Sunday, March 23, 2014

Germany's Willy Brandt recalls JFK

Willy Brandt: People and Politics - The Years 1960-1975 - Translated from the German by J. Maxwell Brownjohn - Little, Brown and Co., - 1976  pps 90-92

“Anything is possible in this place. Better get out of here as soon as possible.”

….A year later on the afternoon of Friday, 22 November 1963, my wife and I returned to Berlin from Africa. At about 7:30 p.m. a journalist friend called to say that an attempt had been made on Kennedy’s life in Dallas, and that he might already be dead.

 Switching on the news, we soon heard these sad tidings confirmed. I drove to see General James Polk, the US Commandant, and express my condolences. After that, the television studio. Then to the Rathaus. That same November night, unsummoned by officialdom or a political party but responding to a student initiative, tens of thousands of my fellow-citizens assembled in the Rathaus square, most of them young and many carrying torches. Speaking, extempore, I said: The Americans have lost the President of whom it was believed by so many that he would be able to lead us firmly along the road to a just peace and a better life in this world. But we in Berlin grieve because we have lost our best friend . . . I myself am profoundly moved and shocked tonight because I fell that I have lost someone - as, indeed, I have - - with whom I was privileged to consort in trust and friendship.

Many flowers were deposited on the Rathaus steps next day. That evening the people of Berlin put candles in their windows as they had long done on special occasions, notably to symbolize the unity of divided families on Christmas Eve.

 Our sorrow in the West was matched in the East. Concern and dismay could be observed throughout the globe. Seldom before, in a torn and divided world, had a political leader, so ably succeeded in kindling people’s hopes for a brighter future. The citizens of East and West, not only in our partitioned land but in the communist-dominated world, together with those of the young and non-aligned nations, shared our feeling that John F. Kennedy was a man with a deep and genuine commitment to world peace - a man to be trusted..........

 On 24 November I flew to America to pay my last respects to President Kennedy, I met Jean Monnet on the plane from New York to Washington, which was also carrying Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and other mourners. Many of them recalled the atmosphere that had succeeded the Reichstag fire. I was greeted at the airport by Klaus Schutz, who had just concluded an official visit, accompanied by three Berlin schoolchildren who had seen the President at the White House some days earlier. Schutz was greatly concerned. Watching television a few hours before, he had witnessed the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by bar-owner Jack Ruby while remanded in custody.  

Schutz: Anything is possible in this place. Better get out of here as soon as possible.  

. . .While I was attending the funeral ceremony as a friend of the family, the square in front of the Rathaus in Berlin was renamed Kennedy-Platz. That afternoon, the new President, Lyndon B. Johnson, who had been hurriedly sworn-in, received foreign-guests at the State Department. I was talking to King Baudouin, when the head of protocol came with a message from Jacqueline Kennedy, inviting me to call at the White House. After greeting me, Robert Kennedy left me alone with the President’s widow. I found her no less courageous than she had seemed to the entire world when tragedy struck at Dallas. Bobby saw me to the car. I guessed that he was afraid I might ask who had really killed his brother.

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