Sunday, June 23, 2013


June 23, 2013


Bonn/Cologne, West Germany (JFK+50) President John F. Kennedy arrived in Bonn 50 years ago today, June 23, 1963, the 1st of a 10 day European journey.

This was the 8th time President Kennedy had traveled outside the United States during his presidency.

JFK arrived at 9:50 a.m. local time and was greeted by West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer* at the Bonn-Cologne airport.

Chancellor Adenauer said:

"Wherever you go you will become aware of the feelings of gratitude and friendship the Germans have for the American people."

*Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967) was born in Cologne.  He studied law at Freiburg, Munich and Bonn Universities before his service as mayor of Cologne from 1917 to 1933.  He was dismissed by the Nazis because of his political views and principles.  He served as Chancellor of West Germany from 1949 to October 1963.  His funeral service in Cologne was attended by LBJ.

President Kennedy responded:

"I am grateful for your invitation and I am happy to be here.  Our unity was forged in a time of danger; it must be maintained in a time of peace.

I have come to this country, the most populous in Western Europe, to express the respect of the people of the United States for the German peoples' industry and their initiative, for their culture and their courage.

Together we look forward to a new future.  Former foes have become faithful friends.  Your safety is our safety, your liberty is our liberty.

I have also pay tribute to a great...statesman, an architect of unity, a champion of liberty, a friend of the American people--Chancellor Konrad Adenauer."

JFK and Konrad Adenauer

About an hour later, JFK spoke at Cologne's Rathaus** after signing the Golden Book.***

President Kennedy said...

"It is a pleasure and an honor to sign the Golden Book of this ancient city.  I bring you greetings from the citizens of America, including the citizens of Cologne, Minnesota, Cologne, New Jersey and even Cologne, Texas.

It is...appropriate that I come to a city...(which) is not only an ancient German city, it is also an ancient European city, a city which, since Roman times, has played a special role in preserving Western culture, and Western religion, and Western civilization.

I come to Cologne to see the best of the past and the most promising of the future.  May I greet you with the old Rhenish saying, "Koelle Alaaf."

                  Cologne, Germany
         Photo by Politikaner (2010)

**Rathaus, located in Cologne,Germany's oldest city hall dating back 900 years.

***The Golden Book contains the signatures of the special guests of the city.

At 1:30 p.m., President Kennedy spoke from the steps of City Hall.  He said...

"I am very proud to come from my own capital of Washington to the capital of the Federal Republic.

I am proud of the fact that...the United States...has found it possible to play a significant part in the great fight for freedom all around the globe.

We will keep this world free until the day comes, as Thomas Jefferson predicted...that the disease of liberty...spreads throughout the world.

In the last 100 years, 6 million Germans have...come to the United States.  Today there are 25 million Americans of German descent.

The city of Bonn is the capital of the free world.  Because of the efforts of the Chancellor and all of the German people it will continue to be a center of the free world.  I salute you."

Later in the afternoon, JFK spoke to the staff of the American Embassy in the Plittersdorf Theater at Bad Godesberg.****

The President said...

"I hope those of you who are German citizens feel that in working with us so closely, you are also working for the welfare of your own country and the security and freedom of the West.

This is an outpost...of freedom...and it is essential that we maintain the closest relations...with the Federal Republic.

Thank you very much for what you are doing."

****Bad Godesberg is a district of Bonn on the west bank of the Rhine which houses the majority of foreign embassies.

JFK concluded the 1st day of his European trip with a dinner at the Palais Schaumburg***** in Bonn. 

After a toast to the President of the United States by Chancellor Adenauer, JFK paid tribute to the mutual decision of the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany after WWII to rebuild a free and democratic Germany.  

JFK said this decision made by President Truman and sustained by President Eisenhower "was essential to the security of Western Europe and to the security of the United States."

JFK proposed a toast to the Chancellor...

"His example, precept, and guidance serves us as well in 1963 as it did a decade ago.  I hope all of you will join in drinking with me to his prosperity and very good health."

                    Palais Schaumburg
                        Bonn, Germany
                   Photo by Leit (2006)

*****Palais Schaumburg was the official residence of the Chancellor of West Germany from 1949 to 1976.  It was built before 1860.


"Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, John F. Kennedy," United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1964.