The First Years

Auf dem Flughafen Tempelhof übergibt Paul G. Hoffman, Präsident der Ford Foundatation, dem Rektor der Freien Universität, Freiherr von Kreß, die erste Sendung von 20.000 Büchern, die die American Brotherhood insgesamt sammeln wird.
Paul G. Hoffmann, president of the Ford Foundation, handing over the first delivery of 20,000 books that the American Brotherhood was to collect for Freie Universiät to Freiherr von Kreß, the president of Freie Universiät, at Tempelhof Airport. Image Credit: Remus © Tagesspiegel Freie Universität Berlin, Universitätsarchiv

The shortages of material at Freie Universität during the winter of the airlift in 1948-49 were, like everywhere else in West Berlin, catastrophic. Completely new infrastructure was needed. Those institutes of the former Friedrich Wilhelm University that were situated in Dahlem and the buildings of the former Kaiser Wilhelm Society, which were made available by the Max Planck Society, did not have enough room. Nonetheless, with initiative and a great deal of skill at improvisation, the teachers and students were able to get academic life going. Donations of furniture and books were brought to Dahlem from all over the city, sometimes even on handcarts.

The founding proclamation of Freie Universität promised that every student there would be able to develop her or his own personality freely and unencumbered by propaganda, and that every teacher would be able to teach and do research without having to follow a party-political doctrine. Student brotherhoods of the traditional sort were not, however, permitted at Freie Universität because of their anti-Semitic past. For the first time, students had an official role, with seats and votes, in the independent academic administration of a German university. This "Berlin Model" made Freie Universität the first "reform university" in Germany.

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