50th Anniversary of JFK in Berlin

Yesterday, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of JFK in Berlin, Germany. Fifty years ago, on June 26, 1963, US President John F. Kennedy declared, “Ich bin ein Berliner” in front of West Berlin’s city hall. A crowd of 450,000 wanted to hug him, kiss him, keep him, adopt him. JFK delivered his speech during the height of the Cold War. I was standing among those people and will always remember the synergy that connected us. Never before or after this event did I experience a similar moment during which people of all ages and economic status melt together like that. Students, seniors, blue-collar workers, professionals, men and women, young and old pressed shoulder to shoulder in one big patchwork.

US President John F. Kennedy, Berlin's Mayor Willy Brandt, and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer - Photo © J. Elke Ertle

US President John F. Kennedy, Berlin’s Mayor Willy Brandt, and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer
in Berlin during Kennedy visit in 1963
Photo © J. Elke Ertle

Many years later, a myth popped up. In the ensuring years, it gathered speed. The myth was that John F. Kennedy had said he was a doughnut when he said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Born a Berliner, let me assure you that there is no truth to this myth. Although a Berliner can also be a jelly-filled doughnut, anyone born and raised in Berlin considers him- or herself a Berliner. The same thing would be true of a native of the city of Hamburg. He would be considered a Hamburger, and that would not mean a patty of ground meat between the two halves of a bun, slathered with relish and ketchup. I don’t believe there was one person among the 450,000 in front of city hall who even fleetingly thought “doughnut!”


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.




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