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history of the building
history of the building
This text is based on the research of Lutz Becht, which he presented in a lecture at basis on May 29, 2008.
After being used as the Hessen State Image Archive, the building at Gutleutstrasse 8-12 was vacant from 2002 and 2007 and from 2007 onwards was rehabilitated by basis e.v. as a non-profit organization. At the end of 2007, the organization relocated to the premises and has since used it to promote artistic and creative content.
The building’s first lease of life was as a noble hotel, the Silvana, which opened in 1907. It is no longer possible to establish whether the developers or the company managing the hotel miscalculated, but during the 1920s it was passed through various hands.
In mid-1933 the Nazi party’s Hessen-Nassau section occupied the building and on the occasion of the groundbreaking for the first autobahn construction project it was named the Gauhaus – or district headquarters – and dedicated to Adolf Hitler. The building was opened under these auspices to coincide with the Gau Party Convention on 23 September 1933 and Hitler himself was present for the event.
The building at Gutleutstrasse 8-12 remained the Gauhaus, or Adolf Hitler House, for about seven years. The function of the Gauhaus was then assumed in the early 1940s by the more central building on Rathenauplatz or Börsenstrasse, which had been converted for that purpose.
The Nazi district HQ leadership files have not remained intact. All the files were destroyed shortly before the Americans invaded Germany at the end of March 1945. Therefore it is only possible to reconstruct the past happenings vaguely from individual items that are to be found here and there.
The building was most certainly the coordination point for anti-Jewish campaigns, such as the November 9, 1938 pogrom, although documentary evidence no longer exists. We cannot exclude it from also having housed a “secret concentration camp” where people were detained and tortured, but again no proof is to be found.
The building is directly linked to one act of destruction, namely the murders by euthanasia, the so-called “t4 Action” (after Tiergartenstrasse 4, a section of "the Fuehrer’s chancellery" in 1940/41). As part of the “t4 Action” organized by the Frankfurt Gauhaus, in Hadamar nr. Limburg (Hessen) so called “valueless” life, meaning persons with mental ill-health or disabled persons, were systematically murdered. Personnel was urgently required to carry out the murders, and the men were cynically called “emergency services”. In the Hessen-Nassau Gau district astonishingly the Labor Office was instructed to handle recruitment, which points to strong links between the State Labor Office and the Gau leadership. The staff members required for the “emergency services” had to in principle approve of killing the mentally challenged. There are accounts of several cases where the t4 staff members recruited for the service were sent by the Labor Office to the Gauhaus to report for duty. Presumably it was here that their sound Party credentials were checked and they were instructed to keep the activities confidential.
Most probably, the first deportations of members of Frankfurt’s Jewish population were organized here in 1941.
During the Allies’ bombing raids, Gutleutstrasse was also hit. Any incriminating materials were subsequently removed or destroyed, and in 1947 the US Military Government bulletin reported that extensive files that had been stored in the Gauhaus before the US Armed Forces took the city had been found. However, the files were reclassified in a manner that no longer allows the original context to be reconstructed, and instead arranged them thematically in a way that makes tracing the building’s history unfeasible.
After World War II, the building became the headquarters of the local branch of the German Communist Party and of the editorial desk of the party’s newspaper, the “Hessischer Landbote” and the “Sozialistische Volkszeitung”.
At the very latest from 1953 onwards the building was turned into a film archive and in 1956 the State Image Archive located there, and remained there until 2002.