News / USA

Kennedy's Call to Freedom Still Resonates in Berlin 50 Years Later

Kennedy's Call to Freedom Still Resonates in Berlin 50 Years Lateri
X
November 20, 2013 5:21 PM
Friday, November 22nd, marks 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. At the time, the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was at its height, and there was no greater flashpoint than the divided city of Berlin. President Kennedy spoke there just months before his assassination. VOA’s Jeff Swicord went back to see how the president's famous call to freedom still echoes across a now unified Berlin. The piece is narrated by VOA correspondent Jim Malone.
Jeff Swicord
Friday, November 22, marks 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. At the time, the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was at its height, and there was no greater flashpoint than the divided city of Berlin.  Kennedy spoke there just months before his assassination.  His famous call to freedom still echoes across a now unified Berlin. 

Kennedy came to Berlin in June 1963. In his speech he said: "There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future.  Let them come to Berlin!”

The divided city had become the frontline in the Cold War, noted analyst Andreas Etges from the University of Munich.

“Berlin had highly symbolic value for both sides.  For the Americans especially, I think you could describe Berlin as a kind of frontier city  where American values and American freedom should be defended against the communist powers,” said Etges.

In August 1961, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev ordered the building of the Berlin Wall to prevent East Germans from fleeing.  Fear and chaos gripped the city, says West Berliner Alexander Longolius.

“The Western allies would protect us, especially the Americans.  But that was kind of a naïve conviction," he said.

The Germans had criticized Kennedy for accepting the wall.  The U.S. wanted to reassure West Berliners that Soviet aggression would stop at the wall.

“People had been lining up all over the city," recalled analyst Etges. "Kids didn’t have to go to school.  Many major companies let their workers go."

U.S. President John F. Kennedy, standing on a rostrum, addresses a large crowd in the main square in front of Schoeneberg City Hall in West Berlin, Germany, June 26, 1963.U.S. President John F. Kennedy, standing on a rostrum, addresses a large crowd in the main square in front of Schoeneberg City Hall in West Berlin, Germany, June 26, 1963.
x
U.S. President John F. Kennedy, standing on a rostrum, addresses a large crowd in the main square in front of Schoeneberg City Hall in West Berlin, Germany, June 26, 1963.
U.S. President John F. Kennedy, standing on a rostrum, addresses a large crowd in the main square in front of Schoeneberg City Hall in West Berlin, Germany, June 26, 1963.
Seeing the crowds cheering in the streets and the wall at the Brandenburg Gate, Kennedy felt the speech he planned to give was inadequate.

“So he basically, on the spot, decided he’s not going to give that speech," said Etges. "He had someone help him write down on a notecard a few things in German and then delivered the speech we all know.”

Alexander Longolius recalls: “It was just absolutely crazy.  The place itself is not that large, so in order to get those masses of people there, they had to stand in all the side streets. All the balconies where filled.  Everybody wanted to be there.“

“I am proud to come to this city," said Kennedy.

“There is I think two components.  One is Kennedy is actually talking about that some people do suggest détente policy and working with the Soviet Union,” said Etges. “The other message was to renew once again America’s commitment to Berlin.  And he did this with the most famous words of that speech."

For West Berlin resident Alexander Longolius, “There were some doubts whether he would be able to stand up to Khrushchev, or Khrushchev would take him as a young inexperienced president.  All that was gone."

In East Berlin, reaction was more critical, according to East Berlin resident Werner Kraetschew.

“The reaction was that we do not belong to this world and will never belong to this world, because the Americans will help West Berliners, but not us,” he said.

The wall would stand for another 26 years, but at that moment Kennedy stood firm against the Soviets.

He later told an aide, “We will never have a day like this one as long as we live.”

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid