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Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer

Title: Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer
Director: Lars Kraume
Cast: Rüdiger Klink, Burghart Klaußner, Andrei Kaminski a.o.
Released: 2015, on DVD/Blu-ray in 2016
Playing time: 101 minutes

On May 11, 1960, the Mossad (Israeli secret service) carried out a clandestine operation in Argentina in order to capture fugitive Nazi Adolf Eichmann (Bio Eichmann). He was smuggled to Israel where the court in Jerusalem sentenced him to death on December 15, 1961 for his involvement in the extermination of Jews by Nazi Germany. Both the Israeli agents and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal were credited for the successful arrest but the role of German prosecutor Fritz Bauer has been neglected for a long time. The German movie "Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer" (The State vs Fritz Bauer) by director Lars Kraume tells how Fritz Bauer contributed to the Eichmann trial.

Fritz Bauer, born in 1903 in Stuttgart and son of Jewish parents, had every reason to hate the Nazis. Being a member of the social democratic party and the Reichsbanner, a leftist paramilitary organization in defense of the republic, he stood up against the Nazis in the early 30s in the streets of Stuttgart. After a plan for a general strike in his city had collapsed, he and some followers were arrested in May 1933 and imprisoned in concentration camp Heuberg. After his release and discharge as a judge in 1935, he fled to neutral Sweden via Denmark which probably saved his life as he, being Jewish would have fallen victim to the Holocaust.

In the movie, we see Bauer at a later age in the second half of the 50s. After the war he has returned to Germany and in 1956 he is appointed Staatsanwalt in the state of Hessen. Despite threats from former Nazi circles and opposition within the judiciary system of the Federal Republic where former Nazis still have authority, he devotes himself to sentencing suspects of Nazi crimes. When he traces Eichmann through a former concentration camp inmate in Argentina, he is determined to take the former SS man to a German court. He can hardly count on support from colleagues, afraid as they are that Eichmann may well disclose, during a public trial, names of prominent figures in Western Germany who were involved in Nazi crimes.

Therefore, Bauer turns to the Mossad in secret, in fact making himself guilty of high treason. Apart from this story line, another sore point in post-war West-Germany plays an important role. Pursuant to Penal Code, Section 175, homosexual intercourse was punishable from 1871 to 1994 and it was strictly upheld both during and after the Nazi era. Although he is married, Bauer and his wife live their separate lives and men appeal to him strongly. Therefore he feels a connection with his younger subordinate, fictitious Karl Angermann. He, a public prosecutor, intends to penalize a young man who has been arrested for homosexual contacts with just a symbolic fine which causes dissatisfaction within the conservative court. When Angermann falls in love with a night club singer who dresses like a female, he makes himself vulnerable to bribery and it is an open question whether his boss, Bauer, can protect him.

Although they seemingly have little to do with each other, both the strenuous persecution of Nazi war criminals and the ban on homosexual contacts are mutually connected themes. Both serve to illustrate the fact that in post-war Germany, the road to freedom and democracy was a long one. Fritz Bauer was an important player on this stage; not so much because of his role at the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem but mainly because of his struggle for democratization of the West-German public authority and because of the Auschwitz trials in Frankfurt-am-Main which he instigated as chief prosecutor and where 22 Germans were indicted for crimes in Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp. He was not satisfied himself with the outcome of these trials though as in his opinion, the judges attached more value to the orders the defendants had followed in Auschwitz than to their personal guilt.

In "Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer" we see just a fraction of the meaningful and historical role played by Bauer who passed away in 1968 but it is enough to give him credit for. The marked and slightly melancholic but resolute and righteous personality is portrayed true to live, physically and psychologically by actor Burghart Klaußner. The movie is a strong charge against the dual morality of post-war Germany that on the one hand embraced democratic values but on the other hand failed to rid itself once and for all of the Nazi heritage. It was partly due to the sentencing of Eichmann by the fledgling Israeli state and the Auschwitz trials that younger generations of Germans begin to realize the crimes of their parents and grandparents and start distancing themselves from them. This movie is a convincing tribute to Fritz Bauer’s early role in this process of awareness.

Rating: (Very good)


Translated by:
Arnold Palthe
Article by:
Kevin Prenger
Published on:
Last edit on: