When the Great Powers assembled in the conference room at Potsdam’s Cecilienhof palace in July 1945, it was without doubt that a Quadripartite solution for Germany was in the air. The conference’s progress had been hindered by the death of President Roosevelt, change in the British government and by Stalin’s illness, but the end result was clear even before the dust settled on the battlefields of Europe. Since the Moscow Conference of 1943, there had been a commission in the background responsible for redrawing Europe’s map if the war ended in the Allies’ favor. The original plan was govern Germany as a single unit through the Allied Control Council, but the plan were hampered by the impending Cold War. (The Council finally broke down in 1947).
The U.S. Army photographer Frank Gatteri’s picture of the council room at Potsdam reflected the sombre atmosphere of vultures feasting on the carcass of a death animal. Unlike any other photograph of the event, Gatteri took this picture from a high vantage point, reminiscent of earlier cartoons on imperial partitions. All the parties’ cards are revealed and Josef Stalin in his bright white suit is the only figure distinctly recognizable in the photo. It is as if Gatteri foresaw that larger-than-life shadow of Uncle Joe would be upon the world stage even after the other people around the table (Truman, Attlee, Eden, Byrnes) were long gone.