Thursday, 15 August 2013

lass' sie nach berlin kommen or détente

Better late than never, but I finally had the chance to visit the city museum exhibit on John Fitzgerald Kennedy's state visit to West Germany, assembled to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the event earlier in the summer and in anticipation of President Obama's visit. Kennedy's visit was wildly popular drawing throngs numbering at a million, and the speech featured a couple of other phrases in German and in Latin.

Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was 'civis romanus sum.' Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is 'Ich bin ein Berliner!'... 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!'

Kennedy's tour, however, did not only include the divided capital but also the Rhein-Main region where the reception was equally well-attended and well-remembered, with this interesting retrospective on display. Traveling from Köln, to Bonn in quick succession, overnighted in Wiesbaden (now a Dorint but then the Hindenberg Hotel by the train station) before traveling to Frankfurt and then Berlin. Tens of thousands in Wiesbaden alone flocked to follow the US president's parade route.
The impact of the visit was hopeful and hysterical and in contrast to the efforts of French diplomatic efforts, helped to provide resistance to the slip of the balance of power, appeasement (Entspannungspolitik) and independence towards Europe as de Gaulle was hoping to accomplish. I would like to learn more of this “third pole” notion that France advocated and how that affected the political atmosphere at the time and to be displaced by a statement of solidarity.