David Frankfurter

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David Frankfurter in Palestine 1945

David Frankfurter (born July 9, 1909 in Daruvar , Austria-Hungary , today Croatia ; † July 19, 1982 in Tel Aviv ) came as a young man in the early 1930s from his hometown, then part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, to live with relatives in Frankfurt am Main , to study medicine in Germany . There he experienced the massive harassment of the Jewish population that began when the National Socialists came to power . At the end of 1933 he emigrated to Switzerland. In 1936 he committed a fatal assassination attempt on the head of the National Socialist Party of Switzerland Wilhelm Gustloff . He wanted to show that Jews “revolted” against the National Socialist regime.

Live and act

Until 1933

David Frankfurter was a son of the Croatian and German speaking chief rabbi Mosche Frankfurter and his wife Rebekka. They lived in what is now Croatian territory that belonged to Austria-Hungary until 1918 and to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1918. Frankfurter was sickly. He had suffered from a bone tumor since birth and had to undergo frequent operations up to the age of 23, which severely weakened his physical performance. From 1929 he studied medicine at the universities of Vienna , Leipzig and Frankfurt . In 1933 Frankfurter saw the beginning of the persecution of Jews by SA members and fellow students in the lecture hall.

Frankfurter fled German anti-Semitism in October 1933 to Bern , Switzerland. In Switzerland he learned, among other things, from the press of 36 Jewish citizens murdered in a concentration camp and of the mistreatment of German Jews and supporters of democratic parties. Nevertheless, he traveled to Frankfurt at Christmas 1934 and had to watch anti-Semitic Germans abuse his uncle.


In view of the persecution of the Jews, Frankfurter felt obliged as an individual to set an example of Jewish resistance to the actions of the National Socialists. He noticed the anti-Semitic activities of the head of the Swiss National NSDAP group in Davos, which were discussed in public in Switzerland. He bought a pistol with which on February 4, 1936, without anyone else knowing about it, he committed an assassination attempt on the regional group leader Wilhelm Gustloff in his apartment in Davos and killed him. Immediately afterwards he turned himself in to the Swiss police.

The leadership of the NSDAP saw this attack as proof of the existence of a "Jewish world conspiracy" against Germany. Employees of Goebbel's Propaganda Ministry tried to use this assassination attempt for anti-Jewish propaganda and carried out a meticulously planned journalistic campaign against the alleged " world Jewry " that was behind the assassination attempt. They elevated Gustloff to a martyr of the Nazi movement and named a ship after him.

Switzerland brought criminal proceedings against David Frankfurter. Although the German government was not a party in this process, it got involved. The Propaganda Ministry commissioned the Oberregierungsrat Wolfgang Diewerge with the propaganda support of the process and the Nazi attorney Friedrich Grimm , who appeared formally as a joint plaintiff for Gustloff's widow, with the legal support of the propaganda in the courtroom. The Nazi propaganda accused the Swiss authorities of having contributed to the attack through a liberal press policy. Grimm allegedly had a dedicated telephone line placed in a room in the courthouse to discuss the progress of the trial with Adolf Hitler .

Many Swiss expressed understanding for Frankfurt's attack, but many were also appalled by the attack. The government tried to uphold the rule of law and diplomatic neutrality in the trial. Finally, David Frankfurter, who confessed and was always cooperative , was sentenced to eighteen years imprisonment and subsequent expulsion from the country for the undisputed murder with great international interest on December 14, 1936 in Chur . His defenders were Veit Wyler, later known as a philanthropist, and Eugen Curti.

After the end of National Socialism

David Frankfurter Garden in Ramat Gan

From 1943 Frankfurter was looked after by the Bern lawyer Georges Brunschvig , who played a key role in his pardon: After the end of the war, Frankfurter was released on June 1, 1945 and expelled from Switzerland. Frankfurter emigrated to Tel Aviv in the British mandate of Palestine . In Israel he became a civil servant in the Ministry of Defense and later an officer in the Israel Defense Forces . Only after the war did Frankfurter find out that his father had been arrested, tortured and murdered by the Gestapo in his place of residence in 1941 after the German occupation of Yugoslavia . In 1969 the Grand Council of the Canton of Graubünden withdrew the referral.



  • Wolfgang Diewerge : A Jew shot. Eyewitness account of the David Frankfurter murder trial. Rather, Munich 1937.
  • Emil Ludwig : Murder in Davos. Querido Verlag, Amsterdam 1936. (Banned during the Nazi era in Switzerland and Germany.) Extended edition: David and Goliath. Story of a political murder . Carl Posen Verlag, Zurich 1945.
  • Klaus Urner : The Swiss Hitler Assassin. Three studies on resistance and its limits. Book Club Ex Libris, Zurich 1982.
  • Emil Ludwig, Peter O. Chotjewitz : The murder in Davos. Texts on the attack by David Frankfurter, Wilhelm Gustloff. Edition of the book Helmut Kreuzer (Ed.), Emil Ludwig: David und Goliath, expanded to include contributions from Peter O. Chotjewitz and Helmut Kreuzer . Story of a political murder. March Verlag, Herbstein 1986, ISBN 3-88880-065-X .
  • Peter Bollier: February 4, 1936. The assassination attempt on Wilhelm Gustloff. In: Roland Aegerter (ed.): Political assassinations of the 20th century. NZZ Verlag, Zurich 1999, ISBN 3-85823-786-8 .
  • In Günter Grass ' novella Im Krebsgang (2002) Frankfurter assassination is mentioned.
  • Matthieu Gillabert: La propagande nazie en Suisse. L'affaire Gustloff 1936. Presses polytechniques et universitaires romandes, Lausanne 2008.
  • Armin Fuhrer : Death in Davos. David Frankfurter and the assassination attempt on Wilhelm Gustloff (= ZeitgeschichteN series , Volume 9). Metropol, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-86331-069-1 .
  • Thomas F. Schneider (Ed.): Non Fiktion - Emil Ludwig . Wehrhahn Verlag, Hanover 2016, ISBN 978-3-86525-546-4 (at the same time 11th year, issue 1/2, the magazine Arsenal der other genres with articles on the murder in Davos, on David Frankfurter and related topics).
  • Sabina Bossert: David Frankfurter (1909–1982). The self-image of the Gustloff assassin , Vienna, Cologne, Weimar: Böhlau 2019 (series Jüdische Moderne; 20), ISBN 978-3-412-51260-6 .


  • Confrontation - The Davos Assassination. Docudrama about David Frankfurter, his assassination attempt and Switzerland during World War II, directed and written by Rolf Lyssy , 1974.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Klaus Urner : The Swiss Hitler Assassin. Three studies on resistance and its limits. Zurich 1982. p. 101.
  2. ^ Emil Ludwig, Peter O. Chotjewitz : The murder in Davos: Texts on the attack by David Frankfurter, Wilhelm Gustloff. Edition of the book by Helmut Kreuzer (ed.), Emil Ludwig: David und Goliath, expanded to include contributions from Peter O. Chotjewitz and Helmut Kreuzer . Story of a political murder. März Verlag, Herbstein 1986, ISBN 3-88880-065-X , p. 329 f.
  3. ^ S. also the writings of Wolfgang Diewerge: Der Fall Gustloff. Prehistory and background to the bloody deed in Davos. Munich 1936; and a Jew shot. Eyewitness report from the trial of David Frankfurter. Munich 1937.
  4. Werner Rings: Switzerland at War: 1933-1945: a report. Zurich 1974, p. 72; Friedrich Grimm: Political Justice , p. 105 ff., P. 160 f.
  5. s. Emil Ludwig, Peter O. Chotjewitz: The murder in Davos: texts on the attack by David Frankfurter, Wilhelm Gustloff. Herbstein 1986, ISBN 3-88880-065-X , p. 118 u. 195.
  6. Review by Sven Felix Kellerhoff : How a Jew shot Hitler's governor. In: The world . April 29, 2013.