In September 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visited Cold War Berlin. He’d been invited by Willy Brandt, then the Mayor of West Berlin, to speak at the 14th annual cultural festival of the city. The famous clergyman’s whirlwind visit included a stop at the Berlin Wall, where an East German had escaped to the West the previous day, sparking a gun battle between East German border guards and U.S. soldiers.
Additionally, Dr. King crossed the border at Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin. There, he preached to an excited crowd in the overflowing St. Mary’s Church (Marienkirche) at Alexander Square about African Americans’ struggle for civil rights in the United States. Although information about his appearance had only been made known by word of mouth, at least 1,000 people packed into the church. Later that night, Dr. King performed a second church service at Sophia Church (Sophienkirche) in East Berlin.
“May I say that it is indeed an honor to be in this city, which stands as a symbol of the divisions of men on the face of the earth, “said Dr. King in the sermon. “For here on either side of the wall are God’s children, and no man-made barrier can obliterate that fact. Whether it be East or West, men and women search for meaning, hope for fulfillment, yearn for faith in something beyond themselves, and cry desperately for love and community to support them in this pilgrim journey.”
Dr. King’s visit to Germany has been largely forgotten during recent years. However, his journey there and his message of non-violent social revolution inspired Germans on both sides of the Wall. (Click here for a full transcript of the sermon.)
During our 2014 Berlin Wall trips, Academic Arrangements Abroad will visit St. Mary’s Church and see the current exhibition about Dr. King’s historic sermon there. Travelers on this exciting new program will also explore the iconic sights of post-reunification Berlin, including the East Side Gallery, a stretch of the original Wall covered with international paintings, and the Brandenburg Gate, meticulously restored since the reunification.
For additional details about the 2014 Berlin trips operated by Academic Arrangements Abroad, visit our website or call 800-221-1944.