Fritz Bauer was born on 16 July 1903 to a Jewish businessman’s family in Stuttgart, where he grew up and attended school. He studied law and economics in Heidelberg, Munich and Tübingen, earning his doctorate. In 1930, he was appointed as a local district judge in his hometown, making him the youngest judge in Germany. He became politically active at an early age, having already joined the Social Democratic Party (SPD) as a youth. At the beginning of the 1930s, he headed the Stuttgart local group of the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold defence league, an organization whose stated mission was to defend the parliamentary democracy of the Weimar Republic.
Just weeks after the National Socialists came to power, Bauer was dismissed from his position as a judge and detained several months for political reasons in Heuberg concentration camp on the Swabian Alb. In 1936, he fled to Denmark initially and later to Sweden, where he survived the war years.
During the year in which the Federal Republic of Germany was founded, Bauer returned from exile, with support from Kurt Schumacher, party leader of the SPD. Bauer considered judicial prosecution of Nazi crimes fundamental to establishing a democratic system of justice, making this the objective of his legal work. In Braunschweig, he initially became a director of regional courts and was later appointed as a district attorney at the higher regional court. Hessian Minister President Georg-August Zinn brought Fritz Bauer to Hesse in 1956, where Bauer worked as district attorney in Frankfurt am Main.
Bauer dedicated intensive efforts to investigation of NS-officials suspected of haing comitted serious crimes. He provided the Israeli secret service Mossad with a crucial hint to Adolf Eichmann’s whereabouts, which led to Eichmann’s capture in Argentina in 1960. The organizer of the death transports to extermination camps could be brought to trial in Jerusalem, in 1961. Bauer also initiated the Auschwitz trial was held in Frankfurt from December 1963 to August 1965. He considered the trials against Nazi perpetrators as a means of self-enlightenment and self-cleansing of West-German society.
Monday morning, 1 July 1968, Fritz Bauer was found dead in his apartment in Frankfurt am Main. A trial against participants in the »euthanasia« program, that Bauer prepared, did not take place.