“Ich bin ein Berliner”
November 20, 2013
Photojournalist Ulrich Mack worked for the German magazine Quick (which in German means ‘live’ or ‘swift’) during the 1960s. He covered President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s four-day visit to Germany, June 23 to 26, 1963. JFK visited Cologne, Bonn, Hanau, Wiesbaden, Frankfurt and West Berlin in what Kennedy in Berlin — Mack’s previously unpublished collection of photographs – describes as an unprecedented event that followed a precise protocol.
An exception to what was planned became history in West Berlin, when Kennedy went off script before 450,000 people at Schöneberg City Hall, giving the famous Cold War speech that included the closing line: “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.” (I am a Berliner.)
The book is organized by city, each introduced by the hourly itinerary and followed by pages filled with Ulrich Mack’s black-and-white photos, including the ticker-tape procession down the main street of West Berlin with West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Willy Brandt, mayor of Berlin; and his stop at Checkpoint Charlie, the crossing point at the Berlin Wall between West and East Berlin, where Kennedy stands atop the observation deck. The book contains close to 100 photos selected by Ulrich Mack. Many are of Kennedy walking among massive crowds and passing them in a motorcade.
“They now rejoiced all the more, applauded, waved, pushed, and shoved to see a president who visibly enjoyed basking in the crowd’s adulation. As an aside, it should be noted that the Lincoln Continental that had been flown in was the same car in which Kennedy was shot in Dallas on November 22, 1963.”
Ulrich Mack got close enough to capture Kennedy’s relaxed, engaged expressions, his charismatic smile, as well as portraits of the people of the young Federal Republic of Germany hoping to glimpse the most powerful man in the world.
Photos of officials standing with Kennedy lack their identification, which is mildly frustrating.
Many books have been published this year in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. This book captures four famous days that occurred five months prior to that tragic event. With the secret service in their dark sunglasses walking beside Kennedy’s vehicle, or standing on the foot boards, or, as is one agent, peering out from the back seat of that Lincoln Continental — seated where Jackie Kennedy would ride in Dallas — they seem so ill equipped to protect JFK should the crowd, let alone a sniper, go after him.
Photographs in Kennedy in Berlin are by Ulrich Mack; essays in the book are by Jasper von Altenbockum, Egon Bahr and Hans-Michael Koetzle.