When he pronounced the sentence became mythical "Ich bin ein Berliner" 50 years ago in West Berlin (see video below), in the middle of the Cold War, it was not the first time that John F. Kennedy had been on German soil. The former president had already several times in Germany in his youth, at the time of the Third ReichAccording to Der Spiegel, according to his travel diaries and the letters sent to his relatives, he was fascinated by what he saw there.
For the first time, these unrecognized writings appear translated into German, gathered in the book John F. Kennedy - Unter Deutschen. Reisetagebücher und Briefe 1937-1945 (Among the Germans, Travel Notebooks and Letters 1937-1945) by Oliver Lubrich, professor of literature at the University of Bern. John F. Kennedy came to Germany three times during his youth.
First in the summer of 1937, accompanied by one of his university classmates. During their "big tour" which saw them roam Europe for three months, the two young men of 20 years visit Nazi Germany. At the beginning of August, he writes in his travel diary:
"Come to the conclusion that fascism is what Germany and Italy need."
On August 21, he wrote:
"The Germans are really good-that's why we fight against each other to protect ourselves."
A day later, he marvels about German highways:
"These are the best roads in the world."
Kennedy returned to Germany two years later, a few months before the start of the Second World War, to do research as part of his university thesis, and shortly after the capitulation, in the summer of 1945, this time as a reporter for English-language media. But again, he still seems fascinated by the Third Reich and Hitler. After having visited the Obersalzberg in Bavaria, the mountain on which Hitler had his "eagle's nest", he writes 1st August 1945:
"Whoever has visited these two places [the Obersalzberg and the Kehlsteinhaus, Ed] can easily imagine how Hitler will manage to escape the hatred of which he is today the object to be considered as the one of the most important personalities to have existed. "
In an interview with Deutschland Radio Kultur, Oliver Lubrich, author of JF Kennedy's travel book in Germany, nevertheless relativize the scope of these writings:
"He was not a [Hitler's] admirer, but I think what Susan Sontag later described as the morbid, erotic, and partly aesthetic fascination fascism also exerts on people who were not themselves -not even Nazis politically, fits Kennedy very well. "
Der Spiegel also recalls that Kennedy is not the only American traveler to succumb to this strange fascination with the way fascism was staged, citing for example the director Julien Bryan, who documented the daily life of the chiefs Nazis under the Third Reich, and Martha Dodd, the daughter of the American ambassador stationed in Berlin between 1933 and 1937, that his father nicknamed "the young Nazi", and who recounts his admiration for the Nazis in an autobiography titled Nice to meet you, Mr. Hitler!.