Exciting

The history of the Förderverein Pfingstberg e.V.

It was in 1987 that a group of young Potsdamers came together to save the historic ensemble of the Belvedere, the Temple of Pomona and the gardens on Pfingstberg from further decline. The grounds had not been maintained, nor had the buildings been protected from vandalism since the 1960s ‒ and yet, the beauty of the location fascinated local residents in Potsdam, who did not want to abandon the ensemble to its likely fate. Nevertheless, no one at the time knew how significant this nascent alliance would prove for the future of Pfingstberg.

Young Potsdamers in front of the dilapidated Belvedere

End of the 1980s: Young Potsdamers Want to Save the Pfingstberg Ensemble

Still in the Cold War, when no one could yet imagine the end of the GDR, a group of Potsdam residents banded together as the Arbeitsgemeinschaft (AG) Pfingstberg. They were under the overarching umbrella of the Cultural Association of the German Democratic Republic and watched by the GDR’s State Security Service, the Stasi. Not only was the Pfingstberg located very close to the border to West Berlin, it was in direct proximity to the “Soviet Military Camp No. 7,” which also housed a unit of the KGB security agency.

In spite of the surveillance, the group met every two weeks to start to reclaim the original character of the grounds in Lenné Park, to clear and make them visible again, and to free the ruin of the Temple of Pomona from underbrush and vines. The sections of lawn in front of the Temple of Pomona and around the Belvedere were cleared and the pergolas in the garden were trimmed back into shape and replanted. Access to the Belvedere was not yet permitted, because the view from the towers onto the inner German border was too good and considered a threat to security.

Pfingstberg Festival © SPSG, Uli Kolzer

The First Pfingstberg Festival – Under the Watchful Eye of the Stasi

Under the mistrustful surveillance of the GDR’s State Security Service, the first Pfingstberg Festival took place all around the Belvedere and in front of the Temple of Pomona in June 1989. It was a cooperation with the AG Umweltschutz und Stadtentwicklung Potsdam (ARGUS, consortium for environmental protection and urban development). The cooperating AGs had invited the public to an information and cultural festival with no party affiliations. This festival, attended by more than 1000 visitors, gave many residents of Potsdam the courage to engage in political change, especially in the period leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in autumn 1989. Matthias Platzeck, the former Minister President of Brandenburg, a cofounder of ARGUS and member of the AG Pfingstberg, was among its initiators. He is still a member of the Förderverein Pfingstberg.

The Association Writes History: Reconstruction of the Belvedere, Temple of Pomona and Lenné Park

With the reunification of the two German states, the AG Pfingstberg ultimately became recognized as a nonprofit association, the Förderverein Pfingstberg in Potsdam e.V., on September 22, 1990.

At that time, thanks to the engagement of association members, the reconstruction of the ensemble consisting of the Belvedere, Temple of Pomona and the garden grounds began to take shape: In 1991 the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung made a donation available to the Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg (SPSG) for the reconstruction of the Temple of Pomona. Tied to the donation was the wish that the Temple of Pomona would become the starting point for further restorations and the use of the Pfingstberg ensemble. Thus, following its reopening on Pfingsten (Whitsunday/Pentecost, from which the location derives its name) in 1993, the association has continued to use the Temple of Pomona for exhibitions, events in the series “Culture in Nature,” visitor information, and also for additional fundraising campaigns to finance the renovation of the Belvedere.

Following the discharge and withdrawal of the former Soviet troops in 1994, the SPSG took on the task of reviving the park grounds on Pfingstberg. Step-by- step, it restored the vistas, viewing relationships and Pfingstberg’s ties with the New Garden, based on historic precedents. The Förderverein Pfingstberg supported this undertaking with on-site work by association members and also used cultural events to draw attention to the restoration efforts.

In 1994, the SPSG, as proprietor, commissioned plans for the restoration of the Belvedere. Four years later, in 1998, two substantial donations ‒ from the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung and from Prof. Dr. Werner Otto, the founder of the mail order company ‒ crowned the association’s untiring fundraising efforts. Restoration began in November of the same year.

Construction work at the Belvedere in the 1990s © FVP, Foto: R. Rosenkranz

The Association Writes History: Reconstruction of the Belvedere, Temple of Pomona and Lenné Park

With the reunification of the two German states, the AG Pfingstberg ultimately became recognized as a nonprofit association, the Förderverein Pfingstberg in Potsdam e.V., on September 22, 1990.

At that time, thanks to the engagement of association members, the reconstruction of the ensemble consisting of the Belvedere, Temple of Pomona and the garden grounds began to take shape: In 1991 the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung made a donation available to the Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg (SPSG) for the reconstruction of the Temple of Pomona. Tied to the donation was the wish that the Temple of Pomona would become the starting point for further restorations and the use of the Pfingstberg ensemble. Thus, following its reopening on Pfingsten (Whitsunday/Pentecost, from which the location derives its name) in 1993, the association has continued to use the Temple of Pomona for exhibitions, events in the series “Culture in Nature,” visitor information, and also for additional fundraising campaigns to finance the renovation of the Belvedere.

Following the discharge and withdrawal of the former Soviet troops in 1994, the SPSG took on the task of reviving the park grounds on Pfingstberg. Step-by- step, it restored the vistas, viewing relationships and Pfingstberg’s ties with the New Garden, based on historic precedents. The Förderverein Pfingstberg supported this undertaking with on-site work by association members and also used cultural events to draw attention to the restoration efforts.

In 1994, the SPSG, as proprietor, commissioned plans for the restoration of the Belvedere. Four years later, in 1998, two substantial donations ‒ from the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung and from Prof. Dr. Werner Otto, the founder of the mail order company ‒ crowned the association’s untiring fundraising efforts. Restoration began in November of the same year.

Completion of the Belvedere/Opening Ceremony in 2003 © SPSG, Bundesbildstelle

Final Success: The Belvedere Opens to Visitors

In April 2001 – parallel to the Bundesgartenschau (BUGA, Federal Horticultural Show) in Potsdam – the western tower opened to visitors and the association took over the management of the entire ensemble. Thanks to a further donation from Prof. Werner Otto, the remaining areas of the Belvedere were also restored through 2003. Successful completion of the renovation work was publicly celebrated in May 2005.

The association has accompanied and operated the thriving Pfingstberg ensemble ever since, featuring Potsdam’s most beautiful views and the event series “Culture in Nature”. It continues to collect donations for the site’s preservation and to carry out recurring, but necessary repairs and construction measures.

Currently, about 50 active and 50 sustaining members financially support the Förderverein Pfingstberg in Potsdam e.V. This aid is supplemented with great enthusiasm by the volunteer work of association members.

If you are interested in becoming a member of this unique association with such an eventful history, please contact us.