"Things are going very, very well. I am in Berlin. There were one million people here last night at the very spot where the Wall used to stand -"
-Chancellor Kohl of Germany on the German Reunification Process
On October 3, 1990, East and West Germany were reunified, one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This memo transcribes the brief conversation which occurred between President George Bush and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, describing the reunification celebration.
Churchill, Truman, and Stalin at Potsdam - Today in 1945.
Photo: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (left), President Harry S. Truman (center), and Soviet leader Josef Stalin (right) at Cecilienhof Palace during the Potsdam Conference in Germany. Mr. Churchill has just given a dinner for Mr. Truman and Mr. Stalin. July 23, 1945.
Day 61: FDR’s Childhood Trips to Germany
FDR made a number of trips to Europe with his parents during his childhood, including numerous trips to Germany. The Roosevelts often traveled to Germany to visit several ancient springs in hope that they would help Mr. James’ health.
Roosevelt historian Geoff Ward recounts a story of one of these German trips in his book Before the Trumpet. During a trip in 1896 FDR and his tutor Mr. Dumper “found themselves under arrest four times in one busy day of bicycling – for picking cherries along the roadside, for wheeling their bicycles into a railroad depot, for riding into Strasbourg after dusk…and finally, for inadvertent slaughter of a panicky goose that had thrust its long neck between the spokes of Mr. Dumper’s front wheel.” FDR managed to get them out of the first three violations without a fine, but in the end they did have to pay five marks to the owner of the goose. “Franklin always maintained the bird had really ‘committed suicide.’”
Smells Like Potsdam
On this day in 1945, President Truman arrived in Potsdam for conferences with Allied leaders. After a particularly trying day of negotiations, President Truman went into the bathroom in his suite. He came out with this bottle of German 4711 cologne.
He said to one of the members of his security detail, “Is some Russian trying to make a stinker out of me with this German stuff?” This member of his security detail “souvenired” this bottle after the conference, and years later donated it to the Library.
-from the Truman Library and Museum
Did JFK Really Tell Berlin He Was a Jelly Doughnut?
One of the iconic moments of John F. Kennedy’s Presidency comes from a speech he gave at the Rathaus Schöneberg in West Berlin, Germany on June 26, 1963. When the President declared “Ich bin ein Berliner!” to a cheering crowd, he preserved the German phrase in history. But the speech has been plagued by claims that, instead of expressing international unity by stating “I am a Berliner!” in German as he intended, JFK enthusiastically shouted a less inspiring phrase: “I am a jelly doughnut!”
Newspapers, magazines, and even textbooks have repeated the story for decades: a native Berliner would’ve said “Ich bin Berliner” and JFK’s use of the article ein changed the meaning, causing chuckles as the crowd imagined the jelly doughnut called a Berliner in parts of Germany. Fifty years later, a new generation may wonder: How could the President, who hand-wrote the pronunciation on his speech card to be sure he’d get it right, make such a cringe-worthy mistake?
But many historians and linguists have stepped in to poke a hole in the doughnut story and clear JFK’s name of this deep-fried controversy. Historian Andreas Daum notes, “saying ein Berliner is correct if used metaphorically,” which, of course, is what Kennedy was doing – not saying he was literally from Berlin, but that he was symbolically with Berlin. Historian Jürgen Eichhoff argues that the wording JFK used was actually the only way to express this particular meaning, and the German speakers (including West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt) who heard JFK practice the speech agreed.
Historians also point out that archival evidence (like recordings and witness interviews) debunks the idea that the German-speaking crowd found anything weird about JFK’s wording: “No one in the square,” Presidential advisor McGeorge Bundy later said, “confused JFK with a doughnut.”
On the anniversary of JFK’s Berlin speech, we can all rest easier knowing many experts agree President Kennedy did not declare himself a jelly doughnut at this pivotal moment in Cold War history!
A very, very big thanks to JFK Library archivist Stacey Chandler for this guest Tumblr post!
Images: President John F. Kennedy Speaks in Rudolph Wilde Platz; JFK’s handwritten pronunciation note from the President’s speech files; President Kennedy in motorcade with Willie Brandt, Mayor of West Berlin and Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of West Germany. 6/26/63.
"For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”
– President John F. Kennedy, Frankfurt, Germany.
Image: JFK greets the crowd in Frankfurt. 6/25/63.
-from the JFK Library
The Defeat of German Nazi Forces
On this day in 1945, German General Alfred Jodl signed an unconditional surrender at Reims, France.
This photo was taken in the War Room of the Allied Supreme Headquarters. On General Jodl’s left is General Admiral Von Friedenburg of the German Navy, and on his right is Major Wilhelm Oxenius of the German general staff. May 7, 1945. U.S. Army.
from the Eisenhower Library
General Eisenhower and President Truman en route to the Potsdam Conference
Photo: General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower (foreground, left) chats with President Harry S. Truman (foreground, second from right) and Secretary of State James F. Byrnes (right) at an airfield in Brussels, Belgium en route to Potsdam, Germany for the Potsdam conference. United States Ambassador to Belgium Charles Sawyer is in the background on the left. 7/15/1945.
-from the Truman Library
“Ich bin ein Berliner”
President John F. Kennedy’s Remarks at the Berlin Rathaus Reading Cards June 26, 1963
50 years ago on June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered one of his most memorable speeches that electrified an adoring crowd gathered in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. Almost 2 years after the construction of the Berlin Wall and 15 years after the Berlin Airlift, Kennedy paid tribute to the spirit of Berliners with his pronouncement of solidarity: “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner).
Although Kennedy deviated from his notes and improvised much of his speech, he spelled out his pivotal phrase phonetically on this note card.
We love learning about how iconic speeches like this one came to be. Check out excerpts from the papers of JFK’s National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy for more insights into the trip to Berlin and the origins of that famous line:
“On the way up to Berlin in the airplane in the morning the President kept right on working both at his arrival statement and still more at the Rathaus speech. It was on this trip that he conceived the idea of talking about civis Romanus sum and Ich bin ein Berliner … Indeed, now that I think about it, I think those two or three German lessons were what gave him both the idea of Ich bin ein Berliner and the courage, in the end, to use the phrase himself.”
50 years ago - JFK in Berlin
On June 26, 1963, John F. Kennedy stood at Rudolph Wilde Platz (now John F. Kennedy Platz) in West Berlin to deliver one of his most well-known speeches. His visit to the divided city followed appearances across Germany, from Bonn to Cologne, to Frankfurt. In Berlin, 120,000 people gathered to listen to President Kennedy deliver his remarks:
"Freedom is indivisible and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe…
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’”
From the JFK Library