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

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution