Misconceptions: JFK’s “Ich Bin Ein Berliner”


“Ich bin ein Berliner” is a quotation from a June 26, 1963, speech given by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in support of the United States for West Germany after the Soviet-supported East Germany erected the Berlin Wall as a barrier to prevent movement between East and West.

An urban legend states that due to his use of the indefinite article einBerliner is translated as jelly doughnut, and that the population of Berlin was amused by the supposed mistake. However the phrase is actually standard German for “I am a Berliner”. Berlin residents generally do not refer to jelly doughnuts as Berliner. These are known as Berliner Pfannkuchen (“Berlin pancake”), are commonly shortened to Berliner in other areas of Germany, and  are simply called Pfannkuchen in Berlin.

According to the German History Museum, the theoretical ambiguity went unnoticed by Kennedy’s audience. The doughnut misconception has been repeated by media including the BBC (by Alistair Cooke in his Letter from America program), The Guardian,MSNBC,CNN,  Time magazine,  The New York Times;  and has been mentioned in several books about Germany written by English-speaking authors. (wiki)