The University of Berlin was established on 16 August 1809, on the initiative of the liberal Prussian educational politician Wilhelm von Humboldt by King Friedrich Wilhelm III, during the period of the Prussian Reform Movement. The university was located in a palace constructed from 1748-1766 for the late Prince Henry, the younger brother of Frederick the Great. After his widow and her ninety-member staff moved out, the first unofficial lectures were given in the building in the winter of 1809. Humboldt faced great resistance to his ideas as he set up the university. He submitted his resignation to the King in April 1810, and was not present when the school opened that fall. The first students were admitted on 6 October 1810, and the first semester started on 10 October 1810, with 256 students and 52 lecturers in faculties of law, medicine, theology and philosophy under rector Theodor Schmalz. The university celebrates 15 October 1810 as the date of its opening. From 1828 to 1945, the school was named the Friedrich Wilhelm University, in honor of its founder. Ludwig Feuerbach, then one of the students, made a comment on the university in 1826: "There is no question here of drinking, duelling and plesant communal outings; in no other university can you find such a passion for work, such an interest for things that are not petty student intrigues, such an inclination for the sciences, such calm and such silence. Compared to this temple of work, the other universities appear like public houses."
The university has been home to many of Germany's greatest thinkers of the past two centuries, among them the subjective idealist philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, the absolute idealist philosopher G.W.F. Hegel, the Romantic legal theorist Friedrich Carl von Savigny, the pessimist philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, the objective idealist philosopher Friedrich Schelling, cultural critic Walter Benjamin, and famous physicists Albert Einstein and Max Planck.
Friedrich Wilhelm University in 1850
The founders of Marxist theory Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels attended the university, as did poet Heinrich Heine, novelist Alfred Döblin, founder of structuralism Ferdinand de Saussure, German unifier Otto von Bismarck, Communist Party of Germany founder Karl Liebknecht, African American Pan Africanist W. E. B. Du Bois and European unifier Robert Schuman, as well as the influential surgeon Johann Friedrich Dieffenbach in the early half of the 1800s.
The structure of German research-intensive universities served as a model for institutions like Johns Hopkins University. Further, it has been claimed that "the 'Humboldtian' university became a model for the rest of Europe [...] with its central principle being the union of teaching and research in the work of the individual scholar or scientist."
In addition to the strong anchoring of traditional subjects, such as science, law, philosophy, history, theology and medicine, the university developed to encompass numerous new scientific disciplines. Alexander von Humboldt, brother of the founder William, promoted the new learning. With the construction of modern research facilities in the second half of the 19th Century teaching of the natural sciences began. Famous researchers, such as the chemist August Wilhelm Hofmann, the physicist Hermann von Helmholtz, the mathematicians Ernst Eduard Kummer, Leopold Kronecker, Karl Weierstrass, the physicians Johannes Peter Müller, Albrecht von Graefe, Rudolf Virchow and Robert Koch, contributed to Berlin University's scientific fame.
Friedrich Wilhelm University became an emulated model of a modern university in the 19th century (photochrom
During this period of enlargement, the university gradually expanded to incorporate other previously separate colleges in Berlin. An example would be the Charité, the Pépinière and the Collegium Medico-chirurgicum. In 1717, King Friedrich I had built a quarantine house for Plague at the city gates, which in 1727 was rechristened by the "soldier king" Friedrich Wilhelm: "Es soll das Haus die Charité heißen" (It will be called Charité [French for charity]). By 1829 the site became the Friedrich Wilhelm University's medical campus and remained so until 1927 when the more modern University Hospital was constructed.
The university started a natural history collection in 1810, which, by 1889 required a separate building and became the Museum für Naturkunde. The preexisting Tierarznei School, founded in 1790 and absorbed by the university, in 1934 formed the basis of the Veterinary Medicine Facility (Grundstock der Veterinärmedizinischen Fakultät). Also the Landwirtschaftliche Hochschule Berlin (Agricultural University of Berlin), founded in 1881 was affiliated with the Agricultural Faculties of the University.
Friedrich Wilhelm University in 1938
After 1933, like all German universities, Friedrich Wilhelm University was affected by the Nazi regime. The rector during this period was Eugen Fischer. It was from the university's library that some 20,000 books by "degenerates" and opponents of the regime were taken to be burned on May 10 of that year in the Opernplatz (now the Bebelplatz) for a demonstration protected by the SA that also featured a speech by Joseph Goebbels. A monument to this can now be found in the center of the square, consisting of a glass panel opening onto an underground white room with empty shelf space for 20,000 volumes and a plaque, bearing an epigraph from an 1820 work by Heinrich Heine: "Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen" ("This was but a prelude; where they burn books, they ultimately burn people").
The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service (German "Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums") resulted in 250 Jewish professors and employees being fired from Friedrich Wilhelm University during 1933/1934 and numerous doctorates being withdrawn. Students and scholars and political opponents of Nazis were ejected from the university and often deported. During this time nearly one third of all of the staff were fired by the Nazis.
This article needs additional citations for verification
. (August 2017)
During the Cold War, the university was located in East Berlin. It reopened in 1946 as the University of Berlin, but due to communist repression, including the Soviet persecution of liberal and social democrat students, the Free University of Berlin was established as a de facto western successor in West Berlin in 1948, with support from the United States, and retaining traditions and faculty members of the old Friedrich Wilhelm University. The name of the Free University refers to West Berlin's perceived status as part of the Western "free world," in contrast to the "unfree" Communist world in general and the "unfree" communist-controlled university in East Berlin in particular.
Humboldt University, 1950
Almost immediately, the Soviet occupiers started persecuting non-communists and suppressing academic freedom at the university. This led to strong protests within the student body and faculty. Soviet NKVD secret police arrested a number of students in March 1947 as a response. The Soviet Military Tribunal in Berlin-Lichtenberg ruled the students were involved in the formation of a "resistance movement at the University of Berlin", as well as espionage, and were sentenced to 25 years of forced labor. From 1945 to 1948, 18 other students and teachers were arrested or abducted, many gone for weeks, and some taken to the Soviet Union and executed. Many of the students targeted by Soviet persecution were active in the liberal or social democratic resistance against the Soviet-imposed communist dictatorship; the German communist party had regarded the social democrats as their main enemies since the early days of the Weimar Republic.
Humboldt University in 1964
Since the historical name, Friedrich Wilhelm University, had monarchic origins, the school was officially renamed in 1949. Although the Soviet occupational authorities preferred to name the school after a communist leader, university leaders were able to name it Humboldt University of Berlin, after the two Humboldt brothers, a name that was uncontroversial also in the west and capitalized on the fame of the Humboldt name, which is associated with the Humboldtian model of higher education. After 1990 the name was retained due to its uncontroversial and non-communist nature, and because it had been chosen by the university itself as an act of resistance against naming the university after a communist leader.
The main building of Humboldt University, located in Berlin's "Mitte
" district (Unter den Linden
After the German reunification, the university was radically restructured and all employees were terminated and their positions readvertized. The reasons for the termination were both that the activities at the university under the communist regime had been highly politicized and that membership in the communist party had been the main criterion for employment under the communist regime, while non-communists were systematically discriminated against. The professors were almost entirely replaced with West German professors, several of them from the Free University of Berlin, with no links to communism. Many of the departments, which were considered particularly politicized and tainted by communism, e.g. law, history, philosophy and economics, were entirely dissolved, and new departments with no continuity from the communist-era departments were established. As a result of this purge, the university essentially became a new institution in the West German tradition with little continuity from the institution that existed in East Germany. The decommunization was carried out more vigorously at the Humboldt University than any other university in the former GDR, and the university has continued to take disciplinary action against employees discovered to have links to the East German communist regime in the 25 years that followed; in 2017 a research assistant was dismissed over his past as a Stasi cadet, although the disciplinary action was later reduced to a warning and suspension. The Humboldt University has become a leading institution in the research on the crimes of communism in the GDR and other parts of Central and Eastern Europe, with prominent academics such as Jörg Baberowski, an expert on Stalinist violence, genocide and terror against the peoples of Eastern and Central Europe.
Today, Humboldt University is a state university with a large number of students (36,986 in 2014, among them more than 4,662 foreign students) after the model of West German universities, and like its counterpart the Free University of Berlin.
The university consists of three different campuses, namely Campus Mitte, Campus Nord and Campus Adlershof. Its main building is located in the centre of Berlin at the boulevard Unter den Linden and is the heart of Campus Mitte. The building was erected on order by King Frederick II for his younger brother Prince Henry of Prussia. All the institutes of humanities are located around the main building together with the Department of Law and the Department of Business and Economics. Campus Nord is located north of the main building close to Berlin Hauptbahnhof and is the home of the life science departments including the university medical center Charité. The natural science together with computer science and mathematics are located at Campus Adlershof in the south-east of Berlin. Furthermore, the university continues its tradition of a book sale at the university gates facing Bebelplatz.