Cecilienhof Country House / 1975

An important guest – UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim

When, the UN secretary-general, Dr. Kurt Waldheim, arrived at Cecilienhof Country House on February 8, 1975, he had already met with the leadership of the GDR. The day before his visit to this memorial site of the Potsdam Agreement, Waldheim had had a meeting with the secretary-general of the SED, Erich Honecker. For the Honecker government, the significance of this three-day visit by Waldheim to the GDR lay in the fact that it confirmed its claim of being an equal partner on the stage of world politics. Its struggle for international recognition had accomplished an important milestone.

Only one-and-a-half years prior to this, the two German states were accepted into the United Nations. This had become possible as a result of the Basic Treaty signed by the two German states in 1972. The Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR had agreed to develop “normal, good- neighborly relations to one another on the basis of equal rights”. The peaceful coexistence agreed upon, however, did not mean a recognition of the DDR by the Federal Republic of Germany according to international law. Nevertheless, because of this, it was possible for both German states to join the United Nations simultaneously.

Erika Herbrig, the director of the memorial site of the Potsdam Agreement, guided Kurt Waldheim and his wife Elisabeth through the exhibition rooms. They were accompanied by Ewald Moldt, the deputy foreign minister of the GDR, the lord mayor of Potsdam, Brunhilde Hanke, as well as the director general of the State Palaces and Gardens Potsdam-Sanssouci, Joachim Mückenberger. As a memento of his stay at Cecilienhof, Waldheim received an, up until then, unpublished photograph by the Soviet photographer Yevgeny Khaldei. Khaldei had attained international fame with his photo of the Soviet flag being raised on the Reichstag building in Berlin on May 2, 1945.

Waldheim criticized the inner-German border installations, which were visible from Cecilienhof. As a reaction to this, part of the “hinterland” back fencing was raised from two to six meters. Vines were intended to cover it like a “green” sight protection, rendering the border invisible. But the weed killer used along the death strip kept the plants from growing high enough.

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