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Famous Berliners: President John F Kennedy (JFK)

President John F Kennedy on the steps of Rathaus Schöneberg in Berlin delivering his 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech

Photo: Screenshot from YouTube / President John F Kennedy on the steps of Rathaus Schöneberg in Berlin delivering his ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech

He was born in Brookline, Massachusetts and never lived in Berlin but President John F Kennedy is probably the most famous ‘Berliner’.

In a speech on the steps of Rathaus Schöneberg on 26 June 1963 Kennedy declared:

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!”

It was a defining moment at the height of Cold War tensions between the USA and the Soviet Union.  A warning from Kennedy to his Soviet counterpart, Nikita Krushchev, that the Americans would not foresake the West Berliners and a show of solidarity for a people adjusting to life in the shadow of the Berlin Wall.

It is probably one of the most iconic moments of 20th century political history.

A plaque on the facade of Rathaus Schöneberg commemorates this significant event.

John F Kennedy (JFK) Plaque at Rathaus Schöneberg Berlin commemorating his "Ich Bin Ein Berliner" speech

Contrary to popular belief Kennedy didn’t make a linguistic faux pax with the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’.

It is an oft repeated story that in using these words Kennedy said ‘I am a doughnut’ (or donut for the Americans).

It’s true that in many parts of Germany a jam filled doughnut is known as a Berliner but in Berlin the doughnuts are known as Pfannkuchen and the citizens are Berliners.

Here’s a video of part of John F Kennedy’s ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech for anyone who hasn’t seen it before or those inclined to watch it again. You can also watch a fuller version of the famous speech here.

President John F Kennedy – ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ Speech

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3 Responses to Famous Berliners: President John F Kennedy (JFK)

  1. berlioz1935 8 March, 2013 at 03:56 #

    What a great speech that was. I”m so happy that the fall of the wall was so peaceful but also sad that J.F. Kennedy did not live to see that happen.

    • andBerlin 8 March, 2013 at 12:52 #

      I agree. It’s tragic that he didn’t get to see the difference he made in Berlin and with other issues.


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