Fritz Bauer was born on 16 July 1903 as a child of a German-Jewish family in Stuttgart. He studied Law and Economics in Munich and Tübingen and received his PhD in 1927 in Heidelberg. In 1930 he was the youngest ever Assistant judge at Stuttgart District Court.
In 1933 Fritz Bauer had to resign from his position as a judge and was imprisoned for several months in Heuberg concentration camp. In 1936 Bauer emigrated to Denmark, where he was arrested after the German occupation, but was released thanks to the intervention of Danish friends. In October 1943, when the deportation of Danish Jews began, Fritz Bauer and his family, along with 7000 other Jews, succeeded in escaping to Sweden with Danish help.
After the Liberation, Fritz Bauer returned to Denmark in 1945 and lived in Copenhagen until 1949. In 1949 thanks to the assistance of Kurt Schumacher he returned to Germany. A year later he was appointed Attorney General at the High Court in Braunschweig.
In 1956 Fritz Bauer became Attorney General of Hesse in Frankfurt. He was one of the greatest champions of penal and prison reform, for rehabilitation and for the social responsibility of the judiciary in the reconstruction of a democratic society.
Fritz Bauer gave the Israeli foreign intelligence service Mossad the decisive information about the whereabouts of Adolf Eichmann. Bauer had feared that the German judiciary would stop short of actual extradition proceedings or that Eichmann would be warned by members of the judiciary sympathetic to his case. He therefore bypassed the official channels and contacted the Israeli authorities directly. Because of the information provided by Bauer, Eichmann was captured in 1960 in Argentina and brought to Israel. He thus contributed significantly to the organisation of the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1961.
On 28 August 1961 Fritz Bauer became one of the founding members of the Humanist Union (HU), a civil rights organisation created at the initiative of Dr. Gerhard Szczesny. Bauer had worked on the concept of this first civil rights movement of the Federal Republic of Germany. In November 1961 he signed his accession declaration to the Humanist Union, and he later became a member of its Federal Executive Council. After his death, the Humanist Union created the Fritz-Bauer Prize which is awarded annually to individuals or institutions that have made an outstanding contribution to the democratization, liberalization and humanization of the legal system of the Federal Republic of Germany.
As Attorney General of Hesse, Bauer was responsible for the prosecution in the Auschwitz trial, which took place from 1963 to 1965 in Frankfurt am Main. With this process, the debate about the Holocaust in Germany took on a public dimension for the first time. In 1965, Fritz Bauer opened the preliminary enquiries for a further trial which concerned the participants in a nationwide conference of Justice in 1941, those legally responsible for the "euthanasia" killings. With this trial, Bauer planned to make a test case against the crimes enshrined in the Nazi judicial system.
On the night of 30 June 1968 Fritz Bauer died at his home in Frankfurt. Still in its preparatory phase, the major trial of the "pen-pushers" behind the "euthanasia" never took place.
On 6 July 1968 a memorial gathering of the Hessian State Government for the death of Fritz Bauer took place in Dornbusch House in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. John Strelitz (Hessian Minister of Justice) and Robert MW Kempner (former prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials and a close confidant of Bauer) made declarations. In his speech, Kempner called Bauer "the greatest ever Ambassador of the BRD".