Truman Villa - Atlas Obscura

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Truman Villa

The home of president Truman during the Potsdam Conference, and the place from which the atomic bomb strike on Japan was triggered. 


Nested in the outskirts of Babelsberg stands an elegant villa with a fascinating past. President Harry S. Truman lived in the house for a mere 17 days during the Potsdam Conference in 1945. During his stay, Truman called the residence the “Little White House,” but today it’s named after him.

Originally known as Villa Erlenkamp, the house was built in 1891 as a summer residence for Berlin publisher Carl Müller-Grote. It was designed by architects Karl von Großheim and Heinrich Joseph Kayser. For many years, the villa served as a meeting place for Müller-Grote’s friends and business contacts.

In 1945, President Truman moved in for the Potsdam Conference, a landmark meeting between the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union to negotiate the terms for the end of World War II. but the historic conference is not the biggest event that took place within its walls. It was from here, on July 26, 1945, that President Truman issued the Potsdam Declaration, which called for the unconditional surrender of the Japanese government and warned of “prompt and utter destruction” if they did not comply. The Japanese government did not reply to the declaration, and Truman issued orders to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Nearby, you can find a memorial dedicated to the many lives that were lost in the bombing of these Japanese cities.)

Over the years, the villa found itself transformed into different roles. It served as a school and a furniture warehouse. However, there were calls to restore and preserve the villa because of its historical significance. In 1998, it was acquired by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, which extensively renovated the building. In 2001, the restored building became the foundation’s headquarters.

Know Before You Go

The villa is not publicly accessible, but you can walk around it from three directions. Occasionally, it opens its doors for visitors on monument days. See their website for information.

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