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Fritz Bauer’s life is an inspiration of courage, persistence, and an unyielding commitment to justice. He was born on July 16, 1903, in Stuttgart, Germany. Bauer’s reputation as a German Jewish judge and prosecutor stems from his significant role in preventing political discrimination, upholding human rights, and bringing former Nazi perpetrators responsible.
Early Life and Career
Fritz grew up with Jewish parents, Ludwig and Ella Bauer, and later described his background as “liberally Jewish.” Despite their absorption into German culture, Bauer’s family maintained their Jewish practices, which affected his sense of identity. He continued his education at the Universities of Heidelberg, Munich, and Tübingen after graduating from the Eberhard-Ludwigs-Gymnasium, where he studied law and business.
Bauer entered the legal profession at the same time as the völkisch movement became popular in German universities. Being Jewish led to his exclusion from several student fraternities; nevertheless, the liberal Jewish fraternity FWV (Freie Wissenschaftliche Vereinigung) offered him solace.
At the age of 25, Bauer began his tenure as an assessor judge at the Stuttgart local district court in 1928. He stood out as an outsider in a judiciary dominated by conservative and dictatorial people because of his membership in the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Bauer’s early interactions with the courts revealed a bias toward the Weimar Republic and foresaw issues down the road.
He gained notoriety in Stuttgart as the leader of the SPD’s Reichsbanner defense organization and became enmity partners with SA chief Dietrich von Jagow. Political biases in the court alarmed Bauer because he believed they served as a cover for Nazi government policies.
Bauer was arrested and imprisoned in concentration camps as a result of his strong opposition during the Nazi takeover in 1933. He suffered taunts and disgrace, but he never wavered in his convictions. Although his experiences at the Oberer Kuhberg concentration camp and Heuberg were terrifying, they gave him a strong feeling of perseverance.
Bauer had more challenges after moving to Denmark in 1936, such as being placed under temporary house arrest by Danish authorities on charges of homosexuality. The German takeover in 1940 led to his imprisonment, and when the Nazis strengthened their grip on power in 1943, he fled to Sweden. Bauer had a key role in founding the newspaper “Sozialistische Tribüne” with Willy Brandt.
To conceal himself from the Nazi occupation, Bauer married Danish kindergarten teacher Anna Maria Petersen in 1943 in a civil union. Despite speculation about Bauer’s sexual orientation, his actions during this period show the extremes humans would go to to survive.
In 1949, following the division of Germany between West and East Germany during World War II, Bauer returned home. His commitment to justice never wavered. Resuming his efforts to restructure the judicial system, Bauer served as Hessen’s Generalstaatsanwalt, or state prosecutor, in Frankfurt.
Bauer co-founded the Humanist Union, a human rights organization, in 1968, continuing his unwavering commitment to civil rights. Through his efforts, West Germany was able to build an autonomous, democratic judicial system and contest the legacy of the horrors committed by the Nazis.
Who was Fritz Bauer’s Wife?
Anna Maria Petersen was the wife of Fritz Bauer. They got married in June 1943. Anna Maria Petersen was a Danish Kindergarten teacher.