Freie Universität Berlin was founded on December 4, 1948, by students, scholars, and scientists with the support of the American allied forces and politicians in Berlin. The move was sparked by the persecution faced by students who took a critical eye of the system at the former Universität Unter den Linden, at that time located in the Soviet sector of the divided city. Students and academics wanted to be free to pursue their learning, teaching, and research activities at Freie Universität, without being subject to political influence.
Generous donations from the United States enabled Freie Universität to build some of its central facilities, including the Benjamin Franklin University Hospital and the Henry Ford Building. In a nod to the history surrounding the university’s founding, the seal of Freie Universität still features the words truth, justice, and freedom. In 2007, the university dedicated a memorial to the founding students, who were killed by the Soviet secret service. The university also presents its Freedom Award to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to freedom.