The 1954 Bilderberg Meeting was the first Bilderberg meeting. It had participants from European countries and the United States. All were male. The 68 guests included 20 business executives, 25 politicians, 5 financiers, 2 editors/journalists and 4 academics. It was held at the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek, the Netherlands. The next one was the 1955 March meeting.
In August 1956 Józef Retinger completed an account of how the group was set up, in which he tracks the group's origins to 1952. He reportedly approached H.R.H. Prince Bernhard, Dr Paul Rykens and Paul van Zeeland "with the suggestion that we should organize some unofficial and private meetings to discuss the difficulties and dangers which were causing us so much anxiety. To these meetings we would invite influential and reliable people who carried the respect of those working in the field of national and international affairs and whose personal contact with men at the summit of public activity could help to smooth over these difficulties." On their advice, he approached a larger group of his friends, who met in Paris on 25 September 1952 and "discussed what could be done to improve American-European relations and on the initiative of M. van Zeeland we decided to set up a corresponding group in the United States." Retinger went to USA in November that year and organised a US contingent, under John Coleman. Together they organised the list of guests for the 1954 conference.
In mid April, 1954, the invited guests were sent personal invitations from Soetdijk Palace to "an unofficial international conference which is to be held in the Netherlands at the end of May" for "a candid exchange of views". They were signed by Prince Bernhard.
The "Hotel De Bilderberg" is located in Oosterbeek, a small town near Arnhem, which was the site of a major World War II battle. Bilderberg researcher Tony Gosling has suggested that this may have been a deliberate choice, an indirect reference to Operation Market Garden, which he sees as the deceit which deliberately prolonged World War II.
There were morning and afternoon meetings on all 3 days. On Saturday, 29th May, 10:00-13:00 and then 15:00-18:00. On Sunday, 11:00-13:00 and then 15:00-18:00. On Monday, 10:00-13:00 and then 14:30-18:00. "For reasons of convenience only the English and French languages" were used. The conference room was equipped for simultaneous interpretation into English and French. Secretaries were "made available to the participants on request to the Secretariat."
Notes On Discussion
Subsequent Bilderberg meetings issued a formal conference report, but no such is known to exist for the original Bilderberg conference. Instead, a set of typed notes records 21 pages of opinions expressed at the meeting. These notes are exceptional in that they attribute names to the comments they record. Concern about privacy probably caused this policy to be amended, to that subsequent conference reports instead attributed comments instead to "An American", "A German" etc.
|The 1954 conference|
An audio recording of Prince Bernhard opening the conference was made, which was posted on YouTube. It is occasionally taken down due to claims of copyright infringement, but remains available. Photos were also taken, but are unknown for later conferences.
The Bilderberg meetings website (which is known to have omitted certain items) summarised the agenda as follows:
- The attitude towards communism and the Soviet Union
- The attitude towards dependent areas and peoples overseas
- The attitude towards economic policies and problems
- The attitude towards European integration and the European Defence Community