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JFK Interpreter Robert Lochner Dies at 84

September 22, 2003

BERLIN (AP) _ Robert H. Lochner, who as John F. Kennedy’s interpreter helped the president practice his famous 1963 ``Ich bin ein Berliner″ speech, has died, his family said Monday. He was 84.

A journalist by trade who helped revive free media in West Germany after World War II, Lochner died of a lung embolism early Sunday at his home in western Berlin, said his daughter, Anita.

Lochner was head of Radio in the American Sector (RIAS), a radio station supported by the U.S. government in then-West Berlin during Kennedy’s triumphal visit to West Germany and the non-Communist half of the divided capital during the Cold War.

The high point was Kennedy’s electrifying June 26, 1963, speech in West Berlin, a ringing defense of freedom less than two years after East Germany built the Berlin Wall. Lochner helped Kennedy practice the key phrase _ German for ``I am a Berliner″ _ with the help of the phonetic spelling ``ish been oin bear-lee-ner.″

Born Oct. 20, 1918, in New York, Lochner grew up in Berlin. His father, Louis P. Lochner, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent and bureau chief in Germany for The Associated Press, serving there from 1924 until the United States entered the war in 1941.

After studying in the United States, the younger Lochner returned to Germany as a U.S. soldier after the Nazi surrender. Thanks to his knowledge of German, he became chief interpreter for U.S. occupation forces in western Germany and chief editor of the Neue Zeitung newspaper in Frankfurt in 1949-52. Later jobs took him to Vietnam and Washington, before he retired in Berlin.

Lochner’s survivors include three daughters and a son.

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