Ich bin ein Auschlander!

Germany recalls Kennedy’s iconic Berlin speech
BERLIN (AFP) – With just four words, US president John F. Kennedy talked himself into Cold War history in a moving speech 60 years ago this week in the heart of divided Berlin.
“Ich bin ein Berliner,” the president uttered to a rapturous response. His words went round the world. Berlin was safe, it seemed.
The city will Wednesday commemorate the occasion with the formal opening of an exhibition on Kennedy’s June 26, 1963 visit and what it meant then and now for US-German relations.
On Thursday, his speech will be broadcast over loudspeakers at the precise time, 6.44 pm, that he delivered it from the balcony of the town hall in the Schoeneberg district of Berlin.
“Visiting the frontline city was an important signal on the relationship,” said Andreas Etges, who put together the exhibition in the German Historical Museum.
The president was greeted like a pop star. Hundreds of thousands turned out to welcome his motorcade during his eight-hour visit. “It was an overwhelming occasion,” said Etges.
It was June 1963. Berlin was nervous about its future on the dividing line between communist east and capitalist west. The Cold War was at its height.
The previous summer, the United States and Soviet Union nearly went to war in the Cuban missile crisis. A year earlier, communist East Germany had built the Berlin Wall, a scar through the heart of the city.
Kennedy was on a goodwill tour of Europe when he visited Berlin. He saw the Wall twice close at hand, once draped from the other side with a huge East German flag, the second time from Checkpoint Charlie, the allied crossing point.
Struck by the images and impressed by the size of an expectant crowd, some of whom had camped out overnight, he reworked his prepared speech.
Whereas the East-West mood had been one of tentative moves toward detente, he repeatedly lashed out at communism in the strongest terms.
At the end, Kennedy uttered the famous words: “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’.”
He had written out the sentence phonetically to pronounce it correctly with his Boston accent: ‘Ish bin ine bearLEANar.’
The president was moved by the emotion that greeted his words. His advisor McGeorge Bundy, worried about raising East-West tensions, was less enamoured. “Mr President, I think you went too far,” Bundy said, according to Kennedy’s translator.
Kennedy subsequently toned down his speech that afternoon at West Berlin’s main university, before leaving the city en route for Ireland.
German grammar enthusiasts often point out that Kennedy’s phrase ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ actually compares him to a doughnut, a Berliner being a popular name for the patisserie.
For Berliners, the emotion of the occasion overwhelmed such thoughts.
Etges said that when he spoke to witnesses for his exhibition, “their eyes were still aglow.”
Five months later, in November 1963, Kennedy was assassinated. The Berlin Wall stood for another quarter of a century until October 1989.
US-German relations have changed since Kennedy’s day.
President Richard Nixon’s motorcade was spattered with paint in protest at the Vietnam War when he came calling in 1969.
Current President George W. Bush was greeted with a banner declaring ‘You are no Berliner’ because of his policy on Iraq when he visited last year, and relations are only inching now above freezing-point after Germany’s spirited opposition to the US-led war on Baghdad.
The Kennedy exhibition Wednesday will be opened by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and US ambassador Dan Coats.
Coats will also speak at Schoeneberg town hall Thursday after the replay of the speech, to be followed by an evening of open-air music.