Years After Mysterious Death, 1st Nazi Hunter in Limelight

Prosecutor Fritz Bauer wasn't just Jewish, but a gay atheist
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2016 4:02 AM CST
Germany Finally Honoring Its Dogged First Nazi Hunter
Fritz Bauer died in a bathtub in 1968 under mysterious circumstances.   (Fritz Bauer Institut)

Nearly 50 years after he was mysteriously found dead in a bath tub, two new films are helping to put Germany's first Nazi hunter Fritz Bauer "back where he belongs: in the collective consciousness," reports Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, via AFP. Both Labyrinth of Lies by Giulio Ricciarelli and The People vs. Fritz Bauer by Lars Kraume portray the state prosecutor from Stuttgart as a controversial figure in the post-war years—he was Jewish, atheist, and gay, and he wanted those who worked in death camps brought to justice at a time when many Germans wanted to forget or ignore the horrors of the Nazi regime, reports AFP. And though his 1968 death looked like suicide, it remains a topic of debate to this day. "My guess is that until now the Germans did not want to honor a person who pointed so openly to their incompetence in dealing with their Nazi past," says the author of a Bauer book.

Bauer tipped off Israel that Adolf Eichmann was hiding in Argentina; the Mossad swooped in and kidnapped him in 1960 and he was executed in Israel in 1962. A year later he brought the Nazis who ran Auschwitz to court for the first time in Germany, fueled in part by the nine months he spent in a concentration camp in 1933 just a few years after becoming Germany's youngest judge at 27, reports the Independent. He received hate mail and death threats and is said to have once told a colleague: "As soon as I leave the confines of my office, I am on enemy territory." The Independent calls it a "belated triumph" that half a century later reunited Germany is trying to track down the remaining Holocaust perpetrators, using Bauer's own logic that working in death camps equates complicity in murder. (This is what Eichmann wrote two days before he was hanged.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.