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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid