"Oh, they've always liked the Americans. Especially the Berliners, ever since the young president gave that speech."
Sitting in a room aptly-named the Churchill Lounge, a cigar in one hand and glass of port in the other, I had the opportunity to spend some time probing the mind of an old man from Berlin. He was orphaned during the war, and told stories of the sirens sounding during bombing raids, and how all the kids in the orphanage would need to run for shelter. When asked if that was tough, he shrugged his shoulders. "It became no different than running inside from a rain storm."
He told tales of living in a city divided by that Iron Curtain. As a young man he was in want of cigarettes, and it was late and the stores in West Berlin were shut down, but he heard that a store on the other side was often open late. He had not been to East Berlin since the war, but he knew he had a grandmother on that side, so he thought nothing of it and drove over (the Wall was not yet up). After all, he was just a guy looking for some cigarettes in the town he grew up in. Within moments he was stopped and had guns pointed at him, angry guards shouting at him. The old man said that his younger self was absolutely terrified and tried telling them he was just looking for cigarettes. After being held for several hours, he was finally released and allowed back into the West--he said he never stepped foot into East Berlin again until the reunification of Germany decades later.
The old man said that Americans are still loved in that country, but most especially in that city. They remember our magnanimity in victory, and our help against the Soviet Empire through Kennedy and Reagan. This is all worthy of retelling for two reasons. The first is to remind us of some of the virtues for which the United States are respected and even loved around the world. The second is to remind us that our current peace is a new and fragile thing; the scars of Hitler and Stalin are still fresh. It has been only a few decades since bombs fell on one of Europe's great cities and men made it impossible to roam freely. How these men rose to power, and the costs and sacrifices it took to stop their wickedness, should not be forgotten.