Elector Frederick William, the Great Elector

(1620-1688, elector 1640-1688)

It was the Elector Frederick William who redeemed Potsdam from control by the aristocratic von Hake family and chose this place as his second residence after Berlin. His son, Frederick, who would later become the first King in Prussia, wrote in his writing-exercise book in 1666: "My Sire, Father, very much loves Potsdam. It is also a merry place; I love to be there and my brother, too ...".

Frederick William had the City Palace erected in Potsdam and in doing so began recovery and development of the town which had been sorely tested during the Thirty-Years War. In this palace he signed the "Edict of Potsdam" on 29 October 1685, which bears the title: "Elector’s Brandenburg Edict regarding those rights/privileges and other favours/which His Excellency the Elector of Brandenburg graciously deems to grant those Evangelic-Reformed of the French Nation who shall settle in our lands."

This decree not only allowed the Huguenots to immigrate to Brandenburg, but also granted them far-reaching privileges. This included extensive exemptions from taxes and custom duties, complete freedom of movement, subsidies for business enterprises, and start salaries for Huguenot preachers.

At least 20,000 Huguenots took advantage of these opportunities. Some of them settled in Potsdam, where their traces endure until today, for example the French Church.

With this edict the Elector created simultaneously the conditions for a tolerant immigration policy and freedom of conscience, which was also maintained by his successors.