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Ich bin ein Berliner

Ich bin ein Berliner

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"Ich bin ein Berliner" (ˈʔɪç ˈbɪn ʔaɪn bɛɐˈliːnɐ, "I am a Berliner") is a quotation from a June 26, 1963, speech by U.S. President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 in West Berlin
West Berlin
West Berlin was a political exclave that existed between 1949 and 1990. It comprised the western regions of Berlin, which were bordered by East Berlin and parts of East Germany. West Berlin consisted of the American, British, and French occupation sectors, which had been established in 1945...

. He was underlining the support of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 for West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 22 months after the Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

-supported East Germany erected the Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

 as a barrier to prevent movement between East and West. The message was aimed as much at the Soviets as it was at Berliners, and was a clear statement of U.S. policy in the wake of the construction of the Berlin Wall. Another notable (and defiant) phrase in the speech was also spoken in German, "Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen" ("Let them come to Berlin")--addressed at those who claimed "we can work with the Communists", a remark which Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 scoffed at only days later.

The speech is considered one of Kennedy's best, both a notable moment of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 and a highpoint of the New Frontier
New Frontier
The term New Frontier was used by Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in his acceptance speech in the 1960 United States presidential election to the Democratic National Convention at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the Democratic slogan to inspire America to support him...

. It was a great morale boost for West Berliners, who lived in an exclave deep inside East Germany and feared a possible East German occupation. Speaking from a platform erected on the steps of Rathaus Schöneberg
Rathaus Schöneberg
Rathaus Schöneberg is the city hall for the Borough of Tempelhof-Schöneberg in Berlin.-History:It was constructed between 1911–1914 for Schöneberg, at that time an independent city not yet incorporated into Berlin, which took place in 1920....

 for an audience of 450,000, Kennedy said,
Kennedy used the phrase twice in his speech, ending with it, and pronouncing the sentence with his Boston accent
Boston accent
The Boston dialect is the dialect characteristic of English spoken in the city of Boston and much of eastern Massachusetts. The accent and closely related accents can be heard commonly in an area stretching into much of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and areas of south-western Nova Scotia...

, reading from his note "ish bin ein Bearleener", which he had written out in English phonetics.

Background




Germany's capital, Berlin, was deep within the area controlled after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 by the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. Initially governed in four sectors controlled by the four Allied
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 powers (United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, and Soviet Union), tensions of the Cold War escalated until the Soviet forces implemented the Berlin Blockade
Berlin Blockade
The Berlin Blockade was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War and the first resulting in casualties. During the multinational occupation of post-World War II Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies' railway and road access to the sectors of Berlin under Allied...

, which the Western allies relieved with the dramatic airlift. Afterward, the sectors controlled by the NATO Allies became an effective exclave of West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

, completely surrounded by East Germany. From 1952, the border between East and West was closed everywhere but Berlin. Hundreds of thousands of East Germans defected
Defection
In politics, a defector is a person who gives up allegiance to one state or political entity in exchange for allegiance to another. More broadly, it involves abandoning a person, cause or doctrine to whom or to which one is bound by some tie, as of allegiance or duty.This term is also applied,...

 to the West via West Berlin, a labour drain that threatened East Germany with economic collapse.

In 1961, the East German government under Walter Ulbricht
Walter Ulbricht
Walter Ulbricht was a German communist politician. As First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party from 1950 to 1971 , he played a leading role in the creation of the Weimar-era Communist Party of Germany and later in the early development and...

 erected a barbed-wire barrier around West Berlin, officially called the antifaschistischer Schutzwall (anti-fascist
Anti-fascism
Anti-fascism is the opposition to fascist ideologies, groups and individuals, such as that of the resistance movements during World War II. The related term antifa derives from Antifaschismus, which is German for anti-fascism; it refers to individuals and groups on the left of the political...

 protective barrier). The East German authorities argued that it was meant to prevent spies and agents of West Germany from crossing into the East. However, it was universally known as the Berlin Wall and the majority opinion was that its primary purpose was to keep East German citizens from escaping to the West. Over a period of months the wall was rebuilt using concrete, and buildings were demolished to create a "death zone" in view of East German guards armed with machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

s. In 1962, the first attempted escape leading to a fatal shooting took the life of Peter Fechter
Peter Fechter
Peter Fechter was a German bricklayer from Berlin in what became East Germany in 1945. He was aged just 18, one of the first victims of the Berlin Wall's border guards while trying to cross over to what was then West Berlin.-Background:After World War II, Germany was governed jointly by an Allied...

.

The West, including the U.S., was accused of failing to respond forcefully to the erection of the Wall. Officially, Berlin was under joint occupation by the four allied powers, each with primary responsibility for a certain zone. Kennedy's speech marked the first instance where the U.S. acknowledged that East Berlin
East Berlin
East Berlin was the name given to the eastern part of Berlin between 1949 and 1990. It consisted of the Soviet sector of Berlin that was established in 1945. The American, British and French sectors became West Berlin, a part strongly associated with West Germany but a free city...

 was part of the Soviet bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 along with the rest of East Germany. On July 25, 1961, Kennedy insisted in a presidential address that America would defend West Berlin, asserting its Four-Power rights
Potsdam Agreement
The Potsdam Agreement was the Allied plan of tripartite military occupation and reconstruction of Germany—referring to the German Reich with its pre-war 1937 borders including the former eastern territories—and the entire European Theatre of War territory...

, while making it clear that challenging the Soviet presence in Germany was not possible.

Origins



The Ich bin ein Berliner speech is in part derived from a speech Kennedy gave in 1962 in New Orleans; there also he used the phrase civis Romanum sum. The phrases "I am a Berliner" and "I am proud to be in Berlin" were typed already a week before the speech on a list of expressions to be used, including a phonetic transcription of the German translation. Such transcriptions are also found in the third draft of the speech (in Kennedy's own handwriting), from June 25. The final typed version of the speech does not contain the transcriptions, which are added by hand by Kennedy himself.

In practice sessions before the trip, Kennedy had run through a number of sentences, even paragraphs, to recite in German; in these sessions, he was helped by Margaret Plischke, a translator working for the US State Department; by Ted Sorenson, Kennedy's counsel and habitual speechwriter; and by an interpreter, Robert Lochner
Robert Lochner
Robert H. Lochner was a journalist who helped to revive the free media in West Germany after World War II and who is most well known for assisting John F. Kennedy with his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in 1963....

, who had grown up in Berlin. It became clear quickly that the president did not have a gift for languages and was more likely to embarrass himself if he was to cite in German for any length.

But there are differing accounts on the origin of the phrase Ich bin ein Berliner. Margaret Plischke, a U.S. Department of State language teacher, wrote a 1997 account of visiting Kennedy at the White House weeks before the trip to help compose the speech and teach him the proper pronunciation; she also claims that the phrase had been translated stateside already by the translator scheduled to accompany him on the trip ("a rather unpleasant man who complained bitterly that he had had to interrupt his vacation just to watch the President’s mannerisms"). Additionally, Ted Sorenson claimed in his memoir Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History (2008) to have had a hand in the speech, and said he had incorrectly inserted the word ein, incorrectly taking responsibility for the "jelly doughnut misconception", below, a claim apparently supported by Willy Brandt but dismissed by later scholars since the final typed version, which does not contain the words, is the last one Sorenson could have worked on. Robert Lochner claimed in his memoirs that Kennedy had asked him for a translation of "I am a Berliner", and that they practiced the phrase in the office of Berlin mayor Willy Brandt
Willy Brandt
Willy Brandt, born Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm , was a German politician, Mayor of West Berlin 1957–1966, Chancellor of West Germany 1969–1974, and leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany 1964–1987....

.

Execution



Behind the long table set up on the steps of the Rathaus Schöneberg were US and German dignitaries, including Dean Rusk
Dean Rusk
David Dean Rusk was the United States Secretary of State from 1961 to 1969 under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Rusk is the second-longest serving U.S...

 (Kennedy's Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

), Lucius D. Clay
Lucius D. Clay
General Lucius Dubignon Clay was an American officer and military governor of the United States Army known for his administration of Germany immediately after World War II. Clay was deputy to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1945; deputy military governor, Germany 1946; commander in chief, U.S....

 (the US administrator of Germany), Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer was a German statesman. He was the chancellor of the West Germany from 1949 to 1963. He is widely recognised as a person who led his country from the ruins of World War II to a powerful and prosperous nation that had forged close relations with old enemies France,...

 (the German chancellor), Willy Brandt, and Otto Bach (President of the German House of Representatives). The crowd is estimated at 450,000 people. Bach speaks first, of the recent developments in Berlin, especially the wall. He was followed by Konrad Adenauer, who spoke briefly and introduced the president.

Kennedy was accompanied not by Robert Lochner, but by Heinz Weber of the Berlin mission; Weber translates the president's speech to the audience. Besides the typescript, Kennedy had a cue card
Cue card
Cue cards, also known as note cards or idiot cards, are cards with words written on them that help actors and speakers remember what they have to say. They are typically used in television productions where they can be held off-camera and are unseen by the audience...

 on which he himself had written the phonetic spelling, and he surprises everyone by completely disregarding the speech, which had taken weeks to prepare. Instead, he improvises: "He says more than he should, something different from what his advisers had recommended, and is more provocative than he had intended to be."

The speech first culminates with the first of two mentions of the Ich bin ein Berliner phrase: "Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is Ich bin ein Berliner!" The crowd is quiet while Weber translates and repeats the president's German line; Kennedy is obviously relieved at the crowd's positive response and thanks Weber for his translation. Weber translates this compliment also. According to Daum, after this first successful delivery, "Kennedy, who fiddles a bit with his suit jacket, is grinning like a boy who has just pulled off a coup."

Kennedy's National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy
McGeorge Bundy
McGeorge "Mac" Bundy was United States National Security Advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson from 1961 through 1966, and president of the Ford Foundation from 1966 through 1979...

 thought the speech had gone "a little too far", and the two revised the text for a softer stance before repeating the speech at the Free University
Free University of Berlin
Freie Universität Berlin is one of the leading and most prestigious research universities in Germany and continental Europe. It distinguishes itself through its modern and international character. It is the largest of the four universities in Berlin. Research at the university is focused on the...

 later that day.

Consequences and legacy



While the immediate response from the West German population was positive, the Soviet authorities were less pleased with the combative Lass sie nach Berlin kommen. Only two weeks before Kennedy had spoken in more conciliatory tones, speaking of "improving relations with the Soviet Union": in response to Kennedy's Berlin speech, Nikita Khrushchev, days later, remarked that "one would think that the speeches were made by two different Presidents."

There are commemorative sites to Kennedy in Berlin, such as the German-American John F. Kennedy School
John F. Kennedy School, Berlin
The John F. Kennedy School is a primary and secondary school in Berlin, Germany. It was established in 1960 under the name "German-American Community School" as a school offering integrated, bilingual education for both German and American pupils, to foster cultural exchange between young natives...

 and the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies of the Free University of Berlin
Free University of Berlin
Freie Universität Berlin is one of the leading and most prestigious research universities in Germany and continental Europe. It distinguishes itself through its modern and international character. It is the largest of the four universities in Berlin. Research at the university is focused on the...

. The public square in front of the Rathaus Schöneberg was renamed John-F.-Kennedy-Platz
John-F.-Kennedy-Platz
John-F.-Kennedy-Platz , formerly Rudolph-Wilde-Platz, in Berlin-Schöneberg is the square in front of the former city hall of West Berlin . It was here that US President John F. Kennedy gave his famous speech to the Berliners, in which he stated: "Ich bin ein Berliner"...

. A large plaque dedicated to Kennedy is mounted on a column at the entrance of the building and the room above the entrance and overlooking the square is dedicated to Kennedy and his visit.

The original manuscript of the speech is stored with the National Archives and Records Administration
National Archives and Records Administration
The National Archives and Records Administration is an independent agency of the United States government charged with preserving and documenting government and historical records and with increasing public access to those documents, which comprise the National Archives...

.

Jelly doughnut misconception


There is a misconception that Kennedy made a risible error by saying Ich bin ein Berliner (emphasis added): the claim is made that Kennedy referred to himself not as a "citizen of Berlin", but as a "jelly donut" (US) or "jam doughnut" (EU), known in parts of Germany as a "Berliner
Berliner (pastry)
A Berliner Pfannkuchen is a predominantly...

". Kennedy should, supposedly, have said Ich bin Berliner to mean "I am a person from Berlin", and that adding the indefinite article ein to his statement implied he was a non-human Berliner, thus, "I am a jelly doughnut". However, the indefinite article ein is omitted when speaking of an individual's profession or residence but is necessary when speaking in a figurative sense as Kennedy did. Since the president was not literally from Berlin but only declaring his solidarity with its citizens, "Ich bin Berliner" would not have been appropriate.

An op-ed
Op-ed
An op-ed, abbreviated from opposite the editorial page , is a newspaper article that expresses the opinions of a named writer who is usually unaffiliated with the newspaper's editorial board...

 from The New York Times demonstrates the misconception:
Whereas the citizens of Berlin do refer to themselves as Berliner, they generally do not refer to jelly doughnuts as Berliner. While these are known as Berliner Pfannkuchen (literally, "Berlin pancake"), commonly shortened to Berliner in other areas of Germany, they are simply called Pfannkuchen (pancakes) in and around Berlin. According to the German History Museum, the theoretical ambiguity went unnoticed by Kennedy's audience.
As German professor Reinhold Aman writes, "Ich bin (ein) Berliner means 'I am a Berliner' or '...a male person/native of Berlin' and absolutely nothing else!...No intelligent native speaker of German tittered in Berlin when J.F.K. spoke, just as no native speaker of German, or one who does know this language would titter if someone said, Ich bin ein Wiener or Hamburger or Frankfurter."

The doughnut claim has since been repeated by media such as the BBC (by Alistair Cooke
Alistair Cooke
Alfred Alistair Cooke KBE was a British/American journalist, television personality and broadcaster. Outside his journalistic output, which included Letter from America and Alistair Cooke's America, he was well known in the United States as the host of PBS Masterpiece Theater from 1971 to 1992...

 in his Letter from America
Letter from America
Letter from America was a weekly 15-minute radio series on BBC Radio 4, previously called the Home Service, which ran for 2,869 shows from 24 March 1946 to 20 February 2004, making it the longest-running speech radio programme in history...

program), The Guardian, MSNBC, CNN, Time magazine, and The New York Times; mentioned in several books about Germany written by English-speaking authors, including Norman Davies
Norman Davies
Professor Ivor Norman Richard Davies FBA, FRHistS is a leading English historian of Welsh descent, noted for his publications on the history of Europe, Poland, and the United Kingdom.- Academic career :...

 and Kenneth C. Davis
Kenneth C. Davis
Kenneth C. Davis is an American popular historian, best known for his Don't Know Much About... series. Born in Mount Vernon, New York, Davis attended Concordia College, Bronxville in New York, and Fordham University at Lincoln Center, New York City...

; and used in the manual for the Speech Synthesis Markup Language
Speech Synthesis Markup Language
Speech Synthesis Markup Language is an XML-based markup language for speech synthesis applications. It is a recommendation of the W3C's voice browser working group. SSML is often embedded in VoiceXML scripts to drive interactive telephony systems. However, it also may be used alone, such as for...

.

Cultural references



The phrase and the legend are quoted very often in fiction and popular culture in the United States. Besides a direct quote there exist many variations starting "Ich bin ein (+ noun, e.g., Frankfurter)" that is supposed to be understood by the primarily English-speaking audience based on the widespread knowledge of this German phrase and its myth. This phrasal template
Phrasal template
A phrasal template is a phrase-long collocation that contains one or several empty slots which may be filled by words to produce individual phrases. Often there are some restrictions on the grammatic category of the words allowed to fill particular slots...

has arisen in a variety of rhetorical contexts in popular culture.

External links