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No Brandenburg Gate venue for Obama's Berlin rally

The parallels between Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy apparently are getting off-track in Germany.

German reports say that Obama will speak Thursday at Berlin’s Victory Column ratheVictory Column during the Love Parade in 2001r than at the city’s historic Brandenburg Gate a mile-and-a-half away. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others, objected to the Democratic presidential candidate using the site for what is essentially a campaign event.

(Update: The Obama campaign confirms that it will skip the Brandenburg Gate site but a venue still hasn't been chosen for the speech.)

It was near the Brandenburg Gate in June 1963 where President Kennedy was greeted by ecstatic crowds and gave his famous, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner' speech.

But it’s not just a Democratic venue. The Brandenburg Gate also is where President Reagan, in June 1987, uttered his famous demand to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to raze the barrier dividing Berlin: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Obama, who plans to visit Europe and the Middle East to burnish his foreign policy credentials, has said he didn’t want the location of his speech to trigger controversy. So the Victory Column site apparently is becoming the compromise.

And Obama isn’t being snubbed by Merkel, her people now claim. The Associated Press reports she'll meet Obama in Berlin on Thursday.

--Stuart Silverstein

Reuters photo of Victory Column in 2001 during "The Love Parade" by Fabrizio Bensch

 
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I want to thank Berlin and the German politikos with coming up with even a better solution then I thought possible for B’s big speech to Europe.

I think that the Victory Column in Pariser Platz
is a going to be a wonderful venue for Barack Obama.
(It’ll be interesting to see if Berlin can pull this off without a hitch.)

Let’s hope Barack has something to say worthwhile to the Europeans that plays to their 21st century needs, and also works for the Mid-Western voter in St. Louis, Missouri as well…

but personally?
I would go for the rock star speech…
totally focused on Europeans needs and American expectations for the next decade.
Give them what they want to hear. I would not hesitate to pull out all the bells and whistles.

Good Luck B
See you in Berlin !

Personally, the Brandenburg gate is more recognizable as a German or even a European landmark. The speech would be more memorable there. I've been to Berlin but never even seen this "Victory Column" and I'm not ever sure where it is.

This will be a great looking venue for the speech, no problem there.

One slight correction: Kennedy made his 1963 speech quite some distance from the Brandenburg Gate at the Rathaus Schöneberg (now borough hall for Tempelhof-Schöneberg), which was then serving as Berlin's main city hall because of the division of the city.

The victory column is a better looking site for TV (what's this all about anyhow?) and Wim Wenders fans ("Angels in Berlin") and allow for a far larger crowd to hear the speech in the strets of the Tiergarten.

I'm actually by chance going to be in berlin on the day he is to give his speach. Any ideas in terms of how difficult it would be to go hear it? or what time?

Maybe we should wonder about Congress men's trips? ONE just paid for a bunch of Congressmen to go to Rwanda where Peace Corps just announced.

Obama is all Harvard and Kennedy. Maybe he missed Kennedy's thing for special forces?

Tip for americans (@ Jeff Rosenberg):

It was a very clever move of Obama´s team:
The Victory Column is even better looking, less german cliché than the Brandenburger Tor.
As you can see in the picture, it is the place where the evening-party of the loveparade took place. every year.

It´s about 1,5 km west from Brandenburger Tor and Obama is looking directly to the Brandenburger Tor, thus getting camera shots above his shoulder over the crowd to the Branderburger Tor.

You can hardly miss the Victory Column, the place is called "Grosser Stern" and it´s a big conjunction.

According to the police of Berlin it will be very easy accessible (because Obama wants a large crowd).

@Steve Real

The Victory Column is not in "Pariser Platz". That is the place in front of Brandeburg Gate.

What a shock.

The liars at Top of the Ticket go through an entire article on this nonsense and fail to report that Bush himself called Merkel and asked her not to allow it.

You guys are worse that Pravda when it comes to your anti-Obama crusade.

Many newspapers have been erroneously reporting that John F. Kennedy gave his famous 1963 "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech near the Brandenburg Gate. That is not true! He gave that speech from the balcony of the Town Hall (Rathaus) in the Schoeneberg district of what was then West Berlin, miles from the Brandenburg Gate. (The Town Hall in Schoeneberg functioned as West Berlin's City Hall until the fall of the Berlin Wall.)

Am I the only one who thinks making campaign speeches while overseas is completely innaproriate? He isn't a President yet. Why is he making speeches and meeting with heads of state before he has even won? Did Kerry do this? I honestly can't remember.

Its amazing the amount of hoopla that has surrounded what should be a simple choice of venue. I think the German press have been obsessing about it for weeks now, even more than our own... (I didn't think that was possible!)

Everyone keeps talking about how big the crowd is going to be, but I wonder just how many people will really turn out for someone who isn't even President yet?

Why was there such a fuss over the Brandenburg Gate? They've held soccer telecasts and rock concerts there, unlike the Washington mall. But anyway, it's not the number of people who show up that will be important. It's what Obama says in his speech that will be important. And why shouldn't American politicians address Americans living abroad and the rest of the world? Do we not have common interests?

Press Release: Presidential Candidate Barack Obama to visit Tempelhof-Berlin, Germany

Presidential Candidate Barack Obama is to visit Tempelhof Airport during his stay in Berlin – before its untimely closure.

Probably influenced by pressure from the Mayor of Berlin Klaus Wowereit prevented Barack Obama´s speech in Tempelhof, a visit by the United States Presidential Candidate to the historic site is still on the agenda.

The extensive discussions in preparation for his visit have served to demonstrate that the future of Tempelhof is still an internationally controversial subject and that the Airport is a monument of historic importance.

No one has formulated this as succinctly as the veteran “candy bomber” Gail Halvorsen: “In America, we´ve got a symbol of freedom, it is called 'Statue of Liberty'. I believe that Tempelhof Airport is the German equivalent of the Statue of Liberty. Freedom in Germany began in Tempelhof during the years 1948 and 1949.”

Volker Perplies, representing the “Initiative to Promote Tempelhof Airport as part of the World Cultural Heritage” maintains that “ … Tempelhof and the Air Lift marked the final end of the Nazi era and guaranteed the creation of freedom for Berlin, Germany and the whole of Europe. Tempelhof is not only a symbol of freedom, Tempelhof and the Allied Air Lift mark the point at which the Allies, and especially the Americans, were no longer regarded as conquerors, but as friends.

And quite apart from this, Tempelhof is the world´s oldest Airport, characterised by the prominent British architect as “the Mother of all Airports!”, it is the third largest building in the world and was, for a long time, the central focus of the Cold War.”

Perplies continues: “ … and all this can still be authentically experienced as the Airport has remained unchanged over the years."

Anywhere else, a historical site such as this would be declared a national monument. But not in Berlin.

"Against the fierce resistance from citizens, federal government, economy, society and culture, the Berlin Senate decided to close the airport down and have it disappear from the world map. Officially this is necessary because of "legal risks for the construction of a new Airport Berlin (BBI). Unofficially it is suspected that the mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, follows the wishes of his coalition partner, the former East German communist party SED, now 'Linkspartei'", said Karl-Helmut E. Zermin.

Michael Paul of the United Action Group (www.be-4-tempelhof.de): “Even before the recent plebiscite had taken place, Mayor Wowereit had made it perfectly clear how he saw the situation. Whatever the outcome, he was determined to close Tempelhof.” In the event, more than 60% of the voters declared their preference to maintain Tempelhof, but the Senate was able to reduce the number of voters under the necessary quorum.

“Instead of the world famous Airport,” Paul continues “Berliners will be faced with a typical urban development with commeracial and residential areas.”

The hopes of all those in favour of Tempelhof now rest on whether the German Federal Government is prepared to decide the issue as, unlike any other monument, Tempelhof is not only of national importance. It is also internationally renowned and its fate can therefore not be left in the hands of local politicians.

In the meantime, the Federal Government and thousands of people from throughout the world have made their wish to save Tempelhof Airport known on the web site www.rescue-tempelhof.org. And this is merely one of the many facets of the interest shown well beyond the borders of Berlin and Germany.

So now expectations are focused on the Federal Chancellor Frau Merkel in the hope that she will be able to act decisively.

For further information, please contact: Volker Perplies, Tel. +49 (1 78) 6 61 21 58 http://www.be-4-tempelhof.com

Great place to give a speech to a left-wing German crowd. Too bad they can't vote!


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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