Leipzig Award










Berlin, Germany
March 8, 1999

The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell in construction

Sundays * 12:00


" I believe in the sacredness and dignity of the individual. I believe that all men derive the right to freedom equally from God. I pledge to resist aggression and tyranny wherever they appear on earth. "

Sunday after Sunday, exactly at 12 noon, the Liberty Oath can be heard together with the sounding of the Schoeneberg Council Building's Liberty Bell over Deutschland Radio Berlin. For the RIAS listeners, this tradition goes back to October 24, 1950. On that day, on the Day of United Nations, the Liberty Bell was dedicated in a solemn ceremony, and since then they have been listening in daily at 6 p.m. and also every Sunday at noon to the Berlin broadcaster's program, which is introduced with the above cited quote.

Until his death on August 10, 1961, Walter Franck, one of the renowned character actors of the Berlin Schiller Theater, spoke the words of the text to the chiming of the bell. After that the voice of Wilhelm Borcherts, another well-known actor at the Schiller Theater, was heard every Sunday until October 1993. In October 1993, we heard the voice of Thomas Hollaender, first in the RIAS Berlin program, and since January 1994, on the Berlin program of the then newly founded DeutschlandRadio.

At the beginning of this long radio tradition stood Lucius D. Clay, the former American military governor of Germany. After the end of the Berlin blockade (April 26, 1948 to July 29, 1949) and the decisive air lift which he coordinated, he initiated the "Crusade for the Freedom of the Committee for a Free Europe" for the financing of the bell. The bell, cast in England, went on a journey through 26 states in the USA. On that journey, the donors, 17 million Americans, signed the "Liberty Oath." Today the list of signers is still kept in the tower of the Schoeneberg council building. In composing the text for the Liberty Oath, the "Free Europe Committee" made use of concepts from the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, which addresses the belief that all people were given certain rights by their Creator which included "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." In the formulation of their text, however, the " Free Europe Committee" included a self-imposed obligation from the right of the people to do away with a form of government which "proves itself detrimental to these goals and to take a stand against tyranny and attacks on freedom."

The Berlin Liberty Bell is a copy of the famous Philadelphia Liberty Bell. That bell has been hanging since 1753 in the local State House, and in 1776 its ringing announced American independence. The Berlin Bell contains an inscription which is different from its model:
"That this world under God shall have a new birth of freedom." - "Möge diese Welt mit Gottes Hilfe eine Wiedergeburt der Freiheit erleben. " - Words which relate the meaning spoken by Abraham Lincoln in his speech on the Gettysburg battlefield in 1863 at the turning point of the American Civil War, which was waged, not least of all, for the abolition of slavery.

Liberty Oath and the Liberty Bell: a symbol of liberty that has any amount of history behind it, not just radio history, and which brings back memories: the memory that after the Second World War it was the Americans who helped in the founding of the "Rundfunk im amerikanischen Sektor" / "Radio broadcast in the American Sector" (RIAS) to again make liberal journalism and free information possible. And when we recall that the Berlin Liberty Bell rang in German unity on October 3, 1990, then the circle is complete in the programming mission of Deutschland Radio to promote "solidarity in a united Germany" in keeping thoughts of liberty alive.

Martin Baumgaertel






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