Helping with Setup

Peter Arndt, 72, was one of the crew that built the stage where Kennedy gave his speech. It gave him a chance to get closer to Kennedy than would be possible today.

Jun 04, 2013

Peter Arndt, 72, half damals mit, das imposante Bühnengerüst für Kennedys Rede vor dem Henry-Ford-Bau zu errichten.
Peter Arndt, 72, was one of the crew that built the stage where Kennedy gave his speech. Image Credit: Bernd Wannenmacher

“I was allowed to go everywhere during Kennedy’s visit. As a pipe fitter, I was given a colored pin. Security always let me through when they saw it. But from today’s standpoint especially, the measures were a joke overall. I don’t recall there being any serious checks.

During the speech in Dahlem, I sat on the steel structure we had built for the event, not far away from Kennedy and the professors.

Afterwards, some colleagues and I were curious, so we followed Kennedy into the Henry Ford Building. When we saw him, he had just collapsed. He was lying on a bench, probably in a lot of pain. The president had back problems, you know. At the time, the journalists didn’t catch so much as a hint of it. The university staff members who were there also looked like they didn’t know what to do.”

Read more: Behind the Scenes


About the Witness

Peter Arndt, 72, worked at Freie Universität until 2006. He had started working on campus as a pipe fitter not six months before Kennedy’s visit. He helped to build the imposing stage structure in front of the Henry Ford Building where the U.S. President gave his speech.