Kennedy in Berlin: Politik, Kultur und Emotionen im Kalten Krieg (review)
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Reviewed by
Andreas W. Daum, Kennedy in Berlin: Politik, Kultur und Emotionen im Kalten Krieg. Paderborn, Germany: Schöningh, 2003. 271 pp. $24.90.

Andreas W. Daum incorporates his micro-history of John F. Kennedy's eight hours in West Berlin on 26 June 1963 into a broader framework of the interdependence of politics, culture, and public opinion. Kennedy's triumphal ride through West Berlin offers a good example of the interplay between realpolitik and culture. The staging of politics and the mobilization of emotions through symbolic acts played a major role during the Cold War. For this reason, Daum not only evaluates diplomatic documents from twenty-two archives in the United States and Germany, but is also interested in symbols, images, language, and ideas as historical factors (p. 205).

Following a cursory review of Kennedy's policy on Germany and Berlin and of Berlin's role in the evolving Cold War, Daum provides a detailed discussion of the Berlin trips of Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy in 1961 and 1962, as well as Charles de Gaulle's visit to West Germany in September 1962 (following Konrad Adenauer's visit to France in July 1962), setting the stage for the first trip by a U.S. president to Berlin after 1945.

Daum describes the complex domestic and foreign policy challenges facing the Kennedy administration in the spring and summer of 1963—circumstances that made the president's trip to Europe a risky undertaking. In Italy and Great Britain—the [End Page 124] two countries in addition to West Germany and Ireland that Kennedy and his entourage visited—the domestic situation was also unfavorable. In Italy the Communists had obtained more than 25 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections in late April on a platform that, among other things, opposed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the presence of U.S. missiles in the country. The British political landscape was dominated in early June by the forced resignation of John Profumo, who had been involved in a sex scandal and lied to Parliament about it, severely damaging the authority of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

Daum sees three main objectives of Kennedy's European trip. First, the president wanted to demonstrate the unity of the transatlantic community in the face of growing obstreperousness on the part of French President Charles de Gaulle (as France was not included in the itinerary). After the French-German Elysée Treaty of January 1963, U.S. officials feared that de Gaulle would seek to undermine American hegemony in Europe. Second, Kennedy was hoping to convince the West European governments to support his détente policy with Moscow and, in particular, his quest for a nuclear test ban treaty. On 10 June, shortly before leaving Washington for Europe, Kennedy had given a "peace speech" proposing to recast U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. Third, Kennedy was eager to reduce the large and growing U.S. balance-of-payments deficit (p. 71).

Kennedy's visit, as Daum convincingly argues, was choreographed and implemented like a theater play. To make the president's stay in West Berlin a success, U.S. planners concentrated on the "Primat der Sichtbarkeit" (p. 103). They took steps to ensure, in cooperation with the media and television stations, that Kennedy would be widely seen and that reports on his visit would be disseminated around the globe by the mass media. More than 1,500 journalists had registered for the event. Kennedy's visit was one of the early magical moments of live coverage on West German television—in fact, it was the first joint live report ever broadcast by ARD and ZDF, the two main television stations in West Germany. The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) network in the United States sent more than 100 special correspondents to West Berlin.

Despite the month-long planning for the visit, the script was abandoned on 26 June shortly after 1:00 p.m. during Kennedy's speech at the Rathaus Schöneberg. Drawing on new evidence, Daum tells a fascinating story that has been little known even among Kennedy experts (pp. 120–127). When the president began his speech, he...