Humboldt University

  • Humboldt University Berlin

    Main building at Unter den Linden

  • Humboldt University Berlin

    Entrance to the main building at Unter den Linden

  • Alexander von Humboldt

Humboldt University at Unter den Linden boulevard is the oldest university in Berlin. Founded on the principle of the unity of teaching and research, the "Alma mater berolinensis" is considered the world's first modern university.

The Humboldt University (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) cannot be missed while strolling down Unter den Linden because of the throngs of young students who populate the immediate vicinity of the building. Berlin's oldest university, completed in 1766, is located in a former royal palace. Its illustrious student body and professors once included the father of German idealism and the "dialectic", philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who transformed this into dialectical materialism, by turning Hegelian idealism on "its head" as well as Albert Einstein, Max Planck and the Brothers Grimm.

Humboldt University was founded in 1810 at the instigation of Wilhelm von Humboldt

In the main lobby stands a statue of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels with the memorable inscription which set them off on their quest for historical materialism, "philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point is to change it". The building which today houses the Humboldt University was the third to be erected as part of Friedrich the Great's (1740-1786) Forum Fidericianum project - originally as a palace for Prince Heinrich, his half brother. The Friedrich Wilhelm University was founded in 1810 at the instigation of enlightenment linguist and philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt, brother of the similarly accomplished explorer and humanist Alexander von Humboldt.

Humboldt University building: Second courtyard added in 1920

The former palace's architectural highlights consist of a three-wing complex elongated in 1920 by Ludwig Hoffmann to produce a second courtyard, around the one facing the boulevard. The complex includes statues and a Corinthian column structure which recalls that of the Opera House on the opposite side of the boulevard Unter den Linden. The statues of Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt are immediately recognizable, towering above students and visitors alike at the main entrance.

History of Humboldt University in the 20th century

During the era of the rising National Socialism, 20,000 books by so-called "degenerates" were removed from the university's library and burned by the Nazis on May 10, 1933 on today’s Bebelplatz. After 1946, as the GDR's communist regime of the SED (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands) increasingly forced students to comply with communist ideology, the Free University of Berlin was founded in 1948 in the western sector in Berlin's leafy district of Dahlem. The university's ideologically conforming students did not take part in the East German civil rights movement and Heinrich Fink, the university's Director until 1990, was known to have Stasi affiliations.

Humboldt University is one of four major universities in Berlin

Berlin has a total of four internationally renowned universities which include the University of the Arts (UdK Berlin), the Technical University and the Free University as well as numerous centres of higher education and research institutes. The University of Potsdam, and the Babelsberg Konrad Wolf Film School are also just outside Berlin in the state of Brandenburg.

Humboldt University Information

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Unter den Linden 6
10117 Berlin
+49 (0)30 2093 0
Johann Boumann, Carl Ludwig Hildebrandt, Ludwig Hoffmann
late baroque

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Ein Mann fotografiert bei sonnigen Wetter das Brandenburger Tor

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Last edited: 31 August 2021