Quotations: Germany, Berlin and the Berlin Wall

This page contains a collection of Cold War quotations, made by political leaders, notable figures and historians, pertaining to the two Germanys, the divided Berlin and the Berlin Wall. These quotations have been researched and compiled by Alpha History authors. We welcome contributions and suggestions for these pages. If you would like to submit a quote, please contact Alpha History.

“Should the German people lay down their arms, the Soviets… would occupy all eastern and south-eastern Europe, together with the greater part of the [German] Reich. All over this territory, which would be of an enormous extent, an iron curtain would at once descend.”
Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, 1945

“Too many people here and in England hold the view that the German people as a whole are not responsible for what has taken place – that only a few Nazis are responsible. That, unfortunately, is not based on fact. The German people must have it driven home to them that the whole nation has been engaged in a lawless conspiracy against the decencies of modern civilization.”
Franklin Roosevelt, August 1944

“There are several illusions in all this [stripping Germany of her] ‘war potential’ attitude. There is the illusion that the New Germany left after the annexations can be reduced to a ‘pastoral state’. It cannot be done unless we exterminate or move 25,000,000 people out of it. This would approximately reduce Germany to the density of the population of France.”
Herbert Hoover, former US president, March 1947

“If we mean that we are to hold Europe against communism, we must not budge [from Berlin]. I believe the future of democracy requires us to stay here until forced out.”
Lucius D. Clay, US general, April 1948

“I am ready to try an airlift. I can’t guarantee it will work. I am sure that even at its best, people are going to be cold and people are going to be hungry. And if the people of Berlin won’t stand that, it will fail. And I don’t want to go into this unless I have your assurance that the people will be heavily in approval.”
Lucius D. Clay, June 1948

“People of this world… look upon this city and see that you should not and cannot abandon this city and this people.”
Ernst Reuter, mayor of West Berlin, September 1948

“The line dividing the two groups of powers runs right down the centre of Germany. Twenty million Germans live under Soviet rule, about 43 million in the orbit of the Atlantic bloc. These 43 million Germans in the area of the Atlantic bloc possess the most important mineral deposits and the greatest European industrial potential. But this area, the three Western zones of Germany, is in a state of disorder that is in the long run untenable.”
Konrad Adenauer, West German leader, March 1949

“The Marshall Plan … is not a philanthropic enterprise … It is based on our views of the requirements of American security … This is the only peaceful avenue now open to us which may answer the communist challenge to our way of life and our national security.”
Allen Dulles, CIA director, 1949

“It was a heroic episode in which the Allied pilots and the Berliners played the main roles. Then it brought about a feeling of cooperation between the Berliners and the Allies. Those were grey, grim days – but our people showed their steadfastness, their courage, their dry humour and their basic decency.”
Willy Brandt, West German politician, reflecting on the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49

“[West Germany] is threatened by the aggressive imperialism of Soviet Russia, as is proved by the systematic expansion of Soviet power in all parts of the world since 1945. The increasingly active policies of the Russian zone government in the last few months leads to the inescapable conclusion that we cannot expect this Soviet imperialist expansionism to stop at the Elbe.”
Konrad Adenauer, January 1951

“The solution of the German problem will be dependent on decisions on an international political level. But there is much to be done inside Germany in the interests of Europe, democracy and peace. There are positive forces within the German people, which will be able to make their mark on future developments.”
Willy Brandt, November 1957

“Living in Berlin had a deep emotional effect on me and helped me to make up my mind what to do with myself. The question which had bothered me most was-had Germany enough vital strength left in her? The Berliners gave me the answer… The worst possible circumstances seemed to bring out the best [in them].”
Willy Brandt, 1960

“The builders in our capital are engaged in residential construction, and its labourers are deployed for that. Nobody has any intention to erect a wall.”
Walter Ulbricht, East German leader, June 1961

“A wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.”
John F. Kennedy, US president, August 1961

“Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [‘I am a citizen of Rome’]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’ … All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin – and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’.”
John F. Kennedy, speaking in Berlin, June 1963

“Up to August 13th 1961, the East Berliners were half free. They had, of course, to work during the day… and were subject to an arbitrary legal system. But in the evening at the close of work, they came over to West Berlin to meet relatives and acquaintances, go to the movies or the theatre, stroll up the Kurfiirstendamm [shopping boulevard], read Western newspapers… Some 200,000 Germans from East Berlin and the Soviet zone visited West Berlin every day. Berlin, despite political division, was still a special area.”
Otto Frei, Swiss writer, on Berlin before the Berlin Wall, 1963

“Berlin is the testicles of the West. When I want the West to scream, I squeeze on Berlin.”
Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet leader speaking in Yugoslavia, August 1963

“After 12 years of National Socialism [Nazism], there simply were no perfect solutions for Germany – and certainly none for a divided Germany. There was very often only the policy of the lesser evil. We were a small and very exposed country. By our own strength, we could achieve nothing. We must not be a ‘no man’s land’ between East and West, for then we would have friends nowhere and a dangerous neighbour in the East.”
Konrad Adenauer, writing in 1966

“Even though two states exist in Germany, they are not foreign countries to each other. Their relations with each other can only be of a special kind.”
Willy Brandt, October 1969

“We welcome change and openness, for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalisation, come here to this gate. Mr Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
Ronald Reagan, US president, speaking in Berlin, June 1987

“The [Berlin] Wall will be standing in 50, even in 100 years.”
Erich Honecker, East German leader, January 1989