History of USMLM Potsdam House
From the official history
The USMLM Potsdam House is the official residence of the Chief, United States Military Liaison Mission to the Commander-in-Chief, Group of Soviet Forces, Germany. The House is the largest of five buildings on the 4.5 acre estate located on the Lehnitzsee in the village of Neufahrland, near Potsdam. The remaining four buildings include a carriage house, a caretaker’s house, and two smaller storage buildings. The caretaker’s house was dedicated in May 1985 as the “Villa Nicholson” in honor of LTC Arthur D. Nicholson who was killed while on duty in East Germany.
The estate was built in 1903 by a Prussian Army officer of the von Duehringshofen family, which was ennobled in 1649 for military feats during the Thirty Years War. The family coat of arms can still be seen on the lake side of the main building.
In 1922, Prince Sigismund von Preussen, a nephew of Kaiser Wilhelm II, purchased the estate. Under the ownership of the Prince and his wife Louise, numerous changes were made to the House and grounds, including the construction of the carriage house. Prince Sigismund, an avid equestrian, was killed in a riding accident in 1927. His widow continued to occupy the estate until the closing days of World War II, when she fled literally at the last moment in the face of the Soviet advance on Potsdam and Berlin.
Main Building Facing Lake
Despite considerable damage to a number of major buildings in Potsdam as a result of an Allied bombing raid during the last days of the war, the “Villa Sigismund” remained unscathed. However, from 1945 to 1947, Soviets troops were billeted in its various buildings and pigs were raised on its grounds.
In 1947, with the signing of the Huebner-Malinin agreement which established the USMLM and the Soviet Mission in Frankfurt, the estate became US property. Article 13 of the agreement guarantees the Mission House “...full rights of extraterritoriality.” The USMLM Mission House was the only official American presence in East Germany until 1974, when diplomatic relations were established between the two countries.
Under the provisions of the Huebner-Malinin Agreement, the Soviets are responsible for support of the Mission House. They provide weekly rations and staff the House with East German employees who prepare meals, perform domestic chores, and provide general upkeep of the House and grounds.
From 1984 through 1987, the Mission House was extensively renovated. New wiring was installed throughout the house and gas heat replaced the coal-burning furnaces. Although the Soviets supplied some of the materials and most of the labor used in the project, the Mission House reachieved its pre-War II splendor primarily through the generous support of the US Commander in Berlin, who provided for numerous new fixtures and the furniture.
As the official residence of the chief of Mission, the Potsdam House has been used to hold numerous USMLM functions with the Soviets, Allied counterparts, and visiting dignitaries. It also serves as a place for USMLM liaison personnel and their families to eat, sleep, or simply relax. In both of these roles, the Potsdam Mission House stands as an enduring symbol of the American presence in East Germany.
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