Posts Tagged ‘John F. Kennedy’

A Berliner is a Doughnut, myth or fact?

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

The myth persists that President John F. Kennedy said, “I am a doughnut,” when he spoke the famous words,

All free men, wherever they live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

I stood in the crowd in front of Schoeneberger Rathaus in West Berlin in June of 1963. Let me assure you that none of us in the audience thought for one minute that JFK had misspoken. Here is why:

A Berliner

True, a Berliner Pfannkuchen, in short a Berliner, is a jelly filled and sugar-glazed bakery item, akin to our well-loved doughnut. So far – so good. But, as a long-time US citizen who was born in Berlin, I still respond to the question what area in Germany I originally came from with, “Oh, don’t you know, I am a Berliner.” Same word – different context. I hope no one ever assumes that I like to refer to myself as a doughnut. And John F. Kennedy knew what he was saying as well. In fact, translators who knew the German language very well had written the phrase for him.

A Berliner Pfannkuchen - in short a "Berliner,"Photo by J. Elke Ertle © 2014

A Berliner Pfannkuchen – in short a “Berliner,” Photo by J. Elke Ertle © 2014

When President John F. Kennedy made that statement, “Ich bin ein Berliner” in his speech in West Berlin, his German audience understood without question what his words meant. They meant, “I am a citizen of Berlin.” No one laughed at or misconstrued his words. Instead, the audience understood him to say that America would stand by them in their Cold War battle against the Berlin Wall and a divided Germany.

An American

Let’s take this persistent myth one step further. In Berlin (maybe also in some other German cities), there is another bakery item, called an American. Americans are a little larger and flatter than Berliners (no pun intended). Americans are not jelly filled but are also sugar-glazed. And now the most interesting part –  Americans are available with a white sugar glaze or a chocolate sugar glaze and are called light Americans or dark Americans, respectively.

A light "American," Photo by J. Elke Ertle © 2014

A light “American,” Photo by J. Elke Ertle © 2014

Next time you call yourself an American when abroad, aren’t you glad that the rest of the world isn’t wondering whether you are referring to yourself as an US citizen or as a flattened doughnut? So let’s put that stubborn myth to rest once and for all.

 

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.

 

 

 

Truth versus Myth

Monday, June 30th, 2014

The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

–John F. Kennedy – Commencement Address at Yale University, June 11 1962

 

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.

 

 

Setting out on a Journey

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Just because we cannot see clearly the end of the road, that is no reason for not setting out on the essential journey.

–John F. Kennedy

 

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.

 

Ex-Berliner recalls Kennedy’s death

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

J. Elke Ertle was a Berlin teenager when John F. Kennedy’s death plunged West Berlin into depression and despair. From the end of World War II in 1945 until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Berlin was physically divided. In 1961, the East German government, with Soviet backing, surrounded West Berlin with a 12-foot wall. In June 1963, Kennedy gave a historic speech in which he expressed admiration for those who had remained in the tiny capitalist island despite being surrounded by a communist sea.

Excerpt from Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom

Elke writes, “My eighteenth birthday fell on a Thursday. I didn’t celebrate until the following afternoon, November 22. Three girlfriends came for a Kaffeeklatsch and had barely left when the phone rang. It was my American friend. I assumed he wanted to wish me a happy birthday. Instead he asked, “Have you heard the news?”

“What news?”

“President Kennedy has been shot!”

A long silence. I tried to comprehend.

“President Kennedy? When?”

“Less than half hour ago.”

“Shot at? Or shot dead?”

My friend shared what he knew. “Go and turn on the TV,” he said. We quickly said good-bye, and I flicked on the set. In disbelief, I watched as the tragedy in Dallas unfolded. Although the shooting had occurred shortly after noon Texas-time, it was already evening in Berlin. Within hours, thousands of Berliners gathered in the Rudolph-Wilde-Platz in front of city hall where John F. Kennedy had spoken only five months earlier. In a broadcast, the Mayor of West Berlin, Willy Brandt, read,

“Eine Flamme ist erloschen. Erloschen fuer alle Menschen, die auf einen gerechten Frieden hoffen und auf ein besseres Leben. Die Welt ist an diesem Abend sehr viel aermer geworden. (A flame has gone out. Gone out for all people who hope for a just peace and a better life. The world has grown considerably poorer this evening.)” 

The following afternoon, my friends and I joined the 15,000 students who walked in silence from the Airlift Memorial to the Schoeneberger Rathaus. We marched behind a banner that read Wir haben einen Freund verloren — We have lost a friend.

On the day of Kennedy’s state funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, 250,000 of us gathered in front of Berlin’s city hall. The Rudolph-Wilde-Platz was renamed John-F.-Kennedy Platz. In West Berlin, where the East-West confrontation could be felt more than anywhere else in the world, the grief for Kennedy was particularly deep. John F. Kennedy had been our hero. Our loss was personal.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

50th Anniversary of JFK in Berlin

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

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.

 

 

 

John F. Kennedy spoke in Berlin

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

On this day in history fifty years ago today, on June 26, 1963, John F. Kennedy spoke in Berlin. I stood in the crowd of 450,000 in front of Schoeneberger Rathaus to hear him speak. It was an experience I will never forget. Below is his speech (www.historyplace.com)

“I am proud to come to this city as the guest of your distinguished Mayor, who has symbolized throughout the world the fighting spirit of West Berlin. And I am proud to visit the Federal Republic with your distinguished Chancellor who for so many years has committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress, and to come here in the company of my fellow American, General Clay, who has been in this city during its great moments of crisis and will come again if ever needed.

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was “civis Romanus sum.” Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

I appreciate my interpreter translating my German!

There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.

the cheering crowd in front of Schoeneberger Rathaus

the cheering crowd in front of Schoeneberger Rathaus

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us. I want to say, on behalf of my countrymen, who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you, that they take the greatest pride that they have been able to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the last 18 years. I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope and the determination of the city of West Berlin. While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.

What is true of this city is true of Germany–real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people. You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.
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‘.”

 

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.

 

 

 

Obama spoke in Berlin

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Today, President Barack Obama spoke in Berlin, 50 years after President John F. Kennedy’s famous address in the then-divided city. The last time Obama visited Berlin was during his 2008 run for president.

Fifty years ago, a euphoric crowd of 450,000 cheered Kennedy in front of Schöneberger Rathaus (city hall) when he declared, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” I stood in that crowd 50 years ago and was also swept away by those words, which were spoken at the height of the Cold War. Five years ago, Obama addressed a gathering of over 200,000 at the Siegessaeule (victory column) when he ran for president. Today, Obama spoke at Berlin’s historic 18th century Brandenburger Tor.

Obama Spoke at Berlin's Brandenburger Tor today

Obama Spoke at Berlin’s Brandenburger Tor today

President Obama arrived in Berlin as part of a three-day International Summit tour to discuss a variety of issues. At the top of German Chancellor Angela Merkel agenda were questions relative to global electronic and phone surveillance programs. Public outcry over the intrusion into the lives of private citizens is strong in Germany, far stronger than in the United States. The reason is that Germans have a deep-rooted distrust in governments that spy on their citizens. Germans have lived under the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) during the Nazi regime. More recently, East Germans citizens have lived under the Stasi–(Staatssicherheitsdienst). Both were secret police spying organizations. They have made Germans distrust any government that claims that broad surveillance activity is necessary for its citizens, safety. Merkel hopes to see a more equitable balance struck between providing security and protecting personal freedoms.

Obama spoke in Berlin today in the midst of a crushing heat wave that followed weeks of heavy rains and severe flooding throughout the country. The extreme temperatures, ranging in the 90s, reduced the number of guests in attendance. Instead of the invited 6,000, closer to 4,000 guests came. However, the poor attendance does not reflect a significant drop in Obama’s popularity in Germany. A recent poll indicates that Obama still holds close to a 90% approval rating in Germany.

 

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.