Prague, Czech Republic
A hot-pink confection of Bohemian Neo-Renaissance style, the Hotel Opera stands in the less touristy Nové Město, or “New Town,” quarter of storied Prague.
Those involved in building Cecilienhof Palace could not have imagined the role it would play in World War II. A residence belonging to the royal German Hohenzollern family, it would go on to host the most infamous dictator of the 20th century and the men who would conquer his downfall, all within the span of 10 years.
Designed as an English Tudor manor house, Crown Prince Wilhelm and his wife Duchess Cecile inhabited the home with their family until World War I drove them into exile. Wilhem returned to Germany as a private citizen under the stipulation that he would not return to politics, but as Adolf Hitler rose to power, Wilhelm turned to support the dictator.
Hitler would visit the Palace three times prior to the outbreak of World War II. However, when Wilhelm realized that Hitler had no intention of restoring the German monarchy, their relationship became strained. After an assassination attempt on Hitler in 1944, the Third Reich placed Wilhelm under supervision and sent the Gestapo to monitor Cecilienhof.
By 1945, Wilhelm and Cecile had once again fled the country. The Soviets seized the Palace, and in May the War was over. The Allies needed a place to meet, and since Berlin was nearly destroyed, the leaders selected nearby Cecilienhof. From July 17 to August 2, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Harry S. Truman, and Soviet leader Josef Stalin held the Potsdam Conference.
During the meetings, the Allied leaders negotiated the terms of the end of World War II. It was also here where Truman famously informed Stalin that the U.S. had successfully detonated the first atomic bomb. Following the Conference, the Palace was used for various functions by the Soviets and then turned over to Germany. Today, Cecilienhof is used as a museum and hotel.
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