JOHN F. KENNEDY
Ich bin ein Berliner
June 26, 1963
I am proud to come to this
city as the guest of your distinguished Mayor, who has
symbolized throughout the world the fighting spirit of
West Berlin. And I am proud to visit the Federal Republic
with your distinguished Chancellor who for so many years
has committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress,
and to come here in the company of my fellow American,
General Clay, who has been in this city during its great
moments of crisis and will come again if ever needed.
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."
I appreciate my interpreter translating my German!
There are many people in the world who really don't understand,
or say they don't, what is the great issue between the
free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin.
There are some who say that communism is the wave of the
future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who
say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists.
Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say
that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it
permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sie nach Berlin
kommen. Let them come to Berlin.
Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect,
but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people
in, to prevent them from leaving us. I want to say, on
behalf of my countrymen, who live many miles away on the
other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you,
that they take the greatest pride that they have been able
to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the
last 18 years. I know of no town, no city, that has been
besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality
and the force, and the hope and the determination of the
city of West Berlin. While the wall is the most obvious
and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist
system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction
in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not
only against history but an offense against humanity, separating
families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and
sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.
What is true of this city is true of Germany--real, lasting
peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German
out of four is denied the elementary right of free men,
and that is to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace
and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the
right to be free, including the right to unite their families
and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all
people. You live in a defended island of freedom, but your
life is part of the main. So let me ask you as I close,
to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes
of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of
Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom
everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice,
beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.
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. When that day finally comes, as it will,
the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in
the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two
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."