Ernst Reuter

Ernst Reuter

Ernst Rudolf Johannes Reuter (July 29 1889 – September 29 1953) was the German mayor of West Berlin from 1948 to 1953, during the time of the Cold War.

Early years

Reuter was born in Apenrade (Aabenraa), Province of Schleswig-Holstein. He spent his childhood days in Leer where a public square is named after him. Reuter attended the universities of Münster and Marburg where he completed his studies in 1912 and passed the examinations as a teacher. Moreover, he was member in a fraternity called "SBV Frankonia Marburg". The same year he became a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).

During the First World War, Reuter was wounded and captured by the Russians. In captivity he learned Russian and joined the Bolsheviks. In 1917, Lenin sent him to Saratov in the to-be-established Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic as a “People's Commissar”.

Weimar Republic

Upon his return to Germany, Reuter joined the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and was named the First Secretary of its Berlin section. He embraced a position on the left wing of the party endorsing an open rebellion in March 1921 in central Germany and placed himself hereby in opposition to the leader of the party, Paul Levi. Although Reuter was seen as a favorite of Lenin, he was expelled from the party in 1922. He moved briefly to the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD), and then returned to the Social Democrats for good.

In 1926, Reuter entered services in the government of Berlin and was responsible for transportation. Accomplishments were the foundation of the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), the introduction of a unified ticket for public transportation, and extensions of the Berlin subway system. From 1931 until 1933, Reuter was the mayor of Magdeburg where he fought lack of housing and jobs due to the economic crisis. He also was elected as a member of the Reichstag. In 1933, with the Nazis now in power, he was forced to abdicate his positions and was brought to the concentration camp (KZ) Lichtenburg near Torgau. After his release, he went into exile in Turkey in 1935 where he stayed until the end to the Nazi era. In Ankara he lectured at the University, introduced urban planning as a university discipline, and served as consultant to the Government. During the waning months of World War II, Turkey rounded up all those still holding German passports and banished them to internment camps "as enemy aliens." This was Reuter's third incarceration, after the Russians and the Nazis.

Post-war Berlin

After the end of World War II, Reuter returned to Berlin, and was elected in 1946 to the Magistrat (governing body) where he oversaw initially the Transportation Department. In 1947 he was elected Lord Mayor ("Oberbürgermeister") of Berlin but in the deepening crisis of the Cold War, the Soviet government withheld their necessary consent.

Reuter’s name is intrinsically linked to the time of the Cold War in Berlin. During the Soviet-imposed Berlin Blockade (1948/49), the western part of city was sustained by the Berlin airlift that was established by the American Military Governor, Lucius D. Clay. In response to the threat, the citizens in the western sectors had to come together. Ernst Reuter became their spokesman and leader, a symbolic figure of the “Free Berlin”. Memorable is Reuter’s speech in front of the burned-out Reichstag building on September 9, 1948 facing a crowd of 300,000 where he appealed to the world not to abandon Berlin. In the election that was conducted in the western part of Berlin two months later, his popularity gave the SPD the highest win with 64.5% ever achieved by any party in a free election in Germany. As mayor he formed a grand coalition government with the next two largest parties to demonstrate West Berlin’s unity.

When the new Berlin State Constitution became effective for West Berlin, Reuter was re-elected and became on January 18, 1951 what was now called the Governing Mayor (Regierender Bürgermeister) of Berlin. He served in this function until his death.

Under his aegis, the Free University of Berlin was founded, as the University of Berlin, was in the Soviet sector and under communist rule. In 1953 Reuter established the "Bürgermeister-Reuter-Stiftung" (Mayor Reuter Foundation) to assist refugees coming to West-Berlin.

A few weeks after the uprising of June 17, 1953, Reuter died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack in West Berlin at the age of 64. His funeral was attended by more than 1 million people. His grave is in the Waldfriedhof in Berlin-Dahlem. []


Reuter was married in 1920, and he and his wife Hanna had two children. His son, Edzard, became the CEO of Daimler-Benz.


* Ernst-Reuter-Plakette (Ernst Reuter Medal): the highest award by the City of Berlin was established by the Berlin Senate for persons whose work benefited the city in 1954.
* Ernst-Reuter-Gesellschaft (Ernst Reuter Association): a group of alumni and friends of the Free University of Berlin that was founded in 1954. The Association names the winners of the annual "Ernst-Reuter-Preis" for excellent dissertations from the university and provideds “Ernst-Reuter-Stipends” for studies abroad.
* Former places where Reuter lived received memorial plaques: Hardenbergstraße 35 (Berlin-Charlottenburg), and Bülowstraße 33 (Berlin-Zehlendorf).
* Among the many places in Berlin that commemorate Reuter are:
** a major public square and subway station Ernst-Reuter-Platz (Berlin U-Bahn),
** a government building [ ]
** a school [ ]
** a youth hostel [] Other towns in Germany have streets or schools named after Ernst Reuter.

The "Champion of Liberty" series issued by the United States Postal Service in 1959 honored Reuter with two stamps.


* "Ihr Völker der Welt ... Schaut auf diese Stadt und erkennt, dass ihr diese Stadt und dieses Volk nicht preisgeben dürft, nicht preisgeben könnt!" ( People of this world… look upon this city and see that you should not and can not abandon this city and this people)
* Reuter’s speech from September 9 1948 (German) []


* Ernst Reuter: "Rationalisierung der Berliner Verkehrsbedienung." Verkehrstechnik (June 29 1928) 9; 26:437-439.
* Ernst Reuter: "Die Gründung der Berliner Verkehrs-A.-G." Verkehrstechnik (December 14 1928) 9; 50: 917-919


* Willy Brandt, Richard Lowenthal: "Ernst Reuter - Ein Leben für die Freiheit (Eine politische Biographie)". München: Kindler Verlag, 1957
* Klaus Harpprecht: "Ernst Reuter - Ein Leben für die Freiheit (Eine Biographie in Bildern und Dokumenten)". München: Kindler Verlag, 1957
* "Ernst Reuter. Schriften - Reden". Hg. v. Hans E. Hirschfeld und Hans J. Reichardt. Vorwort von Willy Brandt. Bd. 1-4. Frankfurt am Main; Berlin; Wien 1972-1975.
* David E. Barclay: "Schaut auf diese Stadt / Der unbekannte Ernst Reuter". Berlin: Siedler Verlag, 2000. ISBN 3-88680-527-1
* For a more extensive discussion of Reuter's history including his exile in Turkey see "TURKEY'S MODERNIZATION: Refugees from Nazism and Atatürk's Vision" by Arnold Reisman. []


This article is based on the corresponding article in the German Wikipedia from 5/10/2006.

External links

* [ Ernst Reuter Page of the SPD (German)]
* [ Biography (German)]
* [ Honors for Ernst Reuters (German)]
* [ Foundation:Bürgermeister-Reuter-Stiftung]
* [ Ernst Reuter Association]
* [ Ernst Reuter Foundation for Advanced Study]


NAME= Reuter, Ernst
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Reuter, Ernst Rudolf Johannes
SHORT DESCRIPTION=German mayor of West Berlin
DATE OF BIRTH=July 29 1889
PLACE OF BIRTH=Apenrade (Aabenraa), Province of Schleswig-Holstein
DATE OF DEATH=September 29 1953

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