Saturday, November 14, 2009

Potsdam of the cold war

One Sunny day Me and my companion A, take off to a trip to near by Potsdam thats just a sururban trip away from where we live.  Sun comes out as we arrive by S1 easily and in faster time than it takes to reach the Berlin city centre from our place. As the site of the 1945 Potsdam Conference, in which the Allies divided up the country, Potsdam’s name is very famous. Also it is a UNESCO heritage site. Just for fun we decided to do the regular tour bus guided tour, which other friends can do without if they read my blog.

 On our very tech tour with earphones speaking in BBC -like english to us, our invisible voice guide gave us the history of the small military center and the summer residence -region of the Prussian kings. I was glad I paid attention to my 9th and 10th history of the two world wars. It made those lessons alive for me.
Let me go backwards in time. Potsdam has many natural science centers. Its a tourist centred place so plenty of info centres at the station ( called haufbanoff)

Cecilienhof, the grand manor house where the Potsdam Conference took place in 1945,started july 16 and ended on August 2nd today is a four-star Castle Hotel and open to the public. Built in tudor style for the young Cecilcie, thier bahu, it was the place where Stalin ( CCCP), Truman ( USA) and Attlee (Britain) met. They had defeated hitler and now had come to decide the fate of Germany. They used different entrances to come to the conference hall and did not stay at the conference venue.Stalin came from a boat to the east which is now the back entrance. ( very Funny)

( The pretty pic with the trees sort of imagines he walked towards my camera.)

Truman used the large door ( again that's clear) and Attlee used another. The french got a territory but were not participants, they were I don't know which door they came in by!
 Click here for an original picture of the conference. And other pictures of the big three  and the entrance as it was then can be found at this site.

It was at Potsdam where Truman first alluded to Stalin that the Americans had developed the atomic bomb and might use it against Japan, which they later did on August 6 and August 9.  He got a telegram that said " the Baby is Born" which stood for the successful test of the bomb. One of the outcomes of this conference was also the  warning to Japan to surrender. It seems as though the go ahead to bomb Japan was also decided here. It was a clear day that sealed the fate of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
 In the middle of the courtyard I suddenly was transported back to adia, the horrors of the atom bomb. I share my memory with you through this site. Read the story of Hiroshima and Nagasaki HERE. Its strange that Potsdam is so important for so many other places on the globe.

In some ways this conference was also the start of the cold war.

As I stood at the nice manor house I could not imagine these political scenes  at all. It was more like a typical European residence and I expected to see children running about, playing in the courtyard or servants hurrying with linen and tea sets and the music of balls and dances. ( I confess I have been reading too much of Jane austen. Must get back to spy stories...)

A short drive brought us to the "James-bond Bridge" The Glienicke bridge is a bridge in Berlin which spans the Havel River to connect the cities of Berlin and Potsdam. If you remember from my earlier blog entry West Berlin was totally surrounded by east Germany DDR. So the wall still runs around the west Berlin Borders.

 The Soviet Union and the United States used it three times to exchange captured spies during the Cold War, so, the Bridge was referred to as the Bridge of Spies by the media. On February 10, 1962, twenty-one months after his capture,  Gary powers the U2 pilot shot over Russia was exchanged along with American student Frederic Pryor in a spy swap for Soviet KGB Colonel Vilyam Fisher (aka Rudolf Abel) at the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin, Germany.  The interesting connection  is this student Pryor. In August, 1961, Pryor was arrested and held without charge by the East German Police. He had been taking graduate courses in East European studies at the Free University of West Berlin since 1959.
Half of the bridge is lighter and the other is darker green and a faint white line marks the border between east and west. We are on the east side, DDR. Also along the same road on the eastern DDR side was a building that was used as a KGB prison. There a cell that Gary powers was housed in before the exchange. ( note the extra Grills on the Windows) It now house a museum of amnesty international. School children were playing in a park next to it. For a good photograph and details click this site.
Leistikowstrasse KGB Prison

During the time of the GDR the city was a stronghold for the KGB. Near the castle we could see the area of town that was walled off for the Soviet’s clandestine service.

This unassuming building ( now an apartment) was the KGB head quarters. There were walled off KGB units in homes and farms that residents were thrown out of. A good story teller just not only knows  how to begin, but also where to end , so people will come back for more. I am a good story teller so I stop this journey right here on the road with a long wall running on the right, its white for GDR and red where there is FDR. This whole country is so much about the wall.

Next blog will be on Kings, queens and the older city and the lovely mix of architectural styles of this "quaint City" where every other building is under heritage conservation. And the story of potatoes...

No comments: