Ernst Reuter

(b. 1889)

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(b. Apenrade, 29 July 1889; d. Berlin, 29 Sept. 1953)

German; governing mayor of West Berlin 1950–3 In the Kaiser's Germany Reuter, as a Social Democrat, was banned from the public service and could not enter the teaching profession for which he had trained. He worked in the SPD's own educational service until called up for military service. Captured on the Russian front he sided with the Bolsheviks in 1917 and was appointed Commissar for the German minority in Russia. On his return to Germany in 1918 he rose rapidly in the newly formed Communist Party (KPD), becoming its General Secretary. He soon fell out with his KPD comrades and by 1922 was once again in the SPD. Through the SPD he was appointed head of the Berlin city transport department. He became known outside Germany for his excellent administration. Reuter served as mayor of Magdeburg from 1931 to 1933. He was arrested by the Nazis in that year and held in Lichtenberg concentration camp. After a second term in the same camp he left Germany. He worked as adviser on local government to the Turkish government and professor of local government at Ankara University.

Reuter returned to his old post in Berlin in November 1946. In 1947 the parliament of all four sectors of the city elected him by 89 votes to 17 as governing mayor. The Soviets refused to accept him and he stepped down in favour of SPD colleague Louise Schroeder. The Soviets cut off the road, rail, and waterway links between West Berlin and West Germany hoping to starve the 2 million West Berliners into submission. Remarkably, the Allies were able to fly in the minimum supplies to keep them alive, but the morale factor was vital and Reuter did much to maintain the fighting spirit of the Berliners, speaking at widely publicized mass demonstrations which inspired his fellow citizens. World attention was focused on Berlin. On 12 May 1949 the Soviets lifted the blockade.

Reuter wanted West Berlin to be integrated into the newly established Federal Republic of (West) Germany. This, which would have been an advantage for the SPD, was vetoed by the Western powers who exercised final authority in West Berlin. Elected to the Executive of the SPD in 1948, Reuter supported the integration of West Germany into the Western Alliance, but he continued to hope for the restoration of German unity. The victory of Adenauer's Christian Democrats in September 1953 caused him to lose hope; he died in the same month.

Subjects: Politics.

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