Berlin hails US ties 50yrs after JFK speech

2013-06-26 14:06
US President John F Kennedy giving a speech at the Schoeneberg city hall in Berlin, where he said his famous German sentence "Ich bin ein Berliner". (AFP)

US President John F Kennedy giving a speech at the Schoeneberg city hall in Berlin, where he said his famous German sentence "Ich bin ein Berliner". (AFP)

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Berlin - Germany hailed the endurance of transatlantic ties on Wednesday on the 50th anniversary of US president John F Kennedy's stirring Cold War declaration "Ich bin ein Berliner", with celebrations across the reunited city.

Ahead of the main commemoration ceremony at the old West Berlin town hall where JFK addressed 450 000 people in 1963, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the historic speech remained "unforgettable for us Germans".

"Berlin was a divided city, the Cold War had separated Germans along the Wall," he said in a statement. "President Kennedy gave Berliners new hope in difficult times and all Germans new confidence."

Westerwelle said last week's visit to Berlin by President Barack Obama, in which he borrowed tropes from Kennedy's speech to call for stronger transatlantic co-operation on global crises, showed that the spirit of Kennedy's pledge was alive and well.

"Shared history has become vibrant German-American friendship, which in a world of fundamental change is as important today as it was then," he said.

"In his speech at the Brandenburg Gate, President Obama underlined the partnership of values that binds us together which Kennedy had hailed. That is a good foundation to weather the challenges of 21st century globalisation together."

‘Ich bin ein Berliner’

Kennedy's eight-hour visit on 26 June 1963 came at a critical stage of the Cold War, and Berlin was on the front line.

It was only a year since the United States and Soviet Union nearly went to war in the Cuban missile crisis, and two years after East Germany's communist regime erected the Berlin Wall, cleaving the city in two.

In an electrifying 10-minute address, Kennedy gave Berliners what they wanted to hear: a condemnation of the Wall and a promise that the free world stood by them.

"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," the defiant president said, in a firm rejection of communist appeasement.

At the end, Kennedy uttered the immortal 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' [I am a Berliner]."

His vow, just five months before he would be assassinated in Dallas, was greeted with rapturous applause from the crowds of Berliners thronging the square.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  john f kennedy  |  germany

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