Wilhelmstraße 70 — The British Embassy on Wilhelmstraße, just off Unter den Linden, was housed in the impressive Palais Strousberg, which had been bought by the British government in the late 19th century. The Embassy was an important hub of cultural and political exchange in the 1920s and ’30s.
The British Embassy on Wilhelmstraße was close to the boulevard Unter den Linden, the Brandenburg Gate, Pariser Platz, and the Hotel Adlon. It was housed in an impressive palais – the Palais Strousberg, which the British government had bought in the late 19th century. During the First World War it had stood empty, but was restored to its former glory after the war. Its interior was even more impressive than its façade. In the interwar period the British Embassy soon became a hub of political meetings and cultural exchange. Depending on the interests of the ambassador in residence, his wife, and the political climate, these meetings and exchanges took on a different character.
Lady Helen D’Abernon, society hostess and wife of the first ambassador after the war, was intent on showing Berlin that pre-war splendour and parties were still possible. Harold Nicolson, chargé d’affaires before the arrival of Sir Horace Rumbold in the late 1920s, was more interested in inviting important authors such as Virginia Woolf and H. G. Wells. Wells addressed the Reichstag in 1929, an event which was widely reported in Berlin. Nicolson’s friends from England such as the writers and critics Maurice Bowra, Cyril Connolly, Raymond Mortimer, and Edward Sackville-West enjoyed the combination of intellectual debate and entertainment.
During the Nazi regime, diplomacy, parties, and receptions had to continue but became even more politically fraught. Britons who fell foul of the regime had to be rescued and the Embassy turned into a refuge, not least for the left-wing historian and political journalist Elizabeth Wiskemann, who only escaped lasting Gestapo imprisonment with the help of Embassy staff, as well as her own intellect. Gesa Stedman