We did end up getting relatively close to the stage. My wife was clearly visible in a white blouse and colorful skirt in some photos in the papers. She covered me a bit.
I didn’t hear the ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech from the Schöneberg city hall, and I also only understood bits and pieces of the speech in Dahlem. I was a new arrival in West Berlin, and I couldn’t speak much English. That’s because I am actually from East Berlin. I grew up in Grünau. But in the East, I would not have been permitted to study at a university because I was the son of a commercial representative – a capitalist, as the authorities saw it.
To this day, I am grateful to those associated with Freie Universität who helped me get to West Berlin. They managed to get me a fake Swiss passport with my picture, a ticket for the West Berlin transit network, a little bit of Western money, and a sedative pill – if I hadn’t had that, I would probably have spilled the beans at the checkpoint. It made it possible for me to study in West Berlin.
When Kennedy promised to protect us, I was hugely relieved, believe me. But I hoped in vain that those living walled away in East Germany would also share in that relief. They ended up having to wait until 1989.”
About the witness
Arnulf Mrose, 74, studied mathematics at Freie Universität, where he also earned his doctorate, in the 1950s and 1960s. He worked for a time as a research assistant, but ultimately decided on a teaching career. The nicest thing about his studies: He met the woman who became his wife on campus in Dahlem. She took pictures during Kennedy’s visit; the slides have been preserved.