History of the “Freie Universität Berlin”
(Free University of Berlin)
Source: Information leaflet of the Freie Universität Berlin
© President`s Office of Freie Universität Berlin, 2008
Freedom Carries an Obligation
Freie Universität Berlin was founded by students and scholars on December 4, 1948, with the support of the American Allies and Berlin politicians as a response to the persecution of students critical of the system at University Unter den Linden in the Soviet sector of the divided city of Berlin. These students and scholars wanted to study and carry out research at Freie Universität, free of political influence. Thanks to generous donations from the United States, Freie Universität was able to construct several new central building complexes including the Benjamin Franklin university clinic complex and the Henry Ford Building, the central lecture building. Based on its founding tradition, Freie Universität’s seal to this day bears the Latin terms for truth, justice, and liberty. In 2007, Freie Universität dedicated a monument to the founding students who were murdered by the Soviet secret service. The university presents its Freedom Award to personalities who have made a special contribution toward the cause of freedom.
U.S. President John F. Kennedy visited Freie Universität in 1963.
The Henry Ford Building was constructed between 1952 and 1954 in the Bauhaus tradition.
International from the Very Beginning
The foundation of Freie Universität Berlin was facilitated through international support, and international impulses have shaped its research ever since. In order to survive, both on an academic and an intellectual level, Freie Universität established connections from its geographically isolated position in West Berlin to organizations and personalities in Western Germany, Europe, and the entire world. What began as a necessity rapidly evolved into a successful strategy: currently, Freie Universität has over 130 partnerships with scholarly institutions worldwide. The university is a drawing card for international researchers. Freie Universität and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München are the two locations most often selected for visiting scholars through the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. About 600 foreign scholars contribute to the diversity in research and teaching. Of its approximately 34.000 students in over 100 subject areas, 16 percent come from abroad.
Young University – Rich Tradition
Freie Universität is located in the leafy residential district of Dahlem in southwestern Berlin. Around the beginning of the 20th century, Dahlem was established as a center for research of the highest calibre. Academic activity in Dahlem was supported by Friedrich Althoff, Ministerial Director in the Prussian Ministry of Culture, who initially proposed the foundation of “a German Oxford”. The first new buildings housed government science agencies and new institutes of the University of Berlin. The Kaiser Wilhelm Society – forerunner of the present-day Max Planck Society – was founded in 1911 and established several institutes in Dahlem. A dynamic group of researchers carried out pioneering research resulting in numerous Nobel Prizes. Since its foundation, Freie Universität Berlin has been using buildings formerly belonging to the Kaiser Wilhelm Society and, in addition, has added numerous architecturally innovative buildings. Freie Universität’s central campus consists of building ensembles within walking distance of each other. The planners oriented themselves along the type of campus found in the United States – a novelty in post-war Germany.
Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner, and Fritz Straßmann achieved world fame for their research performed in a garden house belonging to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry. Today, biochemists of Freie Universität carry out research in this building.
Freie Universität Berlin
- represented by the President -
Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt
Address: Kaiserswerther Str. 16-18
Office: Susanne Kruppa (P4)
Ina Lödden (P5)
Phone: (030) 838-731 00
(030) 838-731 04
Fax: (030) 838-731 07
First Vice President
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Monika Schäfer-Korting
Address: Kaiserswerther Str. 16-18
Office: Susanne Hoch
Phone: (030) 838-731 20
Fax: (030) 838-731 17