‘X-Man,’ historian George F. Kennan no stranger to Berlin, Germany – and East Berlin, Pa.
George F. Kennan helped set U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War and won a Pulitzer Prize. He also purchased a farm in eastern Adams County and was known to many folks in the East Berlin, Pa., area. Also of interest: Hanover’s Cold Warrior J.W. Gitt’s mansion: ‘You can look down and see the town laid down before you’ and York still twinning with France, Germany after 50-plus years and Cuban expert and York editor Jim Higgins: ‘He was just another journalist … with opinions’.
The late “Green Acres” actor and World War II war hero Eddie Albert wasn’t the only celebrity with East Berlin ties.
Historian George F. Kennan served the Allied cause in World War II as a diplomat in European capitals.
He was winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Twice.
He promoted the policy of containment to prevent the spread of communism via the “domino effect.” Some believe that policy led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War in 1989.
He’s the topic of a popular book “The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War”.
And he also owned a farm in the East Berlin area of Adams County… .
The New York Times Book Review assessed “The Hawk and the Dove.” To visit, click here.
Like fellow Adams countian, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Kennan was often seen attending Adams County community activities.
One wonders if they ever met at, say, the general store in Biglerville.
In Kennan’s obituary story on March 21, 2005, the York Daily Record/Sunday News, with an assist from the Associated Press, linked the “Father of Containment” to this region.
Although Keith Baker was only in his early twenties at the time, George F. Kennan left a big impression on him when they first met in the 1960s.
“He was a very dignified person, but he was still down-to-earth and he would talk to anybody,” said Baker, now president of the Liberty Fire Company in East Berlin.
Baker said Kennan — a diplomat, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and former Adams County resident — would stop by carnivals held by the fire department if he was in the area.
Kennan died Thursday night at his home in Princeton, N.J. He was 101.
Kennan was a member of the U.S. foreign service from 1927 until 1953, during much of which time he served in Germany and Eastern Europe.
After World War II, he was one of the chief formulators of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. In “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” an article written under the pseudonym “X” for the journal Foreign Affairs in 1947, he laid out the rationale for the policy of containment, the bedrock of U.S. actions throughout the Cold War.
Kennan also had ties to Adams County.
In 1942, Kennan and his wife, Annelise, purchased a farm of about 225 acres in Reading Township, west of East Berlin, according to a Web site maintained by the Adams County Bicentennial Committee.
Although the Kennans sold the farm to their daughter in 1975, they returned occasionally to Adams County.
“I knew him to see him and talk to him when he was around the fire company,” Baker said Friday. “He just had a way about him that he was easy to talk to.”
Four decades ago, Kennan donated some money to the Liberty Fire Company when it was soliciting funds to purchase a $25,756 truck, Baker said.
“It was one of the largest donations for the truck,” he said.
And at a special meeting held in April of 1961, the fire company named the new engine the “Ambassador Kennan.”
The engine bearing his name has since been replaced and sold, but Liberty Fire Company still has access to the engine for use in parades, Baker said.
Kennan was incorporated into history lessons by Dr. Charles H. Glatfelter, a professor at Gettysburg College from 1949 to 1989.
“I was aware of the stands he took and some of those stands were difficult because the stands he took meant we had to expect results in the long-term,” Glatfelter said.
One such stand was containment — the word Kennan used in the “X article” in Foreign Affairs. Kennan wrote that “any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.”
Glatfelter had several encounters with Kennan, one of them at the Adams County Historical Society, where Glatfelter was director from 1959 to 2001.
Kennan came to the historical society one day because he wanted to see a photograph of a Lutheran pastor who lived in East Berlin for many years.
“Here was this man who had written about foreign affairs, who had been in diplomatic affairs for years and could have acted as though he was the lord of the manor, but he seemed to be most appreciative of any help I could give him,” Glatfelter said.
Kennan photo courtesy of Library of Congress.