POTSDAM, Germany – Winston Churchill’s walking stick, panama hat and cigar tube are on their way here, but they have been delayed.
The objects travel from the former home of the war premier in England to this city, about 32 km from Berlin, for an exhibition on the 75th anniversary of the Potsdam Conference, the 16-day summit at the end of the Second World War during The Victorious Powers established a new one World order that existed until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Due to the UK Corona virus being blocked, it took longer than expected to obtain an export license for the items – but they should arrive every day after going on the same trip their owner took in 1945.
The sugar cane, hat and cigar holder will be exhibited in Cecilienhof Palace, the ivy-covered country house in a quiet parkland where the conference took place. After Germany surrendered at the end of the war, Churchill, President Harry S. Truman, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin met at the Cecilienhof to negotiate the future of the defeated country and redraw the borders in Eastern Europe.
The show, “Potsdam Conference 1945: Shaping the WorldUntil December 31, historical documents, films, photographs and memorabilia from this period will be presented to bring the event to life and examine how it shaped world history. The official conclusions of the conference, which are set out in the Potsdam Agreement, had a direct impact on Germany and the rest of Europe. However, the exhibition also shows how far-reaching the effects of the behind-the-scenes discussions had on Asia and the Middle East.
From July 17 to August 2, 1945, the “Big Three” met at a round table (to be seen in the exhibition) in front of a large bay window with a view of a lake. After preparatory talks between the delegates and then among the foreign ministers, the heads of state and government met for a total of 13 meetings from 5 p.m. and takes an hour or two. There was entertainment in the evening.
“The United States thought the relationship with Stalin would be difficult, but they thought it was manageable,” said Michael Neiberg, historian and author of “Potsdam: The End of the Second World War and the Remaking of Europe”, ” in a telephone interview. “The participants were not yet talking about a Cold War. Potsdam was an exclamation mark at the end of Germany and the big problem in Europe. The mood was happy; they sang songs together; They ate at banquets together. “
After the Red Army conquered Berlin in May 1945, the city was under Soviet control for two months, and Stalin proposed that a post-war conference be held there for the victors. In the end, the Allied Powers decided to keep it in nearby Potsdam because it was less damaged than Berlin, whose inner city was a wasteland that still stank of dead bodies, sewers and smoke.
The Cecilienhof, built for the eldest son of the last German emperor and his wife Cecile, remained almost intact from the Second World War except for a few broken windows. The elegant decor of the palace from 1945 with carpeting was meticulously recreated for the exhibition – right down to the finely painted Venetian glassware in cupboards in the breakfast room – using archive material and photographs from the Russian state film and photo archive and Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.
For the first time in the exhibition, the diary can be seen by Joy Milward, a 19-year-old secretary from the British delegation, who records her impressions of the conference and the broken country in which it took place. She remembered the trip from the airport to Potsdam and wrote: “The street was lined with old men and women, children and young women, who all carried backpacks on their backs or pushed carts with family objects.”
People were traveling all over Germany with destroyed houses and livelihoods. The conference also had to decide what to do with millions of ethnic Germans living in what was then Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Some of them came as settlers after these lands were annexed to the Third Reich. The Potsdam Agreement called for an “orderly and humane” transfer, but the following evictions were anything but: up to 14 million people were displaced, and hundreds of thousands starved or were killed as an anti-German backlash by the swept nations.
The exhibition uses the stories of individual refugees and their memories of lost homelands – items such as a gold-plated samovar and sheep shears – to show how the decisions of the three leaders upset the lives of millions.
While the great powers were turning their attention to Europe, the war in Asia was still raging. The evening before the conference began, Truman learned that the United States had successfully conducted the first successful test of an atomic bomb. On July 26, the United States, Britain, and China issued an ultimatum known as the Potsdam Declaration, which called for unconditional surrender or “immediate and total destruction”.
Four days after the conference ended, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and killed tens of thousands of people. Nagasaki was destroyed three days later. A touching exhibition that Cecilienhof borrowed from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is the blackened metal lunch box of a 12-year-old student, Koji Kano, whose body was never found.
The final section of the show deals with the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, which was occupied by Japan, one week after the meeting ended, and how the ultimatum to Japan eventually led to Korea’s independence. The depictions also concern the withdrawal of British and Soviet troops from Iran and the failure of the three powers to settle compensation for Holocaust survivors or decide what to do next in Palestine.
Developments in the UK also overshadowed the conference, which was suspended for two days while Churchill traveled back to London to find out the results of the general election. He lost in an unexpected landslide for Clement Attlee’s Labor Party: Attlee has replaced him at the negotiating table for the past five days.
At the end of the negotiations, Truman suggested that the Big Three meet again in Washington. A meeting that Attlee hoped was “a milestone on the road to peace between our countries and the world.” But this event never happened and the troubled alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union during the war broke up at the beginning of the Cold War.
Can the Potsdam conference still be considered a success?
“It was not your mindset to repeat the mistakes of the Versailles Treaty by not setting the right conditions for peace,” said Neiberg. “They were moderately successful in this. You have solved Germany’s basic problem. They also set the initial conditions that prevented the Cold War from becoming a hot war. The people who paid the price were the Eastern Europeans who lived under the Soviet yoke. “