Ich bin ein Berliner
On June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy of the United States made a speech in Berlin. One that became notable partly because
of the few German words that Kennedy used during the speech: “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner).
Kennedy’s speech was made from the Rathaus Schöneberg, located at the Rudolph-Wilde-Platz. He visited the city to emphasise
the United States’ support for the Federal Republic of Germany.
Almost two years earlier, at the height of the so-called “Cold War”, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), which was under the rule
of communist Russia, had started the construction of the Berlin Wall, which divided Berlin into two zones, East and West Berlin.
The American President’s visit was greatly appreciated by the Berlin population, especially when Kennedy spoke those famous words:
“Ich bin ein Berliner”.
The people of West Berlin feared that the Russians wanted to occupy their part of the city and more than 150,000 people turned
out to hear Kennedy’s speech.
The speech was prepared but Kennedy wanted to add a sentence modified from one he had used in a speech made a year earlier in
New Orleans. Thus – after asking his interpreter, Robert Lochner, to translate into German the words “I am a Berliner” – he scribbled the
phrase on a piece of paper and addressed the Berlin crowd with the additional sentence:
“Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was ‘civis romanus sum’ (I am a citizen of Rome). Today, in the world of freedom, the
proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’” (although he pronounced the phrase rather phonetically as ‘Ish been ein Bearleener’ the
Germans fully appreciated the use of their language).
Kennedy’s visit was marked by the issue of special envelopes and stamps. Such as this postmark – BERLIN 12 with the American
Three days earlier Kennedy had visited Bonn, the capital of what was then West Germany (the Federal Republic) and after Berlin he
On November 21st, 1964, a year after the assassination of Kennedy, two stamps were issued in the Federal Republic and in
Berlin with the value of 40 Pfennig each. The stamp with the text ‘Federal Post’ had a circulation of 20 million units. The stamp with
‘Berlin’ had a circulation of 7½ million units.
On the first day cover is an image of Kennedy behind the microphone with underneath the words: “Ich bin ein Berliner”.
These words left a huge impression. But some felt that a word was completely misplaced, the word ‘ein’. Because a “Berliner” is a kind
of yeast dough pastry filled with jam or custard and topped with powdered sugar. Others say, however, that the sentence is
satisfactory, because Kennedy meant that he was one with the people of Berlin.
Would Kennedy have changed his speech if it was to be made in Hamburg? “Ich bin ein …”??
On November 25, 1963, three days after the assassination of President Kennedy, the Rudolph-Wilde-Platz was renamed John-F.-
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