A child of the Airlift

Law student Barbara Sass-Viehweger, now 69, stood amid a close-packed crowd on the green in front of the Henry Ford Building.

Jun 05, 2013

Barbara Saß-Viehweger, 69, studierte an der Freien Universität Rechtswissenschaften und arbeitet noch heute als Anwältin und Notarin.
Barbara Sass-Viehweger, 69, studied law at Freie Universität from 1962 to 1967 and still works as an attorney today. Image Credit: Bernd Wannenmacher

“Days before Kennedy’s visit, the law students were barred from using our library. American security officers, gruff men, were in control of the building on Van’t-Hoff-Strasse. At the time, I was working at the library as a student assistant – so I actually had permission to enter anytime. But during those days in June 1963, there were no exceptions, not even for me.

We heard the speech from the Schöneberg city hall on the green behind the institute, packed together like sardines. Naturally, we cheered when Kennedy said, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.

As a child of the Airlift myself, I was already grateful to the Americans; an experience like the Berlin Blockade is a highly formative one, believe me. But seeing a U.S. president live and in person in Berlin at that time, that was really something special. Although I was standing so far back I could hardly see him. Kennedy was a little dot up on the stage.

If I were to imagine someone like Kennedy coming to Berlin again today, I would hope he would bring this message with him: You belong together, whether you come from East or West Germany. True, we’ve experienced the fall of the Wall and reunification, but even now, 20 years later, not everyone feels a real sense of belonging together. We need to change that.”

About the Witness

Barbara Sass-Viehweger, 69, was born in the state of Thuringia, but grew up in Berlin. She studied law at Freie Universität from 1962 to 1967 and still works as an attorney and notary today. She got out her old transcript (Studienbuch) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's visit.

Read more about the witness in the magazine wir, the magazine fü the Freie Universität Alumni (PDF).