John F. Kennedy School, Berlin

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General Information[edit]

Originally established by the US Military Government in the former German Gertrauden girls´ school, the first post-war Thomas A. Roberts School provided elementary and high school facilities for families of US Embassy staff and Armed Forces personnel. The present day "German-American Community School" buildings were financed by the Berlin Senate in 1960. The school was re-named in 1963 after the assassination of the US President.The John F. Kennedy School is a primary and secondary school in Berlin, Germany[1] offering integrated, bilingual education for both German and American children, to foster cultural exchange between young natives of West Berlin and children from U.S. Armed Forces families.[2] After Germany's reunification in 1990 and the withdrawal of the Allied Forces, the mission of the school was redefined. Originally the focus was primarily on reconciliation after the Second World War; today, the school is a model for bilingual schools in Europe.

The John F. Kennedy School includes all grades from kindergarten through 12th grade. Students can choose to graduate after grade 12 with the American high school diploma as well as the German Abitur.

The school has a modern campus with 135 classrooms, 9 science labs, 3 computer labs, 2 library centers, two gymnasiums, and a fine arts annex, spread out in and around its 6 main buildings. Situated in the locality of Zehlendorf in Southwestern Berlin, the school is conveniently close to bus routes, the S-Bahn, parks, and a district shopping area.

The majority (57%) of the more than 1700 students are German citizens; 33% are American citizens and 10% are from a wide variety of other countries. The John F. Kennedy school employs 142 full-time faculty members and 32 part-time faculty members. Of the total 174 faculty members, 91 are German, 78 are American, and 5 represent other countries.

The school caters primarily for US Embassy staff, and dependents are entitled to guaranteed admission. Other non-German and German nationals are accepted according to available capacity, their academic qualifications and proof of English Language skills. The John-F.-Kennedy-School is a non fee paying, bilingual Elementary and High School, governed by a special Act of the Berlin Parliament, stipulating the administrative division of responsibility between a US Principal (appointed by the US Embassy) and a German Director (appointed by the Berlin Senate). Subsequent changes in the Act indicate the intention to further integrate the administration of the School within the German educational system.

Attempts by the Berlin Senate to fully integrate the School were postponed in 2017 after parents´ protests. The School Conference and the US Embassy finally agreed to the full transfer when demands for added funding (€15 M) for school repairs and increased security expenses against terrorist attacks were promised. [3]

The JFK School is popular with diplomats, parents connected with industry, the media and politics and is considered  the preferred choice for the upwardly mobile strata of Berlin society. A further reason for the school´s popularity is its situation in the high income, verdant suburb of Zehlendorf. [4]

2018 anti Semitic incident at the JFK School[edit]

Details of the incident were widely reported by the German national and international media on the occasion of a press conference, held by the School in June 2018. Further details cannot be made public until legal proceedings against the perpetrators have been concluded. It was reported that a fifteen year old Jewish student had been tormented over a lengthy period of time by other students. He had kept a detailed diary but had felt unable to inform his parents. They eventually discovered the diary after he had collapsed during class and they then informed the authorities.

It was reported that he had consistently received death threats and was told he would be “sent to Auschwitz in a cattle truck!”, cigarette smoke was blown in his face “… to remind him of what had happened to his ancestors in the gas chambers!”. He was forced to grovel and swastika stickers were attached to his clothing.

His diary entries also classified his teachers according to whether they had condoned his persecution, considered it a “joke”, or pretended to take no notice.

The press conference resulted in immediate reaction of the German and the international media, political parties and human rights organizations, including amongst many others: the International Ausschwitz Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Institute.  The Federal German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other leading figures were quick to denounce the resurgence of this particularly virulent form of anti Semitism within the German educational system.

Particular emphasis was placed on the specific characteristics of the incident[edit]

  • The small number of previous anti Semitic assaults had been almost entirely limited to schools in low income areas, frequented by a high proportion of students of North African or Near Eastern descent. This was the first instance of an anti Semitic assault in the privileged surroundings of an elite Berlin High School. Care was taken to emphasize that the alleged perpetrators in this case were not religiously motivated.
  • The persecution of the Jewish student, as described during the press conference had been particularly virulent and physically violent. As published in its manifesto, the aim of the Kennedy School is that “Students of both nationalities are taught together …. with the goal of developing respect, tolerance and understanding for each other and for the partner culture”.
  • Those present at the press conference were not prepared to accept the assurance of the US Principal that neither teachers nor the school authorities had any knowledge of the incident previous to being informed by the boy´s parents on the 7th of June. Confirmation that the boy had endured anti Semitic persecution for “a lengthy period of time, perhaps some months”, and the entries in the boy´s diary commenting on the reaction of his teachers would seem to contradict the assertion that neither the school, nor the Berlin School Inspectorate had had any previous knowledge.[5]


  • The Berlin Senate Authority for Schools and Education has criticized the School and initiated disciplinary action. The two students who were considered to be mainly responsible for the anti Semitic mobbing have been dismissed and a series of lectures and group discussions on the subject of anti Semitism and mobbing have been prescribed.
  • A relevant number of individuals and institutions have filed charges against the perpetrators, the School, teaching staff and against the local school inspectorate. Court action and final prosecution will depend on the results obtained during investigation by the State Prosecutor.
  • Further disciplinary action could be expected if the court eventually finds students, teaching staff, either of the school principals or the school inspectorate culpable of sedition, or even of collusion in not having immediately intervened and reported the anti Semitic mobbing.
  • Human Rights organizations have already demanded that disciplinary measures should be exemplary, including the dismissal of teachers and those in authority, and the renaming of the school.

[6] [7]


  1. ^ "Germany, Berlin: John F. Kennedy School". US Department of State. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  2. ^ "Berlin: educational overview". The Good Schools Guide. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  3. ^ Gesetz über die John-F.-Kennedy-Schule (Deutsch-Amerikanische Schule) - JFKSchulG
  4. ^ Clermont, Rose-Anne. "Mobbing in Zehlendorf Auch elitäre Schulen sind nicht immun gegen Antisemitismus". Kommentar zum Antisemitismus an der John-F.-Kennedy-Schule. Berliner Zeitung. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  5. ^ Lange, kathrin. "Antisemitischer Vorfall: Drei Schüler verlassen die Schule". Berliner Morgenpost. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  6. ^ "Die Schüler sangen „ab nach Auschwitz in einem Güterzug"". Welt, Panorama. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  7. ^ Sivia Vogt, Johannes Bockenheimer. "John-F.-Kennedy-Schule will Ausmaß antisemitischer Vorfälle klären". Der Tagesspiegel. Retrieved 14 February 2019.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°25′32″N 13°15′46″E / 52.42556°N 13.26278°E / 52.42556; 13.26278