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70 Years as Humboldt-Universität

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin was named almost to the day, two months after the founding of Freie Universität Berlin in Dahlem.

News from Feb 08, 2019

Following the Second World War, Berlin’s university in the Soviet occupation zone resumed its teaching activities. It was January 1946. For awhile the university was called Unter den Linden University, due to its location, as its  former name, Friedrich Wilhelm University – in honor of the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm III – was no longer considered to be fitting. On February 8, 1949, before the founding of the GDR in October 1949, the official new name was announced: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Just two months earlier, on December 4, 1948, Freie Universität Berlin was founded in the southwestern part of the city by students and academics, with the support of the American allies and Berlin politicians; the trigger was the persecution of students at Unter den Linden who were critical of the system. Students and academics at Freie Universität wanted to learn, teach, and do research free of political influence.

The decision to rename the old Berlin university “Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin” was a reference not only to the university’s founder Wilhem von Humboldt, but also to his brother, Alexander.

Paul Wandel, the President of the Central Administration for Popular Education in the Soviet-occupied zone, made the official announcement of Humboldt-Universität as the new name. He wrote, “This choice of name indicates Berlin University’s obligation to cultivate the humanities and natural sciences in equal measure and to safeguard the concept of academic teaching and research as a single unit. (…) We hope that Humboldt-Universität will live up to the honor bestowed by this name, pursue truth through  research, and contribute to maintaining peace in the world.”

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