Love struck: Photographs of JFK's visit to Berlin 50 years ago reveal a nation instantly smitten

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Photographer Ulrich Mack accompanied Kennedy on the entire trip. The results, published this month as Kennedy in Berlin, have mostly never been seen before and are an astonishing record of a watershed moment, says John Walsh.

Fifty years ago, in June 1963, the most powerful man in the world visited the Federal Republic of Germany. President John F Kennedy and his entourage landed at Cologne-Bonn airport on Sunday morning, 22 June. A mayoral reception, a speech to the huge Cologne crowd, mass in the cathedral, and the presidential motorcade swept off to Bonn, to meet the Federal Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer.

On Monday, Kennedy had talks with the German Federal President, Heinrich Lübke, with Willy Brandt (then mayor of West Berlin) and the German Peace Corps. On Tuesday he was helicoptered to Hanau, to address troops of the American 3rd Army Division, then driven to Frankfurt where he addressed a crowd on the Römerberg, before flying to Wiesbaden for talks with Vice Chancellor Ludwig Erhard and a motorcade to the Kurhaus for a reception hosted by the prime minister of Hesse.

So far, so unexciting – a predictable itinerary of meetings with dignitaries, diplomatic chats, lunches, dinners and hotel nights. Kennedy, by all accounts, wasn't a big fan of Germany in 1963: he looked askance at their post-war economic resurgence, their calls for reunification, their growing importance as a buffer against Eastern Europe. During his trip, Der Spiegel carried an article headed 'John F Kennedy doesn't like the Germans'. But by the end of his trip, something extraordinary had happened: Kennedy and the German people had fallen in love with each other.

In Cologne, in Bonn, in Frankfurt, in Wiesbaden, huge crowds had turned out to see the charismatic American president. At 46, Kennedy seemed a world away from the gaunt, saurian Chancellor Adenauer, from the venerable De Gaulle in France, Macmillan in England, Khrushchev in Russia. The Germans greeted him as a hope for the future, a decisive, libertarian, intellectual and, most crucially, young head of state who understood how much they hated living as a divided nation, half in Communist hands, a division symbolised by the Berlin Wall, built two years earlier.

They came out in their thousands to greet him. Among them was a 31-year-old photographer called Ulrich Mack, commissioned by Quick, a large-format illustrated magazine with a circulation of 1.2 million. Mack's brief was to accompany Kennedy on the entire trip, from touchdown at Cologne to departure from Berlin. He brought with him four Leica cameras with focal lengths of 28, 35, 50 and 75mm and miles of Tri-X film, and recorded the whole visit.

The results, published this month as Kennedy in Berlin, have mostly never been seen before. Quick published only six photographs; Kennedy didn't even make the cover. But they are an astonishing record of a watershed moment. Mack moves in close to the motorcade, to Kennedy's magnetic presence, to individual faces in the crowd – then moves miles back to capture the big picture, the multitude, the wide-open spaces, the granite blankness of the Berlin Wall, the seething multitude that fills all four sides of the shot. He pictures a line of German boy scouts sitting by the roadside with their American flags; the presidential car all but mobbed by US military; a row of hard-hatted construction workers waving from the top of a motorway sign.

And he was there on the magical final morning, when Kennedy flew into Berlin's Tegel airport. June 26 was fine and sunny. Emboldened by reports of massive crowds greeting Kennedy elsewhere, two million people swarmed into the streets of Berlin. Kennedy was driven to the Brandenburg Gate, and to a viewing platform from which to inspect the Berlin Wall. His motorcade inched through the hordes, who threw cascades of flowers, rice and torn paper at the presidential Lincoln.

At 12.50pm, at Schöneberg Hall before 450,000 enraptured Berliners, he made the most famous speech of his career: "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…" He called the Berlin Wall "the most obvious signal of the failure of the Communist system, dividing a people who wish to be joined together". And he concluded, "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'."

The crowd's applause was prolonged and deafening. Kennedy told them, effectively, that America was on their side against the Communists. These photographs record their delight. The Süddeutsche Zeitung ran the headline, 'The Guest Who Makes The Germans Ecstatic'. Kennedy, on his return, told his wife "I love Berlin" and later mused, "There are things in this world you can only believe if you've experienced them yourself, and with regard to which it is difficult to comprehend afterwards what has happened to you".

Unfortunately, we know exactly what happened to him. It occurred five months later, in Dallas. He died in the same Lincoln Continental that had taken him through the ocean of joyous faces in the streets of Berlin.

'Kennedy in Berlin' edited by Hans-Michael Koetzle (Hirmer) is published 24 June, £29.95

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments