Before the National Socialists came to power, approximately five percent of Frankfurt’s population came from a Jewish family background. The Jewish community there was the second largest in the German Empire. In reaction to National Socialist persecution, systematic exclusion, and violent attacks, the majority of Frankfurt’s Jews had left the city by the time World War II began. Those who stayed behind were largely the sick and elderly. From 1941 on, they were deported in several large transports to the ghettos and concentration camps and were subsequently murdered. Of the original 30,000 Jews remaining in Frankfurt, only around 200 survived. The majority of these were in mixed denominational marriages.
We’d like to introduce you to some of the institutions and associations researching these events and actively commemorating the Shoah.
The Fritz Bauer Institute
Since it was founded in 1995, the Fritz Bauer Institute has been researching the history and repercussions of the Holocaust. True to its name, documenting the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials (1963–65) and the work of Attorney General Fritz Bauer have received special focus. The Institute has built up an extensive database of testimonies from the Auschwitz Trials and, in collaboration with the Jewish Museum, created a traveling exhibition as well as a film about Fritz Bauer.
The Institute manages the Norbert Wollheim Memorial, which commemorates slave laborers at the former IG Farben building during the Nazi era. Today, the site is part of the Goethe University’s Westend campus. The Institute also researches the history of Goethe University during Nazi rule and is home to a library and archive on the history and impact of the Holocaust. The database “Before the Holocaust. Rural Jewish life in Hesse” can be consulted there.
The Institute for the History of Frankfurt
The Institute for the History of Frankfurt, formerly the City Archives, is the “city’s memory.” Among other things, it manages the Internet portal on the city’s history under National Socialism during the years 1933–1945. The database offers a wide range of approaches to the topic, including catalogues indexed by individual names and keywords as well as historical city maps, memorial sites, a chronology of events, and a comprehensive bibliography.
The Institute for the History of Frankfurt also oversees the mobile website Memorials for the Victims of the Nazi Era in Frankfurt am Main. Using QR codes, historical information can be called up on site on mobile devices.
The Historical Museum in Frankfurt
The Historical Museum in Frankfurt was founded in 1877/78 through a civic initiative; it is the city’s oldest museum. Beginning in 2017, the institution has presented three new permanent exhibitions in an architectural ensemble of old and new buildings. Since the 1980s, the Museum has repeatedly organized temporary exhibitions and published catalogues on the subjects of Jewish life in Frankfurt, National Socialism, the Shoah, as well as commemoration and remembrance.
The Anne Frank Educational Center
In 1994, on the occasion of Anne Frank’s 65th birthday, the project “In the Footsteps of Anne Frank” was realized in the Dornbusch district of Frankfurt. That same year, committed Frankfurters founded an association for youth work and named it the Anne Frank Educational Center in 2013. The interdisciplinary program, which includes adult education within companies, counseling, and an array of publications, is now aimed at adults, teachers, social workers, and other educational professionals. The interactive learning laboratory Anne Frank. Morgen mehr not only familiarizes visitors with the life and work of Anne Frank; it also sensitizes adolescents and adults to anti-Semitism, racism, and discrimination in the past and present. In the mobile learning laboratory “Mensch, Du Hast Recht(e)!” (Man, You Have Rights!), which is specially designed as a traveling exhibition, visitors can discover topics for themselves and debate questions such as how prejudices come about, or how democracy works.
Initiative 9. November e.V.
The Initiative 9. November was founded in 1988; since that time, it has dedicated itself to ensuring that the bunker on Friedberger Anlage be seen as a place of remembrance and commemoration. Beginning in 1907, the magnificent synagogue of the Israelite Religious Society stood on this site. The National Socialists destroyed the house of worship during the pogroms of November 1938. In the summer months and by appointment, volunteers at the association open the bunker for exhibitions, guided tours, readings, as well as scientific and musical events. The members particularly value a close cooperation with historical witnesses.
The Jewish Museum Frankfurt has presented the exhibition Ostend. Taking a Look into a Jewish Quarter in the bunker since 2004. An English-language catalogue on the show is available.
Project Jewish Life in Frankfurt. Searching for Traces—Encounters—Memory
The Projekt Jüdisches Leben in Frankfurt was founded in 2014, but the initiative works since the 1970s. As part of a city-wide program, it organizes visits for people and the descendants of people who were persecuted and forced to emigrate during the years of National Socialism for racial or political reasons. The association organizes discussions with historical witnesses at schools and provides teaching materials and documentation. It cooperates with the city’s museums and archives, historical initiatives, and schools, with the Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft (LAG) der Gedenkstätten und Erinnerungsinitiativen zur NS-Zeit in Hessen (State Association for Memorials and Commemorative Initiatives on the Nazi Era in Hesse) and the association Gegen das Vergessen—Für Demokratie e.V. (Against Forgetting—For Democracy). One of its main themes are the children’s transports from Frankfurt and the erection of a memorial to commemorate them.
The Research Project Jüdische Pflegeegeschichte / Jewish Nursing History—Biographies and Institutions in Frankfurt am Main
The research project Jewish Nursing History emerged from the research and collecting activities of nursing scientist Prof. Dr. Hilde Steppe (1947–1999). It is part of the Social Work department at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences and researches nursing and care for the elderly, as well as care in children’s homes and other social institutions in Frankfurt. A core concern of the project is to pay tribute to the Jews working in the care sector who were persecuted, expelled, and murdered during the Nazi era. On the Jewish Nursing History Internet portal, you can search for biographies, institutions, community facilities, historical sites, and additional literature.
Initiative Stolpersteine Frankfurt am Main e.V.
The Initiative Stolpersteine Frankfurt am Main e.V. was founded in 2003 as part of the international art and memorial project by the Cologne-based artist Gunter Demnig. Since then, Demnig has initiated the installment of “Stolpersteine,” which translates as “stumbling stones,” in Frankfurt and elsewhere. The 1,500th stone was laid in October of 2019. Suggestions often come from family members, but also from building owners and tenants with an interest in the city’s history. Together with these and the “godparents” of the Stolpersteine, the initiative researches the biographies and fates of persecuted women, men, and children. The Jewish Museum Frankfurt, the Institute for the History of Frankfurt, schools, parishes, and associations are also involved in the work. Today, the association is no longer exclusively laying Stolpersteine for the murdered Jewish citizens of Frankfurt, but also for survivors and for all people who were victimized by Nazi persecution, such as the Sinti, members of the resistance, forced laborers, homosexuals, the physically and mentally impaired, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Initiative Against Forgetting
The Initiative gegen das Vergessen (Initiative Against Forgetting) was founded in 1996 by the “Verein Leben und Arbeiten in Gallus und Griesheim” (Association for Living and Working in Gallus and Griesheim, LAGG). In 1944, a concentration camp with the code name “Katzbach” was put into operation on the premises of the Adlerwerke in Frankfurt’s Gallus Quarter. By the end of World War II, around 1,600 forced laborers had been exploited there under cruel conditions; only very few survived. The members of the association research the history of the Adlerwerke during the Nazi era and, in particular, the operation of the concentration camp on the premises. To this end, the association cooperates with pupils, teachers, and former members of the last employee organization. In regular events and campaigns, the Initiative not only seeks to pay tribute to the murdered victims, but also to secure financial compensation for the survivors.
Union of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime—Federation of Antifascists, Frankfurt District Association
The “Vereinigung der Verfolgten des Naziregimes” (Union of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime, VVN) was founded in 1947 as a non-partisan, cross-generational association of resistance fighters and those persecuted by the Nazi regime. In 1971 the VVN expanded to include the Federation of Antifascists. The VVN—BDA, with headquarters in Berlin, maintains so-called district associations in the federal states. The Union fights for the preservation of democracy, peace, freedom, and human dignity with exhibitions, campaigns, and its bimonthly magazine antifa, and tries to keep alive the memory of the anti-fascist resistance and the crimes of the National Socialists. It strongly opposes misanthropy, neo-fascism, right-wing extremism, racism, and anti-Semitism.
The Study Group for the Research and Teaching of the History of the German Resistance 1933–1945 e.V.
The Studienkreis Deutscher Widerstand 1933–1945 was founded in 1967 in Frankfurt am Main. Its main task is to research the resistance during the National Socialist years. Initially, it focused on resistance in the labor movement. Today, the association also researches the resistance stories of women, young people, Jews, and Christians. At its core is the Documentation Archive of the German Resistance, which collects and preserves information and knowledge about the anti-fascist resistance, Nazi persecution, forced labor, the National Socialist camp system, and various groups of victims of the “Third Reich” dictatorship. In addition to national and local historical publications, the archive consists of written and pictorial documents as well as interviews with former resistance fighters. The association initiates and accompanies projects in schools and universities.