Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kennedy didn't say he was a donut! "Ich bin ein Berliner" means just what Kennedy meant - "I am a Berliner"

I love how these CIA-spread myths end up as the gospel truth, when they are nothing of the sort. Even Keith Olbermann fell for this one.

No, Kennedy did not say he was a donut.

He said, "Ich bin ein Berliner." And if you look up Berliner in a German dictionary, you will find that while donut is one meaning, the other meaning, the one Kennedy was obviously saying, is this:

"to be born in Berlin; to be a native Berliner; to be Berlin-born"
I am never surprised to hear the ignorant say Kennedy said this "wrong," when he didn't. But my heart sank when good ol' Keith Olbermann fell for the disinformation. Wow. I guess if a few people say it, it's suddenly true, eh?

Will all of you reading this please help spread the TRUTH about what Kennedy said? No doubt this will come up in the next few days as Obama prepares his own version of such a speech.

By the way - if you've never seen this speech, enjoy.

The Germans knew what he was saying. Here's the transcript of the full speech. It's a good one.

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' sic 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 decades.

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!"

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, this kind of thing is extremely tiresome and once it gets embedded in people's minds, it is very difficult to dislodge.

I think it was Mark Twain who said: "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

Thank you for the video clip, Lisa. I remember watching this on TV at the time. JFK was an electrifying public speaker. Even he was taken aback with the reception he got from the citizens of Berlin, and I believe he turned to someone at the end of his speech and remarked that they (the Berliners) would have pulled down the Berlin Wall if he had asked them to do so.

Kennedy wasn't perfect - he was, after all, just another human being with all the weaknesses and foibles that entails - but since his death his enemies, of whom there were and are many, have spread so much false information about him that the real person is in danger of disappearing behind a fog of lies and deception.

By the way, even if Kennedy had made a grammatical faux pas, the Germans certainly understood what he really meant. And back then most Europeans (in fact many people throughout the world) had a great admiration for America - not for its military might and economic power, but for what America funamentally stood for and represented. Sadly that no longer holds true. The present regime seems to think that threatening people for no good reason, other than that you can do it, is the way to go. We have come a long way (all downhill) since the days of John F.Kennedy, which were indeed "one brief shining moment".

6:56 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

For those who still insist some German teacher they had insisted Kennedy called himself a donut, please read this, from this site:

Several years ago when I visited Germany, I found myself having drinks with a German journalist who struck me as fairly intelligent, so I asked her the question. She said that it is certainly not true. President Kennedy said the phrase absolutely correctly, although possibly with a thick American accent. It seems that the German language is simply not that trivial — it has subtleties that very few non-native speakers grasp. She said that if President Kennedy had said "Ich bin Berliner," he would have sounded silly because with his heavy accent he couldn't possibly have come from Berlin. But by saying "Ich bin ein Berliner," he actually said "I am one with the people of Berlin." This is her exact translation as best I can remember it.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was in Junior High School in Minneapolis (actually, Carl Sandburg in Golden Valley) we had to take German as our foreign language.

Our teacher talked at length about this address, and never indicated that JFK said he was a doughnut.

However, she did say that plans for JFK to repeat the speech in Frankfurt and Hamburg were canceled, due to potential confusion.

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article suddenly reminded me that when I was in Germany about ten years ago, one of my German friends asked me to get some cakes at the bakery shop. "Berliners or something like that," she said. I asked her about JFK's so-called gaffe and she replied that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the phrase "Ich bin ein Berliner".

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's very interesting how misunderstandings like this arise. Myself, I have much concern about these sorts of misunderstandings with all the growth on online translators or that new technology Google is working on that creates logs of political speeches. What happens when the speech is inaccurately logged, or when the technology is applied to global politics. Then a mistake is made, but this time instead of being "donut" it could be something taken as an insult against another country, which could lead to heated conflict.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Thanks, all, and very funny, Dave. ;-)

3:27 PM  
Blogger Eugenian said...

You're right about everything but the CIA. They don't spread donut gossip; they're way too busy with more nefarious activities.

2:44 AM  

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