Ich Bin ein Berliner: Beyond Jelly Doughnuts

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Debra Parcell


Delivered in the midst of the Cold Wa.r; John F. Kennedy's brief speech in front of the Berlin Wall proclaimed solidarity with the German people._Although the final words of the speech, "!ch bin ein Berliner", could theoretically have been interpreted to mean "I am a jelly doughnut", the crowds in attendance understood precisely his meaning. This paper will examine the background of the speech, Kennedy's reaction to the Berlin wall, and the authenticity of his sentiments, while discrediting the myth of misinterpretation. The significance of this speech lies in providing credibility with Berliners that would allow Kennedy to argue for coexistence with the Communists, and defusing potentially volatile East-West animosities, rather than debate over German syntax and jelly doughnuts.

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