A Passion for Justice

Dietrich Weitz, 75, saw John F. Kennedy speak in front of Schöneberg’s City Hall and in Dahlem.

Jun 06, 2013

Jurist und Zeitzeuge Weitz: "Kennedy machte uns Mut"
Dietrich Weitz, a law student at the time, and later a judge, said, "Kennedy gave us hope in the end – and he gave us courage." Image Credit: Bernd Wannenmacher
Kennedys Fahrt entlang der Dahlemer Allee "Unter den Eichen" konnte Dietrich Weitz im Bild festhalten
Dietrich Weitz took pictures of President Kennedy's drive down the boulevard Unter den Eichen. Image Credit: Dietrich Weitz

“I vividly recall Kennedy’s visit, the mood among the crowd. After all, it was a major event at the time. I saw Kennedy not once, not twice, but three times on the day of his visit: Once at the Schöneberg city hall, when I heard his speech, then again, when he was driving by along the Unter den Eichen boulevard, and finally again, on Garystrasse, in Dahlem. I even still have pictures of him driving by!


We also felt that his visit was long overdue, two years after the Wall went up; some people had definitely started to hold the long delay against him. And not just him, but Adenauer, too.

But Kennedy gave us hope in the end – and he gave us courage: the courage to keep going, the courage to endure our fate as a locked-in city. ‘Ich bin ein Berliner,’ he said that day, and we knew what he meant: I’m one of you!”

About the witness

Dietrich Weitz, 75, studied law at Freie Universität from 1957 to 1961. Growing up in the “Soviet-occupied zone,” as he still calls it, he couldn’t gain admission to secondary school – the authorities wanted to give Weitz, the son of an academic, a hard time.

“So I moved to Berlin by myself once I was done with 8th grade,” he explains. He enrolled in an academic secondary school in the Steglitz district in hopes of earning a diploma that would get him into a university. “I was a country boy alone in the big city; it was tough at first,” he says.

But he struggled through it, and throughout his studies and his later career in law – among other things, he served as a judge at the Regional Court, where he decided construction cases valued in the millions – he never lost touch with friends and acquaintances in the East.

Now, in retirement, Weitz’s world looks different. He organizes day trips to the surrounding area – and he enjoys his role as an active grandfather and sought-after companion to his many grandchildren, who live all over the world, from Barcelona to Singapore.

Read more about the witness in the magazine wir, the magazine for Freie Universität alumni (PDF).