Lifting children to freedom over the barbed wire – should we choose freedom now?

June 17, 2018

August, 1961. First the barbed wire went up surrounding West Berlin, separating those in the Russian sector, and East Germany, from those in the French, British and U.S. sectors, an island of non-communist rule in a sea of communists.

The famous wall of concrete, steel and barbed wire would be built soon. Germans living in Berlin were sometimes trapped by arbitrary lines on a map, lines that meant the difference between freedom and a communist dictatorship.

Why am I thinking of this now? This photo, from the U.S. Information Agency, in the files of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The photo tells a sad story, that should never be repeated.

Berlin residents pass children over the barbed wire separating the free West Berlin from Soviet-occupied West Berlin. August 1961. U.S. National Archives image, from U.S. Information Agency.

Berlin residents pass children over the barbed wire separating the free West Berlin from Soviet-occupied West Berlin. August 1961. U.S. National Archives image, from U.S. Information Agency.

The guard, a “Vopo,” looked the other way. And that made all the difference in that child’s life.

Caption for photo from USIA, on the back of the photo.

Caption for photo from USIA, on the back of the photo.

Why does this image call out to me now, as if from the voice of that child, pleading for help? Does it call to you, too?

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Quote of the Moment: John Kennedy, citizen of Berlin, June 26, 1963 (54 years ago)

June 26, 2017

Rare color photograph of President John Kennedy addressing a crowd in the then-divided city of Berlin, June 26, 1963

Rare color photograph of President John Kennedy addressing a crowd in the then-divided city of Berlin, June 26, 1963

Let us remember ties that bind our nations in brotherhood with other nations, including especially the memorable speech of  U.S. President John F. Kennedy on June 26, in Berlin, in 1963.

From the Smithsonian Magazine site:

June 26, 1963: “Ich bin ein Berliner”

In West Berlin, President John F. Kennedy delivers the famous speech in which he declares, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Meaning literally “I am a citizen of Berlin,” the statement shows U.S. solidarity with democratic West Berlin, surrounded by communist territory.

View a video of President Kennedy’s speech at American Rhetoric, Top 100 Speeches.

Kennedy’s entire speech was good. It was well drafted and well delivered, taking advantage of the dramatic setting and the dramatic moment. John Kennedy well understood how to give a speech, too.

Below is most of the speech, nearly five minutes’ worth, from a YouTube file — another indication that schools need to open up their filters to allow at least some of the best YouTube material through:

Amazing to look at the massive crowd, and see no magnetometers were in use to check for weapons, and no significant barriers stood between the people and the speakers on the dais. Wouldn’t happen today. O, tempora, o, mores!

You may also want to note these posts:

German government photo and caption: The masses that greeted Kennedy in front of the West Berlin City Hall and throughout the city were jubilant. (© Press and Information Office of the Federal Government; Steiner)

German government photo and caption: The masses that greeted Kennedy in front of the West Berlin City Hall and throughout the city were jubilant. (© Press and Information Office of the Federal Government; Steiner)

Update: NBC News featured the speech on its network feed this evening.

 

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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Quote of the Moment: John Kennedy is a citizen of Berlin, June 26, 1963 (53 years ago)

June 26, 2016

Rare color photograph of President John Kennedy addressing a crowd in the then-divided city of Berlin, June 26, 1963

Rare color photograph of President John Kennedy addressing a crowd in the then-divided city of Berlin, June 26, 1963

Let us remember ties that bind our nations in brotherhood with other nations, including especially the memorable speech of  U.S. President John F. Kennedy on this day, in Berlin, in 1963.

From the Smithsonian Magazine site:

June 26, 1963: “Ich bin ein Berliner”

In West Berlin, President John F. Kennedy delivers the famous speech in which he declares, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Meaning literally “I am a citizen of Berlin,” the statement shows U.S. solidarity with democratic West Berlin, surrounded by communist territory.

View a video of President Kennedy’s speech at American Rhetoric, Top 100 Speeches.

Kennedy’s entire speech was good. It was well drafted and well delivered, taking advantage of the dramatic setting and the dramatic moment. John Kennedy well understood how to give a speech, too.

Below is most of the speech, nearly five minutes’ worth, from a YouTube file — another indication that schools need to open up their filters to allow at least some of the best YouTube material through:

You may also want to note these posts:

German government photo and caption: The masses that greeted Kennedy in front of the West Berlin City Hall and throughout the city were jubilant. (© Press and Information Office of the Federal Government; Steiner)

German government photo and caption: The masses that greeted Kennedy in front of the West Berlin City Hall and throughout the city were jubilant. (© Press and Information Office of the Federal Government; Steiner)

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Quote of the Moment: John Kennedy, June 26, 1963 (51 years ago)

June 26, 2014

Rare color photograph of President John Kennedy addressing a crowd in the then-divided city of Berlin, June 26, 1963

Rare color photograph of President John Kennedy addressing a crowd in the then-divided city of Berlin, June 26, 1963

On the day the U.S. and Germany meet in Brazil in the World Cup, let us remember the ties that bind our nations together, including especially the memorable speech of  U.S. President John F. Kennedy on this day, in Berlin, in 1963.

From the Smithsonian Magazine site:

June 26, 1963: “Ich bin ein Berliner”

In West Berlin, President John F. Kennedy delivers the famous speech in which he declares, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Meaning literally “I am a citizen of Berlin,” the statement shows U.S. solidarity with democratic West Berlin, surrounded by communist territory.

View a video of President Kennedy’s speech at American Rhetoric, Top 100 Speeches.

Kennedy’s entire speech was good. It was well drafted and well delivered, taking advantage of the dramatic setting and the dramatic moment. John Kennedy well understood how to give a speech, too.

Below is most of the speech, nearly five minutes’ worth, from a YouTube file — another indication that schools need to open up their filters to allow at least some of the best YouTube material through:

You may also want to note these posts:

German government photo and caption: The masses that greeted Kennedy in front of the West Berlin City Hall and throughout the city were jubilant. (© Press and Information Office of the Federal Government; Steiner)

German government photo and caption: The masses that greeted Kennedy in front of the West Berlin City Hall and throughout the city were jubilant. (© Press and Information Office of the Federal Government; Steiner)

This is an encore post.

This is an encore post.


Berlin Wall in the U.S., the FDR Library

March 31, 2014

"Freedom from Fear," sculpture made from cutouts of sections of the Berlin Wall, photo by gwenvasil, FDR Home & Presidential Library Hyde Park, NY, October 20, 2013.

“Freedom from Fear,” sculpture made from cutouts of sections of the Berlin Wall, photo by gwenvasil, FDR Home & Presidential Library Hyde Park, NY, October 20, 2013.

Interesting, perhaps somewhat silly sculpture, found on the grounds of the Roosevelt Family estate in Hyde Park, New York, near the FDR Library and Museum.

Unless and until one knows the rest of the story.

  • These rather free form human forms, covered in what looks like graffiti, were cut from sections of the Berlin Wall, after the collapse of East Germany.
  • This is close to the bust of FDR’s ally in war for peace, Winston Churchill.  Appropriate, because,
  • Sculpture was created by Churchill’s granddaughter, Edwina Sandys.
  • Actually, these  sculptures were arranged together in a suite, in an area now known as Freedom Court
    • “In 2007, a new dimension was added to this hallowed ground by the construction of the Freedom Court. In honor of the friendship between the two legendary leaders, Edwina was instrumental in commissioning a bronze bust of Winston Churchill by sculptor Oscar Nemon, to be placed opposite one of FDR already in existence. The two sculptures flank the entrance to the court so that now and forever the two old wartime allies will be able to look at each other in a dynamic ‘outdoor room’ made of trees and shrubs.”Edwina’s ‘BreakFree’ now stands center stage in the Freedom Court, bearing witness to the ideals these great statesmen stood for, and bringing all three sculptures together in a magical web of connectedness.”
  • Segments of the Berlin Wall from which these cutouts came now stand in Fulton, Missouri, at the National Churchill Museum — the cutout figures were christened “BreakFree” by Edwina Sandys; the wall, from which they came, is called “BreakThrough.”

A few parts of the Berlin Wall are displayed across the U.S.  At Fulton, Missouri, are eight segments, made into liberating art by Edwina Sandys; at Hyde Park, New York, the cutouts from those segments form another artwork dedicated to freedom.  Other pieces of the wall and one of the guard towers, can be seen at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Nice touch to borrow the phrase from FDR’s “Four Freedoms” speech for the pedestal.

I found this photo from a Tweet from the FDR Library earlier today, alerting people to the collection of photos at the Flickr site of gwenvasil.  Follow the links, you’ll find other photos worth serious pondering.

More:


August 13, 1961: Berlin Wall

August 13, 2012

51 years ago today.

Soviet-bloc communism disabused us of a lot of ideas, including pointing out that when the amplification was turned up a lot, even Robert Frost could be wrong in the voice of his farmer and neighbor character, because high, concrete and concertina wire fences don’t make good neighbors.

A rock wall in Vermont, like the one Robert Frost wrote about -Wikimedia image

A rock wall in Vermont, like the one Robert Frost wrote about -Wikimedia image

Of course, even in demonstrating Frost in error, the communists made the opening clause of “Mending Fences” more poignant: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall . . .”

Residents of Berlin awoke on August 13, 1961, to discover that the Soviet-dominated East Germany had begun constructing a wall across Berlin, to keep East Berlin residents from escaping the clutches of communism and walking to freedom in West Berlin.

This year I saw a mock up of part of the Berlin Wall next to an exhibit honoring Winston Churchill at the Trout Museum of Art in Appleton, Wisconsin.  A few days later I saw actual portions of the wall, mounted for permanent display at the National Churchill Museum on the Churchill Center in Fulton, Missouri.  A few days later, I saw more sections of the wall, with one of the 300+ guard towers, at the Newseum, in Washington, D.C.  On Each occasion I was reminded of my own  trip to the Wall in 1987, finding next to the boarded-up Reichstag eight wreaths, honoring the eight people who were known to have died trying to cross the wall in the previous six months.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.  That something is freedom.

Please see other Bathtub posts on the topic:

And remember the poet’s telling, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”

A wall Robert Frost would not love - Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz, November 1975, from West Berlin - Wikimedia photo

A wall Robert Frost would not love – Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz, November 1975, from West Berlin – Wikimedia photo


August 13, 1961: The Berlin Wall’s 50th anniversary

August 13, 2011

August keeps handing us these dates:  How should the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall be remembered?

AP reports in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the current mayor of Berlin said we must use the Wall to remember that we must stand up for democracy.  Ceremonies in Berlin marked the anniversary and the creation of a new museum there.  I wrote before:

August 13 . . . [marks the 50th] “anniversary” of the erection of the Berlin Wall, the totem of the Cold War that came down in 1989, pushing the end of the Cold War. Residents of Berlin awoke on this day in 1961 to find the communist government of East Germany erecting what would become a 96-mile wall around the “western quarters” of the city — not so much to lay siege to the westerners (that had been tried in 1948, frustrated by the Berlin Airlift) as to keep easterners from “defecting” to the West. The Brandenburg Gate was closed on August 14, and all crossing points were closed on August 26.

From 1961 through 1991 1989, teachers could use the Berlin wall as a simple and clear symbol for the differences between the communist Eastern Bloc, the Soviet Union and her satellite states, and the free West, which included most of the land mass of Germany, England, France, Italy, the United States and other free-market nations — the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries. I suspect most high school kids today know very little about the Wall, why it was there, and what its destruction meant, politically.

This era of history is generally neglected in high school. Many courses fail to go past World War II; in many courses the Cold War is in the curriculum sequenced after the ACT, SAT and state graduation examinations, so students and teachers have tuned out.

But the Wall certain had a sense of drama to it that should make for good lessons. When I visited the wall, in early 1988, late at night, there were eight fresh wreaths honoring eight people who had died trying to cross the Wall in the previous few weeks (in some places it was really a series of walls with space in between to make it easier for the East German guards to shoot people trying to escape) — it’s an image I never forget. Within a year after that, East Germans could travel through Hungary to visit the West, and many “forgot” to return. Within 18 months the wall itself was breached.

The Wall was a great backdrop for speeches, too — President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin in June 1963, and expressed his solidarity with the walled-in people of both West and East Berlin, with the memorable phrase, “Ich bin ein Berliner, which produced astounding cheers from the tens of thousands who came to hear him. There are a few German-to-English translators who argue that some of the reaction was due to the fact that “Berliner” is also an idiomatic phrase in Berlin for a bakery confection like a jelly doughnut — so Kennedy’s words were a double entendre that could mean either “I am a citizen of Berlin,” or “I am a jelly doughnut.”  [Be sure to see the comments . . .  from Vince Treacy (9/28/2010).]  Ronald Reagan went to the same place Kennedy spoke to the Berlin Wall, too, to the Brandenburg Gate, in his famous June 1987 speech which included a plea to the Soviet Union’s Premier Mikhail Gorbachev: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

What do we do appropriately with such memory?

What does the Berlin Wall, and its demise, mean to us today?  What should it mean?


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