Kennedy and the Berlin Crisis

Berlin: Challenge to Kennedy

Source Material

Source: Aide memoire from Khruschev to Kennedy, June 1961

The peace treaty will specifically record the status of West Berlin as a free city, and the Soviet Union, like the other parties to the treaty, will, of course, strictly observe it and measures will also be taken to see to it that this status is also respected by the other countries. At the same time this will also mean the liquidation of the occupation régime in West Berlin with all the consequences arising from this. In particular, the questions of using land, water and air communications across the territory of the German Democratic Republic will have to be settled not otherwise than through appropriate agreements with the German Democratic Republic. This is only natural, since control over such communications is an inalienable right of any sovereign State.

Kennedy and Khrushchev meeting in 1961
PX 96-33:12 03 June 1961 President Kennedy meets with Chairman Khrushchev at the U. S. Embassy residence, Vienna. U. S. Dept. of State photograph in the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston.

Source: Kennedy Speech in response to the Aide Memoire sent by Khruschev

The real intent of the June 4 aide memoire is that East Berlin, a part of a city under 4-Power status, would be formally absorbed into the so-called German Democratic Republic while West Berlin, even though called a “free city,” would lose the protection presently provided by the Western Powers and become subject to the will of a totalitarian regime. Its leader, Herr Ulbricht, has made clear his intention, once this so-called “peace treaty” is signed, to curb West Berlin’s communications with the free world and to suffocate the freedom it now enjoys.

Source: Strategic Air Planning and Berlin

External link (pdf document). This is a copy of the now declassified documents that show that the US was preparing for a ‘First Strike’ option if the Berlin Crisis led to inevitable military conflict. This illustrates the level of expectation in the US camp. It helps to explain the reaction of Kennedy to the Cuban Missile Crisis and also the reason why the Soviet Union wanted to put missiles on Cuba in the first place.


Cold War
Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam ConferencesStalin and Truman: ideological differencesSoviet Satellite States
Cominform and ComeconUS Involvement in Europe Post WW2Truman Doctrine
Marshall PlanBizoniaBerlin Airlift
NATO: Origins and HistoryThe arms race and Mutually assured destructionSoviet rule in Hungary
DestalinizationHungarian RevolutionBerlin: Refugee Crisis
Khruschev's challenge to the west over Berlin1960: Paris SummitKennedy and the Berlin Crisis
Berlin WallPresident Kennedy visit to BerlinCuban Missile Crisis: Why were missiles there?
Cuban Missile Crisis: Why did Kennedy respond as he did?Cuban Missile Crisis: Resolution and analysis
Love Learning?

Subscribe to our Free Newsletter, Complete with Exclusive History Content