To visit the capital of a defeated enemy and enjoy the triumph of the victor – what could be more pleasant for the supreme commander of an army that has won a four-year bloody war? But Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin never went to Berlin, although in Germany he was forced to visit the same victorious forty-fifth.
Conference in Potsdam
On July 17, 1945, just over two months after the Great Victory and a month after the parade on Red Square, the Potsdam Conference began in Germany, in which the heads of the victorious countries took part. Although the Soviet leader was not a great fan of visits and rarely went anywhere, the Potsdam Conference could not do without his presence. Stalin went to Germany. On July 15, 1945, a train departed from the Belorussky railway station, in which the main passenger was Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin.
Unprecedented security measures were taken to ensure the safe passage of the Soviet leader to the country that had recently fought with the USSR. Stalin followed to Germany by rail, which required special attention to the organization of his protection.
The armored train on which the Soviet leader was traveling consisted of several armored saloon cars, a staff car, a guard car, a dining car, a grocery car, a garage car with two armored Packards and two platforms on which anti-aircraft guns were placed. In the composition itself, there were 80 state security officers who ensured the protection of the leader, and in total 17 thousand soldiers and officers and 1515 operational workers were involved in measures to ensure the safe passage of the Soviet leader.
In Potsdam, Stalin and his entourage settled in the Cecilienhof Palace in the elite village of Neubabelsberg, where the conference was held. The small town of Potsdam, the capital of the federal state of Brandenburg, is located just 20 kilometers southwest of Berlin. Even then, 20 kilometers was not a distance: half an hour drive – and here it is, the capital of the defeated Third Reich. It would seem, who, if not Stalin, should come to Berlin first of all and be personally convinced of the victory over the worst enemy of the Soviet state?
Enjoying destruction is not Stalin’s character
Meanwhile, it is no coincidence that the Potsdam Conference is also called the Berlin Conference. Of course, the meeting of the leaders of the victorious states was to take place in the capital of Germany. But Berlin was too badly damaged during its assault by Soviet troops. There was simply nowhere to hold an event of this level, as well as nowhere to accommodate high-ranking conference participants.
In addition, Berlin was more dangerous than small Potsdam. But holding a conference is one thing, and a short trip, even for a few hours, to take a look at a defeated city is another. Winston Churchill and Harry Truman, having flown to Germany, visited Berlin separately and examined the ruined capital of the Third Reich.
Stalin did not inspect the destroyed Berlin. He could only see the city while driving from Berlin Station to Potsdam. But he refused a special tour of the German capital. Now we can assume several reasons for such a refusal. The first, of course, is the great risks that would accompany this walk. Still, two and a half months ago, there were battles in Berlin, the city might not have been completely cleaned out of those convinced Nazis who wanted to continue resisting the victors.
But, most likely, the second reason is more likely: Stalin arrived in Potsdam to solve the issues of the post-war world order, and not indulge in vain reflections on the ruins of the German capital. Moreover, Soviet cities were also in ruins. There was nothing good in the fact that Berlin was destroyed, Stalin did not see, he was worried about other problems: how to restore the affected cities of the Soviet Union, how to maintain the acquired control over Eastern Europe. And this behavior was very different from the Soviet leader from the same Adolf Hitler, who, as soon as German troops took Paris in June 1940, rushed to inspect the defeated French capital.