Ernst Reuter
Ernst Rudolf Johannes Reuter (29 July 1889–29 September 1953) was the German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

In many countries, a Mayor is the highest ranking officer in the municipal government of a town or a large urban city....

 of West Berlin
West Berlin
West Berlin was a political exclave that existed between 1949 and 1990. It comprised the western regions of Berlin, which were bordered by East Berlin and parts of East Germany. West Berlin consisted of the American, British, and French occupation sectors, which had been established in 1945...

 from 1948 to 1953, during the time of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...


Early years

Reuter was born in Apenrade (Aabenraa)
The city of Aabenraa or Åbenrå , with a population of 15,760 , is situated at the head of the Aabenraa Fjord, an arm of the Little Belt, in Denmark, 38 miles north of the town of Schleswig. Its name originally meant "open beach"...

, Province of Schleswig-Holstein
Province of Schleswig-Holstein
The Province of Schleswig-Holstein was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Free State of Prussia from 1868 to 1946. It was created from the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, which had been conquered by Prussia and the Austrian Empire from Denmark in the Second War of Schleswig in 1864...

 (now in Denmark). He spent his childhood days in Leer
Leer is a town in the district of Leer, the northwestern part of Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated at the river Ems, near the border with the Netherlands....

 where a public square is named after him. Reuter attended the universities of Münster
University of Münster
The University of Münster is a public university located in the city of Münster, North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. The WWU is part of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, a society of Germany's leading research universities...

 and Marburg
Philipps University of Marburg
The Philipp University of Marburg , was founded in 1527 by Landgrave Philip I of Hesse as the world's oldest university dating back to a Protestant foundation...

 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
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...


During the First World War, Reuter was wounded and captured by the Russians. In captivity, Reuter learned Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 and joined the Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

s. In 1917, Lenin sent him to Saratov
-Modern Saratov:The Saratov region is highly industrialized, due in part to the rich in natural and industrial resources of the area. The region is also one of the more important and largest cultural and scientific centres in Russia...

 in the to-be-established Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic
Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic
The Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was an autonomous republic established in Soviet Russia, with its capital at the Volga port of Engels .-History:...


Weimar Republic

Upon his return to Germany, Reuter joined the Communist Party of Germany
Communist Party of Germany
The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956...

 (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
Paul Levi
Paul Levi was a German Jewish Communist political leader. He was the head of the Communist Party of Germany following the assassination of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1919.-Early years:...

. 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
Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany was a short-lived political party in Germany during the Second Reich and the Weimar Republic. The organization was established in 1917 as the result of a split of left wing members of the 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
Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe
The is the main public transport company of Berlin, the capital city of Germany. It manages the city's U-Bahn underground railway, tram, bus and ferry networks, but not the S-Bahn urban rail system....

 (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
Magdeburg , is the largest city and the capital city of the Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Magdeburg is situated on the Elbe River and was one of the most important medieval cities of Europe....

 where he fought lack of housing and jobs due to the economic crisis
Great Depression in Central Europe
The Great Depression severely affected central Europe. The unemployment rate in Germany, Austria and Poland rose to 20% while output fell by 40%. By November 1932 every European country had increased tariffs or introduced import quotas....

. He also was elected as a member of the Reichstag
Reichstag (Weimar Republic)
The Reichstag was the parliament of Weimar Republic .German constitution commentators consider only the Reichstag and now the Bundestag the German parliament. Another organ deals with legislation too: in 1867-1918 the Bundesrat, in 1919–1933 the Reichsrat and from 1949 on the Bundesrat...

. In 1933, with the Nazis now in power, he was forced to abdicate his positions and was brought to the concentration camp (KZ) Lichtenburg
Lichtenburg (concentration camp)
Lichtenburg was a Nazi concentration camp, housed in a Renaissance castle in Prettin, near Wittenberg in eastern Germany. Along with Sachsenburg, it was among the first to be built by the Nazis, and was operated by the SS from 1933 to 1939. It held as many as 2000 male prisoners from 1933 to 1937...

 near Torgau
Torgau is a town on the banks of the Elbe in northwestern Saxony, Germany. It is the capital of the district Nordsachsen.Outside Germany, the town is most well known as the place where during the Second World War, United States Army forces coming from the west met with forces of the Soviet Union...

. After his release, he went into exile in Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 in 1935 where he stayed until the end to the Nazi era. In Ankara
Ankara is the capital of Turkey and the country's second largest city after Istanbul. The city has a mean elevation of , and as of 2010 the metropolitan area in the entire Ankara Province had a population of 4.4 million....

 he lectured at the University, introduced urban planning
Urban planning
Urban planning incorporates areas such as economics, design, ecology, sociology, geography, law, political science, and statistics to guide and ensure the orderly development of settlements and communities....

 as a university discipline, and served as consultant to the Government.

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
Governing Mayor of Berlin
The Governing Mayor of Berlin is the head of government in the city-state of Berlin, one of the States of Germany. It is the equivalent of the Ministers-President of the other German states except the two other city-states of Hamburg and Bremen, where the heads of government are called "First...

 but in the deepening crisis of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, the Soviet government withheld their necessary consent.
Reuter is most notable for his stance during the Cold War in Berlin. During the Soviet-imposed Berlin Blockade
Berlin Blockade
The Berlin Blockade was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War and the first resulting in casualties. During the multinational occupation of post-World War II Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies' railway and road access to the sectors of Berlin under Allied...

 (1948/49), the western part of city was sustained by the Berlin airlift that was established by the American Military Governor, Lucius D. Clay
Lucius D. Clay
General Lucius Dubignon Clay was an American officer and military governor of the United States Army known for his administration of Germany immediately after World War II. Clay was deputy to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1945; deputy military governor, Germany 1946; commander in chief, U.S....

. 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
Reichstag (building)
The Reichstag building is a historical edifice in Berlin, Germany, constructed to house the Reichstag, parliament of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and housed the Reichstag until 1933, when it was severely damaged in a fire. During the Nazi era, the few meetings of members of the...

 on 9 September 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. Reuter's appeal to the West did not go unheard. The airlift saved the city from starvation, and Reuter became only the second German postwar politician (after Adenauer) to be placed on the cover of Time Magazine. He was titled "Herr Berlin".

When the new Berlin State Constitution became effective for West Berlin, Reuter was re-elected and on 18 January 1951, became 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
Free University of Berlin
Freie Universität Berlin is one of the leading and most prestigious research universities in Germany and continental Europe. It distinguishes itself through its modern and international character. It is the largest of the four universities in Berlin. Research at the university is focused on the...

  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 17 June 1953
Uprising of 1953 in East Germany
The Uprising of 1953 in East Germany started with a strike by East Berlin construction workers on June 16. It turned into a widespread anti-Stalinist uprising against the German Democratic Republic government the next day....

, 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
Edzard Reuter
Edzard Reuter was the CEO of Daimler-Benz from 1987 to 1995.Edzard Reuter was born in Berlin, his father was the popular social democratic politician and mayor of Berlin from 1948 to 1953, Ernst Reuter. His mother Hanna Reuter née Kleinert was a secretary at the party newspaper Vorwärts...

, became the CEO of Daimler-Benz
Daimler AG is a German car corporation. By unit sales, it is the thirteenth-largest car manufacturer and second-largest truck manufacturer in the world. In addition to automobiles, Daimler manufactures buses and provides financial services through its Daimler Financial Services arm...

. His grandson, Timothy
Timothy Reuter
Timothy Alan Reuter , grandson of the former mayor of Berlin Ernst Reuter, was a German-British historian who specialized in the study of medieval Germany, particularly the social, military and ecclesiastical institutions of the Ottonian and Salian periods .Reuter received his D.phil from Oxford in...

, was a distinguished medieval historian.


  • Ernst-Reuter-Plakette (Ernst Reuter Medal): the highest award by the City of Berlin was established by the Senate of Berlin
    Senate of Berlin
    The Senate of Berlin is the executive body governing the city of Berlin, which at the same time is a state of Germany. According to the Constitution of Berlin the Senate consists of the Governing Mayor of Berlin and up to eight Senators appointed by the Governing Mayor, two of whom are appointed ...

     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
    Free University of Berlin
    Freie Universität Berlin is one of the leading and most prestigious research universities in Germany and continental Europe. It distinguishes itself through its modern and international character. It is the largest of the four universities in Berlin. Research at the university is focused on the...

     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-Stipend
    A stipend is a form of salary, such as for an internship or apprenticeship. It is often distinct from a wage or a salary because it does not necessarily represent payment for work performed, instead it represents a payment that enables somebody to be exempt partly or wholly from waged or salaried...

    s” 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)
      Ernst-Reuter-Platz (Berlin U-Bahn)
      Ernst-Reuter-Platz is a Berlin U-Bahn station located on the in the Charlottenburg district.The station, originally designed by Alfred Grenander, opened on 14 December 1902 as the western terminus of the first Berlin U-Bahn line to Warschauer Brücke...

    • 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
United States Postal Service
The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for providing postal service in the United States...

 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, can not abandon this city and this people)
  • Reuter’s speech from 9 September 1948 (German)


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


  • Willy Brandt
    Willy Brandt
    Willy Brandt, born Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm , was a German politician, Mayor of West Berlin 1957–1966, Chancellor of West Germany 1969–1974, and leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany 1964–1987....

    , Richard Lowenthal
    Richard Löwenthal
    Richard Löwenthal was a Jewish German journalist and professor who wrote mostly on the problems of democracy, communism, and world politics.- Life :...

    : 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

External links

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