If you think of cold war, of course Potsdam's bigger sister Berlin comes to mind. With East Berlin being the capital of East Germany and West Berlin as an enclave of the western occupation zones surrounded by the Berlin Wall, there is no doubt that Berlin was the cold war hotspot. Two political systems facing each other for decades.
But where did those zones come from. Who decided to divide Berlin, Germany and with it an entire continent? The answer takes you back in history to the Potsdam Conference in 1945. On the premises of Cecilienhof Country House the allies Soviet Union, United Kingdom and the United States agreed to divide Germany as a reparation area. These decision is seen as the foundation of the division of Germany and Europe. This is where the cold war was born.
But that’s not the only trace of cold war in Potsdam. The city was also home to the German headquarters of the Soviet military espionage defence which was located in the residential area between Pfingstberg Hill and the New Garden. For decades the area consisting of mostly noble mansions could only be entered by electric readers, chimney sweeps and of course secret agents. Contact between Soviet military personnel and Potsdam civilians were rare.
Right in the centre of the so called “forbidden city” was a central remand prison of the Soviet Military Counterintelligence Service housed in a former rectory. Today the memorial site and centre for encounter "Leistikowstraße Potsdam" gives you a deep insight of the former conditions. Numerous inscriptions on the cell walls impressively reflect the deprivation of rights and isolation of the prisoners. The permanent exhibition shows the history of the building and tells you about prisoner’s fates, which give you goose bumps.
The preserves the memory of the victims of the Soviet occupying regime, the Nazi dictatorship and the regime of the Socialist Unity Party in East Germany. In the former courthouse and prison the history of the different dictatorships and their victims is investigated.
Hollywood-like agent stories
On the other side of the New Garden, Glienicke Bridge was the connection to West Berlin. The ideal location of the bridge made it the perfect place for secret services to exchange arrestedspies. If you would like to get to know more about Potsdam in Cold War years and the Glienicke Bridge, we recommend the film "Bridge of Spies" with Tom Hanks, which tells the story of the first agent exchange that took place here between the Soviet Union and the USA in 1962.