Ernst Reuter, after whom the Ernst Reuter Initiative is named, was one of many victims of Nazi persecution who found refuge in Turkey during the Third Reich. Reuter, a Social Democrat, had held various political posts in Berlin and Magdeburg during the Weimar Republic. This made him a political opponent in the eyes of the Nazis. Following their seizure of power, Reuter was removed from his posts and later deported to Lichtenburg concentration camp.
In 1934, with the help of his allies, he managed to leave Germany and, via the UK, travelled to Turkey, where he lived throughout the Nazi dictatorship. Reuter served as a consultant to the Turkish Ministry of Economics and advised the Turkish Government on matters including transportation and tariffs. He also taught urban development and planning at the School of Political Science in Ankara. When World War II came to an end, Reuter returned to Germany after roughly ten years in exile. He initially oversaw the Transportation Department in Berlin. In 1948 Reuter was elected Mayor of Berlin (from 1950, Governing Mayor).
During the Berlin Blockade of 1948/49, Reuter gave a speech that has gone down in history. Speaking to over 300,000 people in front of the ruined Reichstag, he said: “People of the world, … look upon this city and know that you cannot, you must not forsake this city and this people.” The Berlin airlift was finally put into action with Reuter’s assistance, notwithstanding the Allies’ misgivings.
Ernst Reuter died of a heart attack in Berlin on 29 September 1953, aged 64. Other refugees who emigrated to Turkey during the Third Reich included the composer Paul Hindemith, the architect Bruno Taut, the musician and teacher Eduard Zuckmayer, the writer, director and playwright George Tabori, law professors such as Andreas Schwarz und Ernst Hirsch, and economists such as Alexander Rüstow and Wilhelm Röpke.