Devin O. Pendas


On December 20, 1963, the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial opened before the State Court (Schwurgericht) at Frankfurt am Main. Ginther Leicher, covering the trial for the Allgemeine Zeitung/Neuer Mainzer Anzeiger, described the scene thus: "A huge mass of journalists, photographers and camera people from all over the world and half-empty seats in the visitors' gallery: these are the contradictory emblems of the public interest in the Auschwitz trial, which opened last Friday, four days before Christmas, in the Frankfurt City Council chambers." In this Article, I examine the seeming paradox that the Auschwitz trial could attract such considerable attention from the mass media while remaining a matter of indifference, if not open hostility, for much of the German public. In other words, I ask what the relationship is between the Auschwitz trial as a trial, as a media event, and as a "moment" in the West German public sphere.