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Berthold Finkelstein

Founder of the Gustav Stresemann Institute

One of Hans and Annemarie Finkelstein’s three children was Berthold, who was born in Krefeld in 1925. Given the Jewish heritage of his father Hans, following the Nuremberg Race Laws, Berthold was classified as “half-Jew” and as such was subjected to forced labor at the Lower Rhine sites of I.G. Farben to contribute to the expansion of local production. Against all odds, both Berthold and his mother Annemarie as well as the two siblings survived the war. After the end of the Second World War, he took up studies at the University of Bonn in 1945. He chose chemistry, theology, and economics as his subjects of study and graduated with a degree in economics. 

Berthold Finkelstein

Berthold Finkelstein © Gustav-Stresemann-Institut e.V.

An Advocate for international Understanding

Fostering democratic perspectives

Due to his experiences of discrimination, the loss of his father and his time as a forced laborer, Berthold Finkelstein actively campaigned for an enlightened democracy in Germany and dedicated himself to political education. 


Berthold Finkelstein reported that his encounters with other forced laborers from countries like Poland or France built the foundation for him to become a true “European” and an advocate for international understanding. Before the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, he organized international meetings with universities in neighboring European countries, including Oxford, while still a student. From 1949 on, he participated in the founding of the International Students' Federation (ISSF) and became its chairman. He was also active in the Young European Federalists Germany. 


Berthold Finkelstein

Johannes and Berthold Finkelstein on his 60s birthday © Gustav-Stresemann-Institut e.V.

Following the initiative of the Belgian politician Paul-Henri Spaak, the Youth Secretariat of the European Movement was founded in 1951 to promote active participation in building a new democratic and peaceful order on the European continent. Berthold Finkelstein became the director of the German office of the European Youth Campaign. In 1959, this institution was transformed into an independent institute for supranational education and European cooperation. To honor the services of the statesman and Nobel Peace Prize winner Gustav Stresemann for peace and European cooperation, the institute was renamed the Gustav Stresemann Institute. Finkelstein was head of the institute until his death in 1996.

Berthold was married to Gertraude Hinrichs, with whom he had a son: Johannes Finkelstein.

Gustav Stresemann Institute

Johannes Finkelstein

“Forced labor, the loss of his father, and the trauma of war had a deep impact on him and decisively influenced his later work on political education.”

Johannes Finkelstein

The research on the story of the Finkelstein family is ongoing and remains incomplete. As the lives of Dr. Hans and Berthold Finkelstein, and thus also Annemarie, Klaus-Peter, and Eva Finkelstein, are connected to I.G. Farben, the Hans and Berthold Finkelstein Foundation intends to support further independent research.