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Robert Lochner; helped Kennedy in Berlin speech

BERLIN -- Robert H. Lochner, who as John F. Kennedy's interpreter helped the president practice his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, died of a lung embolism early Sunday at his home in western Berlin. He was 84.

Mr. Lochner was a journalist who helped to revive free media in West Germany after World War II. He was head of Radio in the American Sector, RIAS, a radio station supported by the US government in 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 speech in West Berlin on June 26, 1963, a ringing defense of freedom less than two years after East Germany built the Berlin Wall. Mr. 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 in New York, Mr. Lochner grew up in Berlin. His father, Louis, was a correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winning bureau chief in Germany for the Associated Press from 1924 until the United States entered the war in 1941.

After studying in the United States, Robert Lochner returned to Germany as a US soldier after the Nazi surrender. Thanks to his knowledge of German, he became chief interpreter for US 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.

He leaves three daughters and a son.

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