City of German Handicrafts

The hoisting of the swastika on the façade of the Römer on 12 March 1933 heralded for Frankfurt one of the most chilling chapters in city history. On the same day, the National Socialist Friedrich Krebs was appointed provisional Oberbürgermeister of Frankfurt. The deposed Mayor Ludwig Landmann, as a Jew no longer safe in the city, fled to Berlin and subsequently to exile in Holland. As a traditionally liberal and Jewish oriented trading city with a significant banking community Frankfurt had become the target for the National Socialist Conformity Policy. Frankfurt’s image as a »Jewish and liberally polluted« city already stemmed from the 19th century. For the National Socialists, however, this image was exacerbated during the period of the Weimar Republik by the »degenerate« modern and Marxism in the form of the group around Ernst May. The ordained boycott of Jewish businesses already commenced on 1 April 1933. Frankfurt University and its institutes were occupied by National Socialist student groups and storm troops. Alongside numerous public service employees the Director of the Städel, Georg Swarzenski, was also dismissed, as was the Director of the Städelschule Fritz Wichert. The contemporary section of the Galerie im Städel was closed down and the »degenerate« art was sold abroad. Max Beckmann, professor at the Städelschule since 1925, was removed from office. As there was no plausible reason for Beckmann’s dismissal, the Prussian Economy Directive of 1931 served as justification. Oberbürgermeister Friedrich Krebs dismissed one of the best-known contemporary artists for ostensible personnel reduction measures. After the Städelschule was placed under new National Socialist direction, a far-reaching restructuring process was introduced. The reformative art college was scheduled to become a »craftsman’s college«, instead of comprehensive art education only a few classes of professional training were offered.

Frankfurt was to be systematically transformed into a National Socialist model city. Communal economic policy was geared from then on to reviving the handicrafts and their tradition. To this purpose Friedrich Krebs issues a memorandum, which is intended to insinuate that handicrafts traditionally had great significance in Frankfurt. The house and fountain of German handicrafts were planned. In 1935 Adolf Hitler gives the city the Nazi honorary title »Stadt des deutschen Handwerks Frankfurt am Main«.

The persecution of the Jews escalates in 1938. In the Reichsprogrom night Frankfurt synagogues also burn. As symbolic representation of the Nazi model city Frankfurt, the house and fountain of German handicrafts are never built. Nonetheless, the deportation and slaying of Frankfurt Jews continues with deadly efficiency: by 1944 almost 10,000 have perished in concentration camps.