May 1952 was not the first time the mayor of West Berlin, Ernst Reuter, addressed its citizens in the front of the burnt out Reichstag. Four years earlier, with the effective partition of Berlin into eastern and western sectors, and facing an increasingly hostile Soviet Union that posed an existential threat to the survival of liberal democracy in the city, Reuter declared: “People of the world, look upon this city!”
It was a clarion call for the West to come to the city’s defence. With the Soviet blockade of West Berlin in June 1948, access and supplies being shipped overland to the city was impossible. Reuter was pivotal in rallying the western allies and supporting the allied airlift that ran until May 1949 and ensured the city’s survival.
Reuter, the “blockade mayor”, earned the admiration of the city. But Reuter as future defender of liberal democracy in the face of communist aggression would not have been easy to foresee when he was a younger man. He once had been active among socialists and communists, believed in the revolutionary cause, had served as a Soviet commissar in 1918, and was on speaking terms with Lenin and Stalin.
Ernst Reuter: A Mirror on Berlin, explores not only Reuter’s ideas and motivations, and the path he took from revolutionary to defender of liberal democracy, it also reveals how closely linked is his story and the fate of Berlin.
With contributions from Reuter experts David E. Barclay, Matthias Oppermann, Erik Schneeweis and Barış Ülker, and an introduction by Michael C. Bienert, Ernst Reuter: A Mirror on Berlin underscores that any contemporary reading of Berlin and its history remains incomplete without a knowledge of Ernst Reuter.