Feature: At Potsdam Conference palace, unprecedented exhibition focuses on China, Asia theater of war

Source: Xinhua| 2020-09-01 09:01:36|Editor: huaxia
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Photo taken on Aug. 17, 2020 shows a view of the courtyard with a Soviet red star arranged with red flowers at the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, Germany. The Cecilienhof Palace, located in a large park, is known for being the location of the Potsdam Conference held in July and August 1945. Named "Potsdam Conference 1945 -- Shaping the World," the exhibition runs from June 23 to Nov. 1 here and tells the story how the Potsdam Conference prompted Japan's unconditional surrender and sculpted post-war Germany, and the world as it would look like in the Cold War. (Xinhua/Shan Yuqi)

by Xinhua writers Ren Ke, Zhang Yuan

POTSDAM, Germany, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- A caricature of Tin Tin's China adventure, a Kar98K rifle Germany sold to China, and the diary of "China's Oskar Schindler" John Rabe can now be admired at the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, about 40 km from Berlin, Germany.

These artifacts are part of a special exhibition that Germany is holding to commemorate the 75 years of the renowned Potsdam Conference, and the exhibit is unprecedented as its focus is on the battles in China and Asia during World War II (WWII).

The Cecilienhof Palace, located in a large park, is known for being the location of the Potsdam Conference held in July and August 1945.

From July 17 to Aug. 2, 1945, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, U.S. President Harry Truman, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (later replaced by Clement Attlee), met at the palace built for Germany's last Kaiser Wilhelm II and his wife in the early 20th century, discussing the future of Germany that had already surrendered, Japan that was still at war, and the postwar order.

Dr. Juergen Luh, a historian and exhibition curator at the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg (SPSG), the administrative body of Cecilienhof, told Xinhua that the conference was originally planned to be held in Berlin, but the German capital then was severely damaged and had no appropriate place for the event, before the almost intact Cecilienhof Palace was chosen.

The views of the palace remind visitors of 75 years ago. A big Soviet red star in the form of a flower arrangement graces the foreground of the courtyard. Inside the palace, at a round table in front of a large bay window that overlooks the Jungfernsee stand the national flags of the Soviet Union, the United States and Britain.

This is the table on which Stalin, Churchill and Truman negotiated the aftermath of the war. It is on display as it was 75 years ago. Next to the room are the three offices that the Big Three (Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union) had once used. On Churchill's writing desk one can see his walking cane, Panama hat, and a Dunhill cigar tube. All of them are original.

Named "Potsdam Conference 1945 -- Shaping the World," the exhibition tells the story how the Potsdam Conference prompted Japan's unconditional surrender and sculpted post-war Germany, and the world as it would look like in the Cold War.

At the exhibition running from June 23 to Nov. 1, visitors can experience a multi-media journey back to these fateful days in the summer of 1945.

But everything has changed due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Luh said that normally over 170,000 visitors come here, but this year the number of visitors has significantly decreased. The foundation is considering extending the special exhibition to next year.

The special exhibition displays for the first time the diary of Joy Milward, then a 19-year-old secretary of the British delegation. She kept writing a diary every day at that time, giving the most first-hand records of the historic event.

The exhibition showcases the process of the conference and the activities on the sidelines of the conference, including banquets with fine French cuisine and dancing parties.

What is more impressive is that the exhibition for the first time displays a lot of artifacts related to the war in Asia, especially in China. The big poster of Tin Tin's story of the Blue Lotus and the Oriental-style background music transport visitors back to Asia in the 1930s.

During the Potsdam Conference, more than two months after the surrender of Nazi Germany, the war in Asia was still raging. On July 26, the United States, Britain and China issued the Potsdam Proclamation, calling for the unconditional surrender of Japan.

The exhibition includes a short movie, depicting the war between Japan and China from the Mukden Incident on Sept. 18, 1931, when Japan occupied Northeast China. Other major incidents are also introduced, like the Lugou Bridge Incident (also known as the Marco Polo Bridge Incident), the Nanjing Massacre, and the building of Kunming-Burma Road, a lifeline to supply China after the sea and land routes were cut off during the wartime.

The video footage showcases Japanese soldiers killing unarmed Chinese citizens or burying them alive. It tells not only of the frontline battlefields of the Chinese national army led by the Kuomintang, but also the resistance battles led by the Communist Party of China in the Japanese-occupied areas.

Luh said that people in the West usually pay attention to the European theater only. Many of them don't even know that the war had already started before Germany invaded Poland. They also don't tend to know that after the surrender of Nazi Germany, the war continued in Asia.

"The special exhibition focuses more on Asia during the war. We need to tell visitors what was going on in Asia. It's part of our history," Luh said, adding that many artifacts related to China and other parts of Asia in the special exhibition will be incorporated into the permanent exhibition of the palace.

John Rabe's diary recorded the cruel massacre of citizens after Japanese troops occupied the Chinese capital of the time, Nanking (Nanjing). A German Siemens representative, Rabe helped establish the Nanking Safety Zone that sheltered approximately 200,000 Chinese people from slaughter during the massacre.

Days after the Potsdam Conference, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan's Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing tens of thousands of people and destroying the two cities. In the meantime, the Soviet Red Army launched an offensive against Japan-occupied Manchuria, Northeast China. The two moves prompted Japan to surrender unconditionally to the Allied Powers on Sept. 2, 1945, on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

"The world needs no other cold war," Luh said. "People should draw lessons from history that countries should put ideological differences aside," and cooperate together, the historian said.

"This is what we need to be a safer and peaceful world," he said. Enditem

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