Fritz Bauer: The Jewish Prosecutor Who Brought Eichmann and Auschwitz to Trial

Bildschirmfoto 2020-05-23 um 16.59.36Fritz Bauer (1903–1968) played a key role in the arrest of Adolf Eichmann and the initiation of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials. I have written about Fritz Bauer before, first about the Jewish Museum’s exhibition in 2014 and then, amongst other posts, about Fritz Bauer as an Unlikely Movie Hero. As these posts are consistently amongst the most read, you might be interested to learn that an English translation of Ronen Steinke’s acclaimed biography has been published by Indiana University Press. This post contains further reading on Steinke’s book, and here is a link to Kai Ambos’ English-language review.

Here is his summary:

“What is clear – and what this book makes clear – is that without people like Fritz Bauer there would have been none of this prosecution of Nazi atrocities, no trials for Auschwitz camp guards or Adolf Eichmann, no rehabilitation of the German resistance against Hitler. Moreover, without people of Fritz Bauer’s courage and conviction, German law today would not be what it has become, thanks also to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Constitutional Court, and that is: firmly bound to principles of justice and human dignity. In his foreword to this book, the (former) President of the German Constitutional Court, Andreas Voßkuhle, emphasises what can be achieved though means of the law and what can be made possible where “courage, sharp reasoning, and last but not least a tireless work ethos” come together. Ronen Steinke deserves thanks for bringing this message of Fritz Bauer back to light in such an accessible form, balancing professional distance and sympathy.”

I pretty much agree. But when I re-read the book a couple of days ago in conjunction with an other reading project (of which more next week end), I was slightly disappointed by Andreas Voßkuhle’s foreword: Voßkuhle read law in Bavaria, at Bayreuth and Munich universities, only a couple of years ahead of me. It is fair to assume that in his university days, like in mine, Fritz Bauer did not feature, certainly not as part of the standard curriculum. I somehow felt that he – as a former law professor and dean of Freiburg University’s law school –  should have mentioned that German law students of his generation were unlikely to ever have heard of Fritz Bauer. And as far as I can see, not much has changed since.

In related “breaking news”, the tapes of the Auschwitz trial are online. The Fritz Bauer Institut has created a dedicated website that makes these historic audio documents easy accessible, in addition to the written materials.

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