Kennedy Visits East Berlin, Recalls JFK

From Reuters

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy today made the first visit by a high-ranking U.S. politician to East Berlin since sweeping reforms over the last two months in East Germany.

In West Berlin earlier, Kennedy echoed his slain brother, President John F. Kennedy, proclaiming: "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner).

Kennedy was greeted at the wall by former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who hosted President Kennedy during his 1963 visit.

The senator drove through Checkpoint Charlie to East Berlin to meet East German church leaders.

He had no contact with Communist officials.

Instead, at a meeting in an evangelical church office, Kennedy asked churchmen who have been closely associated with the reform movement whether they believe that the Communist authorities would use force to crush the campaign for democracy.

Gottfried Forck, bishop of Brandenburg and other Protestant leaders, said that they do not know the answer but that there are grounds for hope.

According to church official Manfred Becker, Kennedy also asked how East Germans view their national identity and how many are interested in reunification with West Germany.

He was told that some view their state positively and that many want close relations for historical reasons.

On both sides of the Berlin Wall, the Massachusetts Democrat's visit was a low-key affair that attracted little attention.

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