When the young public prosecutor Gerhard Wiese helped prepare the indictments against the two Nazi torturers in the Auschwitz extermination camp, Wilhelm Boger and Oswald Kaduk, many Germans did not want to know about their involvement in the Nazi regime of horrors.

But from Frankfurt came a signal against the repression that was difficult to ignore: the first Auschwitz trial, in which members of SS guards stood before a court between Christmas 1963 and 1965 and reported about their atrocities.

Martin Benninghoff

Editor in the Rhein-Main-Zeitung.

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The process, which caused an international sensation, was to take place in the Gallus hall building in Frankfurt, in the Gallusviertel, but it still had to be completed.

So the court met after a word of power from the then mayor in the plenary hall of the city council in the Römer, where politics is still made, but mostly city politics.

“Back then it was cramped and crowded,” recalls Wiese, who is now 92 years old and who lives as a retired lawyer in Dornbusch - and who, until the outbreak of the corona pandemic, was a witness to the horrors of Nazi terror.

“I knew this process wasn't going to be an ordinary one,” he says.

However, he did not recognize this historical dimension at the time.

Frankfurt as the place of the process

A few months later, in April 1964, the judges, lawyers, including Wiese, the defendants and the press moved on to the Gallus hall, which today bears the name of the legendary Hessian attorney general Fritz Bauer.

“It was lighter and lighter here,” recalls the contemporary witness Wiese.

Although the sometimes mild judgments and even acquittals sobered up enlighteners like Bauer and Wiese, the process paved the way for further legal appraisal, for further Auschwitz trials and a social debate that is still not over - because the question is hardly at its center the answer is: How could ordinary citizens become accomplices in the National Socialist killing machine?

Frankfurt as a place of processing has contributed its part to the processing.

The largest city in Hesse has always been a place of history with radiance that goes well beyond this topic, whether in a blessing or bloody manner, although, unlike Berlin or Vienna, it has never been a regular capital. Although it was discussed several times, as the state capital of Hesse or even the capital of the young Federal Republic, ultimately the Main metropolis came away empty-handed - and remains underpriced in this regard. However, this has only partially diminished its charisma as a political city, especially since it has always performed the functions of a capital city - and is in the first place in the political debating club Germany anyway.

Last but not least, the question of the parents' guilt in the war and Nazi rule politicized a generation and caused disputes in intellectual circles for decades. The Institute for Social Research at Goethe University, which had been closed by the National Socialists and driven into exile, exerted an irresistible attraction to left-wing student protest groups after it reopened in the post-war period.