exchanges took place here over the course of the Cold War.
It was across this line that, in February 1962, the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel and the American spy-plane pilot Francis Gary Powers were exchanged. It was here that in June 1985, 23 agents who had spied for the West were exchanged with four who had spied for the East.
Yesterday we stood on this bridge that has witnessed human drama and political intrigue of the very highest order, tonight we’re going to watch the Steven Spielberg movie “Bridge of Spies”.
The history here in Potsdam and Berlin is amazing, around every corner there are palaces, parks, bridges and places with stories that I’m just waiting to tell you about.