Glorious Shots of JFK’s Trip to Berlin 50 Years Ago

The Photo Blog
June 27 2013 9:00 AM

Fifty Years Ago, JFK Said He Was a Berliner

BERLIN—June 26, 1963.
BERLIN—June 26, 1963.

Ulrich Mack

Fifty years ago this week, during a speech that marked American solidarity to the people of West Germany, John F. Kennedy said the now famous line “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

The statement, made nearly two years after the Berlin Wall had been erected, marked a decisive moment in Cold War history and capped Kennedy’s four-day State Visit to Germany, from June 23 to 26, 1963.

On assignment for the German magazine Quick, 28-year-old photographer Ulrich Mack took along his six Leica cameras and set about to document Kennedy’s trip.

BERLIN—June 26, 1963.
BERLIN—June 26, 1963.

Ulrich Mack

COLOGNE, Germany—June 26, 1963.
COLOGNE, Germany—June 26, 1963.

Ulrich Mack

WIESBADEN/FRANKFURT, Germany—June 25, 1963.
WIESBADEN/FRANKFURT, Germany—June 25, 1963.

Ulrich Mack

Advertisement

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of that trip, Hirmer Publishers has put out a book, Kennedy in Berlin distributed by the University of Chicago Press, with 120 of Mack’s black-and-white images, many of which have never been published. The photographs follow Kennedy as he traveled through Cologne, Bonn, Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, and West Berlin.

The sections of the book are broken down by city visit and list the president’s extensive daily itinerary. Mack and his cameras seemed to be everywhere, documenting Kennedy’s visit to Checkpoint Charlie, his public addresses, various motorcade processions, meetings with dignitaries, and shots of the crowds that numbered well into the hundreds of thousands on hand to listen to the famous speech in Berlin.

While the photographs tell a detailed and thorough story of the trip, there is also a strong sense of the tragedy that would happen five months later when Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas; it’s hard to see a photograph of Kennedy in a motorcade and feel otherwise.

BERLIN—June 26, 1963.
BERLIN—June 26, 1963.

Ulrich Mack

BERLIN—June 26, 1963.
BERLIN—June 26, 1963.

Ulrich Mack

BERLIN—June 26, 1963.
BERLIN—June 26, 1963.

Ulrich Mack

BERLIN—June 26, 1963.
BERLIN—June 26, 1963.

Ulrich Mack

BERLIN—June 26, 1963.
BERLIN—June 26, 1963.

Ulrich Mack

BERLIN—June 26, 1963.
BERLIN—June 26, 1963.

Ulrich Mack

BERLIN—June 26, 1963.
BERLIN—June 26, 1963.

Ulrich Mack

BERLIN—June 26, 1963.
BERLIN—June 26, 1963.

Ulrich Mack

BERLIN—June 26, 1963.
BERLIN—June 26, 1963.

Ulrich Mack

The wide shots of the crowds give the viewer a glimpse of both the emotion of the event while also maintaining a sense of order. There is also a bit of foreshadowing as some images catch a glimpse of participants raising their cameras in the air, similar to the ubiquitous shots of raised cellphones today.

The wide shots are nicely mixed with images shot at very close range. While they aren’t as private as an official presidential photographer might achieve, there are plenty of intimate moments of Kennedy leaning in to communicate with the crowds, sharing a moment with a German soldier or simply standing alone at a microphone.

During an interview with the BBC, Mack said the collection of photographs, “… was the best work I’ve ever done.” He added, “It was very warm and I was just searching for the best picture.”

To purchase the book, visit the University of Chicago Press website.

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The NFL Has No Business Punishing Players for Off-Field Conduct. Leave That to the Teams.

Meet the Allies the U.S. Won’t Admit It Needs in Its Fight Against ISIS

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Medical Examiner

How to Stop Ebola

Survivors might be immune. Let’s recruit them to care for the infected.

History

America in Africa

The tragic, misunderstood history of Liberia—and why the United States has a special obligation to help it fight the Ebola epidemic.

New GOP Claim: Hillary Clinton’s Wealth and Celebrity Are Tricks to Disguise Her Socialism

Why the Byzantine Hiring Process at Universities Drives Academics Batty

Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 3:29 PM The Fascinating Origins of Savannah, Georgia’s Distinctive Typeface
  News & Politics
History
Sept. 23 2014 11:45 PM America in Africa The tragic, misunderstood history of Liberia—and why the United States has a special obligation to help it fight the Ebola epidemic.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Education
Sept. 23 2014 11:45 PM Why Your Cousin With a Ph.D. Is a Basket Case  Understanding the Byzantine hiring process that drives academics up the wall.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 23 2014 11:37 PM How to Stop Ebola Could survivors safely care for the infected?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?