Fritz Bauer: Nazi Criminals Prosecution

Fritz Bauer’s move from his office as a chief public prosecutor at the Braunschweig Higher Regional Court to the office of the Hessian chief public prosecutor marked the beginning of a new phase in the prosecution of Nazi criminals in the Federal Republic of Germany. Fritz Bauer Nazi Prosecution

Who was Fritz Bauer?

With German Jewish judge and prosecutor Fritz Bauer, Hessian Prime Minister Georg August Zinn brought one of the most distinguished prosecutors of the newly founded Federal Republic of Germany to Frankfurt in 1956. Bauer, born in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1903, studied law and economics.

After obtaining his doctorate in 1927, he began his career as a judge; by 1930, he had advanced to judge at the Local Court in his hometown, the youngest during the Weimar Republic. Fritz Bauer was also politically active, i.e., as a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Black, Red, and Gold Banner of the Reich (Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold), an organization founded in 1924 to protect parliamentary democracy, and the Republican Association of Judges (Republikanischen Richterbund).

Fritz Bauer German Passport
German passport of Fritz Bauer, 1932 (Fritz Bauer Institute)

After the Nazi seizure of power, the new rulers dismissed Fritz Bauer as a judge and imprisoned him at Heuberg Concentration Camp for a few months. In 1936, Bauer immigrated to Denmark, from where he was barely able to escape deportation by fleeing to Sweden in 1943. Fritz Bauer Nazi Prosecution

Fritz Bauer Swedish passport
Swedish passport of Fritz Bauer, 1943 (Fritz Bauer Institute)

Swedish Exile

National Socialism had not been overcome yet when the criminal prosecution of Nazi criminals became a vital issue in Fritz Bauer’s life. During his exile in Sweden, Bauer addressed how the criminal acts of National Socialism could be punished according to the rule of law. He published his visionary ideas in his book “Die Kriegsverbrecher vor Gericht” in 1944.

Return to Germany Fritz Bauer Nazi Prosecution

To help build up a democratic legal system in the young Federal Republic of Germany, Fritz Bauer returned to Germany in 1949. In Braunschweig, he was first appointed a presiding judge at the Regional Court and then chief public prosecutor at the Braunschweig Higher Regional Court. As a prosecutor in the trial of Otto Ernst Remer – Remer was crucially involved in the suppression of the uprising of July 20, 1944, and later persistently defamed the resistance fighters publicly as “traitors” after 1945 – Fritz Bauer sent a clear signal of his legal principles in 1952.

These principles also included the direction successfully represented by Bauer that the Nazi state was not a state governed by the rule of law (Rechtsstaat) but a criminal and illegitimate state (Unrechtsstaat).


With his move from Braunschweig to Frankfurt, Fritz Bauer acquired access to the requisite human resources to set into criminal motion investigations regarding National Socialist crimes of violence on a broad scale. At the same time, he pushed the search for Nazi major criminals who had fled or disappeared, such as Adolf Eichmann, an SS Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) who was responsible for the deportations of millions of Jews to the extermination camps, Josef Mengele, the notorious concentration camp physician at Auschwitz, and Martin Bormann, “Hitler’s secretary.”

Bauer energetically pulled the Auschwitz Trial to Frankfurt in 1959 and thus launched the proceedings that have impacted the present, both legally and socially. In his time as the Hessian Chief Public Prosecutor, Fritz Bauer made West German society aware of the terrible crimes of National Socialism within the framework of the genocide of European Jews. Fritz Bauer also sought to pursue investigations and criminal proceedings against high-ranking perpetrators of the Nazi euthanasia program and Nazi lawyers, but with only moderate success. Fritz Bauer Nazi Prosecution

Bauer’s Legacy Fritz Bauer Nazi Prosecution

These proceedings petered out no later than Fritz Bauer’s unexpected death on the night of June 30 to July 1, 1968. He frequently faced rejection and hostility in an environment where he had only limited success as a prosecutor of Nazi criminals. In the long term, however, Bauer’s legacy lies primarily in the fact that he launched the process of the reappraisal of this particular genocide and the recognition of the victims’ sufferings within German society hence, why he is revered today.

The importance of Hesse’s Chief Public Prosecutor Fritz Bauer in bringing about the Auschwitz trials of the 1960s is undisputed. But it was only after his death that his decisive contribution to the capture of Eichmann became known. I highly recommend “The People vs. Fritz Bauer Fritz Bauer Nazi Prosecution

Visit the website of the Fritz Bauer Institute for more details.


FAQ Passport History
Passport collection, passport renewal, old passports for sale, vintage passport, emergency passport renewal, same day passport, passport application, pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...