Kennedy in Berlin


In April 2012, I went to Berlin. The first place we visited, was the public square in front of the Rathaus Schöneberg, where Kennedy delivered his ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’-speech on June 26, 1963.


Watching the Wall
Kennedy arrived in West-Germany on June 23 and visited Bonn, Frankfurt, Hanau and Cologne. In the morning of the 26th he flew to Berlin. “We’ll never have another day like this one, as long as we live”, was how John F. Kennedy described the enthusiastic reception that hundreds of thousands of people gave him on this day. He visited Checkpoint Charlee, Congress Hall, Brandenburg Gate, Free University and the American Embassy. JFK saw for the first time the Wall that had been built two years before, dividing the city into two halves. An hour later, he gave his famous speech.

The speech
In it Kennedy was underlining the support of the United States for West Germany 22 months after the Soviet-supported East Germany erected the Berlin Wall as a barrier to prevent movement between East and West. The message was a clear statement of U.S. policy in the wake of the construction of the Berlin Wall. The speech is considered one of Kennedy’s best, both a notable moment of the Cold War and a high point of the New Frontier. It was a great morale boost for West Berliners, who lived in an exclave deep inside East Germany and feared a possible East German occupation. Speaking from a platform erected on the steps of Rathaus Schöneberg for an audience of 450,000, Kennedy said: “Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was Civis Romanus Sum (I am a Roman citizen). Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’ All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!'”
Lots of pictures of this day can be found here.

Museum The Kennedys
After this day, Kennedy visited Ireland, England, the Vatican and Italy, returning to the White House on July 3. Berlin would, however, never forget the visit of the American President. Close to the Brandenburg Gate, three miles from the Rathaus, the city has a nice remembrance: Museum The Kennedys. The exhibition shows 700 photographs and exhibits from the family, such as JFK’s black suitcase by Hermès, his personal stamp, his leather trunk and original documents from his private and professional life.

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