(A proposed paper for the Journal of the T. E. Lawrence Society)
’For me, an affidavit, a word, and a promise are always an oath. It does not need a raised hand nor fear of any unpleasantness you might be subjected to in the beyond.’
(Heinrich Franke at the session of the Bavarian Parliament, 30 May 1951)
Having done research on several Germans and Austrians who crossed paths with T. E. Lawrence in one way or another, and having made a chance discovery or two in archives myself, I immensely enjoyed reading Lorraine Tinsley’s article ‘T. E. Lawrence and Leonard Woolley in Carchemish: The Story Behind the Photograph’ in the Journal of the T. E. Lawrence Society, vol. 29, no. 2 (Spring 2020). In the Liddell Hart collection at the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King’s College, London, Lorraine Tinsley had found a letter by Heinrich Franke to Basil Liddell Hart, relating his meeting with Lawrence in 1913, and enclosing the said, now famous photograph. Since I felt on familiar ground, and since I really liked Heinrich Franke from his letter, I began research into his life and career, with the kind encouragement of Lorraine Tinsley whom I can’t thank enough, both for her support and for introducing me to a remarkable countryman of mine. This article can therefore be seen as a sort of follow-up, giving some background on the man behind the photograph – or behind the camera, as it were.
Professor Dr Dr Heinrich Franke was not a nobody in Germany by any means; his career was as brilliant as it was diverse, he published next to a hundred scientific papers and several patents, he received a plethora of awards from the Röntgen-Plakette to the Verdienstkreuz (basically the civil equivalent of a knighting), and his accolades include honorary citizenship of Erlangen and Junín and honorary professorship of the Ludwig Maximilian University Munich. In Erlangen, a street is named after him. Yet for all his titles and high-profile work, very little is still known about him today. His professional work is documented in at least ten archives from Berlin to Cologne to Munich, but at first glance, there was nothing relating to Heinrich Franke, private citizen.
Now this was in June 2020; many of those archives were still in complete lockdown or offered only limited access. I am very grateful that several archivists went out of their way to give me what help they could – and were surprised by the results in turn. The archive of the Bavarian Parliament, for example, sounding like the most boring place ever to look for information, actually turned out to possess the most voluminous and interesting collection on Franke that I encountered in my search. Its archivist was impressed as well, remarking that delegates’ files usually didn’t include this amount of information.
The Bavarian Parliament, in fact, was the place to look. Franke was a delegate there from 1946 to 1954, representing the Social Democratic Party (SPD) for the constituencies of Erlangen and Forchheim. The minutes of the Parliament sessions are all digitized, and reading through Franke’s speeches I got a clear glimpse of his character for the first time. Though post-war Parliament had to deal with a wide range of topics, from US occupation bureaucracy to the problem of boar hunting (as part of a solution to severe food shortages) when Germans were not allowed to carry firearms, Franke always managed to weave his great sense of fairness into his speeches. Fairness, justice, and humanism are the themes I would ascribe to a man who called himself a ‘political Protestant’, who was a Social Democrat at heart because he believed in the good of humankind and whose integrity, outspokeness, humour, and deep Christian belief gained the respect even of his political opponents. ‘Dr Franke’s balancing nature,’ his colleagues acknowledged on the occasion of his 65th birthday, ‘has helped to calm many a rough sea in this House.’(1)
I am not usually prone to becoming a fan of the subjects of my biographical research, but I think I can say with authority that Heinrich Franke was that rare kind of human being who can be summed up by the simplest but greatest of all compliments: a good man.
‘I was always a good German,’ Franke wrote in his letter to Liddell Hart. That phrase has a somewhat cynical ring to us today. But from what I have learned about Franke, I actually think it’s true.
‘It must be prevented that science becomes the whore of the god of war. Science is always only a work of peace. We have known this since Plato, but many have not understood it until today.’
(Heinrich Franke at the session of the Bavarian Parliament, 31 January 1947)
Heinrich Julius Franke was born in Kiel, northern Germany, on 27 June 1887 as the son of theology professor August Hermann Franke and his wife Julie Köstlin, a member of the illustrious family of theologians, artists, and public servants, ‘a dear, poetical creature, full of enthusiasm for Rome and its art’(2). In addition to his professorship, August Hermann Franke also published psalms and hymns, but even as a young man, his health was poor. From his early twenties on, perhaps even before that, trouble with his lungs made regular visits to the spa of Montreux necessary. Sources list bleeding of the lungs and pneumonia, but in fact Franke senior was suffering from tuberculosis, as his son would later reveal.(3) In a way, August Hermann’s death in 1891, at the age of just 37, drove Heinrich Franke’s career in the field of radiography.
It was not the only thing to influence his views and actions. As a schoolboy, a slap in the face by one of his teachers made Franke lose his hearing on his left ear, an incident that, understandably, turned him into a vehement and lifelong opponent of corporal punishment still widely practiced at German schools.(4) Politically and philosophically, his two great role models became Albert Schweitzer, with whom he would correspond in later years, and Ferdinand Lassalle whose influence would be very marked in Franke’s political work after the Second World War.
Franke completed his secondary school education at the Schulpforta, an institution with emphasis on classical languages, where he graduated in 1907. After studying physics, mathematics, and chemistry at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, he received his doctorate in 1911 with a thesis on Die natürliche Drehung der Polarisationsebene in flüssigen Kristallen (The natural rotation of the plane of polarization in liquid crystals) and then went on to the Photochemical Institute of the Technical University of Berlin where he specialized in X-ray photography(5) and became one of Adolf Miethe’s best students.(6) By then, the young man had grown into a formidable figure. Max von Oppenheim would call him a ‘giant’, a ‘strong, large man’(7), and even Franke’s obituary more than fifty years later makes mention of his blue eyes, high forehead and ‘majestic figure that even the bodily challenges of aging could not bend’.(8) Strangely enough, the few existing photographs of Franke from that time hardly reflect that image; he does not really stand out among his contemporaries.
From December 1912 to March 1913, Franke was part of Max von Oppenheim’s excavation at the Tell Halaf in Mesopotamia, and that, of course, is where he met T. E. Lawrence and took the now famous photograph of Lawrence and Woolley at Carchemish. The Oppenheim excavation at Tell Halaf, the Aramaean city-state of Guzana, is a legendary story in itself. Books have been written about it, documentaries made and exhibitions taken place. Any attempt to summarize it in an article like this can by nature not do it the justice it deserves, so I strongly encourage anyone interested to read up on it in more detail.
Max von Oppenheim (1860-1946), son of one of the heirs of the bank Sal. Oppenheim jr. & Cie., had been expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and one day take over the management of his branch of the family bank. However, young Oppenheim felt a different calling. Fascinated by the exotic orient ever since reading Arabian Nights, and probably influenced by the famous explorers and archaeologists of his day, Max von Oppenheim decided that he wanted to travel the Near and Middle East and study the land and its inhabitants. He learned to speak Arabic and lived in Cairo among ordinary people, away from the hotels and tourist attractions that Western travellers frequented.
During one of his travels from Damascus to Aleppo and Urfa and onwards to the river Khabur, he was the guest of the powerful chief of the Milli, Ibrahim Pasha. There he heard of strange stone sculptures discovered on a hill near the village of Ras el-Ayn. Intrigued, Oppenheim took a detour to the Tell Halaf and started digging – makeshift, as he had no excavation licence. Very quickly he uncovered a part of what would later turn out to be the main facade of the palace and some statues. Oppenheim had it all buried again and applied for a licence. However, due to circumstances it would take him ten years to return to Tell Halaf. Excavations began in August 1911 and continued for the next two years. Though an amateur archaeologist himself, Oppenheim assembled a team of specialists: architects, natural scientists, ethnologists, doctors, a conservator, secretaries, and photographers, which is where our Heinrich Franke comes in.
So how did a young roentgen physicist from Berlin end up on an archaeological dig in the Mesopotamian desert? The answer is probably family connections. Franke’s mother Julie was the cousin of Maria Köstlin who married Richard Albert Fellinger. Fellinger worked for Werner von Siemens in Berlin before becoming director of Siemens & Halske Vienna. Under his management, the Viennese factory grew to become the most important electrical engineering company in Austria-Hungary with a workforce of 3,000 men, whose sphere of activity covered the Balkans, the Ottoman Empire, and Egypt.(9) Max von Oppenheim was attached to the German consulate in Cairo from 1896 to 1910 in a somewhat unspecified capacity – a formal career as a diplomat was denied to him because of his family’s Jewish background (Oppenheim’s father Albert had converted to Catholicism before his marriage). So Oppenheim had more leeway than most to pursue his own interests. In 1899, he worked for Deutsche Bank on establishing a route for the planned Baghdad Railway. The man behind the project, on behalf of Deutsche Bank, was Georg von Siemens, a cousin of Werner. Heinrich Franke, in turn, would later work for Siemens & Halske Berlin and other branches of the Siemens company, so the probability of his nomination for the Oppenheim expedition being due to coincidence or luck is very slim.
However, the fact that Franke was at Tell Halaf at all is due to a misunderstanding. Oppenheim had already found a photographer for his excavation, Robert Paul, who owned a small studio in Cairo. In autumn 1912, Oppenheim erroneously assumed that Paul’s contract, which Oppenheim’s friend Prince Hatzfeld (who had nominated Paul for the job) had concluded for him, would end in December. Oppenheim therefore looked for a new photographer, which he found in Heinrich Franke. It was only after his return to Tell Halaf that it turned out that Paul wanted to stay. So it happened that temporarily two photographers worked for Oppenheim.
Franke travelled to Mesopotamia in the company of Ludwig Kohl, the new on-site doctor and ethnologist. Via Salzburg, Trieste and Brindisi they went to Alexandria and on to Cairo, Jaffa, Beirut and Aleppo.(10) During one stop, Franke remembered, he visited an abandoned lunatic asylum:
‘[…] it was no longer occupied, but from earlier, from the Arabic period, a so-called muristan, a house of the mad, who, by the way, are considered there in the Orient to be more or less possessed by good or evil spirits. This madhouse consisted of a spacious courtyard with wonderful Arabian architecture, with a magnificent fountain, with flowers and behind it a number of cloisters. These hermitages were in a sense like big dog kennels, because the madmen were tied up there so that they could not cause any harm, not even to each other. But the Koran commands to give these extinct spirits as much joy as possible, so that flowers and other wonderful features were installed.’(11)
From Aleppo, they travelled by train to Jarabulus, ‘where the railway tracks ended’.(12) The last part of the four-week journey was done on horseback. The travel party, which was joined by Oppenheim and three other new members of the dig, crossed the Euphrates and went to Siftik, and from there to Urfa, arriving at Tell Halaf on 23 December 1912(13), just in time for the Christmas and New Year celebrations. It is from that week that several group photographs of the main members of the dig exist. Franke can be seen in two of them; he was probably behind the camera for the rest.
His stay, however, was to be cut short. Franke contracted pneumonia, which must have been a frightening experience for a young man with a family history of tuberculosis, and had to return to Germany via Aleppo in March 1913 – his medical condition obviously not stopping him from visiting Carchemish on his way.
How did Franke and Lawrence, two young men only a year apart in age, communicate, anyway? Today, we would assume in English as the predominant international language of our time. But it was still very different in the 1910s. At least since the 18th century, French had been the most important language in continental Europe; and it also dominated official international communication in the Ottoman Empire. When Max von Oppenheim was looking for a secretary, he required the applicants to be able to speak French, not English, and most of his communication with the authorities was done in French. Even the telegram forms were printed in French.
Though Franke spoke English in later years, it is unknown whether he did at this point. So unless he and Lawrence chose to communicate in Latin or Greek, which both would have been perfectly able to do, it is quite possible they spoke French. ‘I myself was always a friend of France,’ Franke remarked later. ‘French has always been my favourite foreign language of all.’(14)
As for Max von Oppenheim, he would return to Tell Halaf in 1927 and continue his excavation until 1929. On 23 November 1943, his priceless collection of finds from the digs was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid – but the story has a (relatively) happy ending: In an unprecedented project, the 27,000 pieces of antique rubble – preserved against all odds in a cellar at the Pergamon Museum Berlin – were sorted, identified, and put back together from 2002 to 2010, and presented to the public as ‘the rescued gods of Tell Halaf’ in 2012. The Tell Halaf dig, as well, saw a resurrection as a German-Syrian cooperation from 2006 to 2010. However, the war in Syria put a stop to any further plans; the future of the site, as so many other things, is uncertain.
Upon Heinrich Franke’s return to Germany he taught physics, chemistry, and applied photography at the Photographic Teaching and Experimental Institute of the Lette-Verein in Berlin. When World War I broke out, he trained field X-ray engineers at Siemens & Halske, becoming one himself in January 1915 when he was attached to the Armeeabteilung A, ‘Falkenhausen’. He developed a ‘bullet search’ method and was promoted to officer’s rank in the last days of the war.(15)
On 17 September 1915, Heinrich Franke married Hanna Franke (1894-1953) in Osnabrück – I was unable to determine whether there was any relation or whether it was just plain coincidence. Franke is not an unusual name in Germany, after all, simply indicating that their ancestors belonged to the Frankish people. There would be no children from this marriage.
His abortive Tell Halaf adventure, however, was not entirely finished with Franke. In 1916, he and his wife visited Max von Oppenheim in Berlin, and his former boss had a favour to ask. When the Tell Halaf dig had ended in August 1913, Oppenheim had had to find storage space for the equipment, furniture, and tools used at the excavation. The photographic equipment had been shipped to Berlin and stored at the firm of A. Stegemann, ‘factory of photographic apparatus’. Now, three years later, Stegemann needed the space, and Oppenheim needed an expert opinion on what to sell and what to keep for his planned second dig. Heinrich Franke’s assessment of the expensive cameras was grim. Pieces had been damaged and needed to be repaired or replaced – not an easy feat during wartime shortages. The photographic plates could still be used, even though they were not in top condition. The chemicals, Franke judged, should be sold and recommended his old employer, the Photographic Teaching and Experimental Institute.(16)
After the end of the war, Franke returned to Siemens & Halske until 1921, when he became head of the X-ray technology laboratories at Hamburg-based C.H.F. Müller GmbH. It was during this time that he started inventing and developing fundamental techniques in roentgenology, work that over the coming decades established his national and international reputation as a leading scientist in the field of X-ray technology and photography. His papers, written in German, English and French, became standard texts in the field. In 1930, the ‘Iontomat’, an automatic exposure control unit, was built based on Franke’s idea(17) and is, of course modified to modern specifications, still in use today. However, because of Franke’s political stance (he had joined the Social Democratic Party in 1918), his career stalled under Nazi rule.
In 1934, Franke became a research assistant and head of the photo-technical departments of the research laboratory at Siemens in Siemensstadt (Berlin) and later at Siemens-Reiniger-Werke (Berlin and Erlangen). Heinrich and Hanna Franke moved to the town of Erlangen in Bavaria, southern Germany, which would become their home for the rest of their lives. At the beginning, though, it did not feel like home at all. As in almost every country of the world, there was a marked divide between north and south. The Frankes spoke like northerners and behaved like northerners, and the people of Erlangen were not impressed with those strangers in their midth. ‘During the first years,’ Franke recalled later, ‘it was very difficult to find a human connection.’ In fact, it took nearly till the end of the war to find that connection. Late in 1944, Franke was recruited into the Volkssturm where he operated a machine gun alongside a butcher from Erlangen. And then he had an epiphany.
‘I think of that moment when I was sent as a scout to Hannberg(18), completely unnecessarily, to report the enemy’s approach in time, and then realized that I was all alone. As I saddled up on my motorbike and roared back, I suddenly saw the silhouette of the city of Erlangen […] in front of me; and I remembered: back there, Nuremberg lies in ruins. It was almost like a prayer to me that at least this silhouette would not be destroyed. Then I knew that I loved this town. You love a town not only because it is so beautifully embedded in the landscape, you also love it for the sake of those with whom you live there.’(19)
Franke’s prayer, it seems, was answered. When American troops approached on 16 April 1945, the local commander of the German troops, Oberstleutnant Werner Lorleberg, handed over Erlangen without a fight, thus avoiding senseless and costly warfare in the town itself. However, after the surrender, US tanks first seriously damaged the last remaining city gate (the Nuremberg Gate, built in 1717), and shortly afterwards it was demolished – this probably also happened at the instigation of shopkeepers in main street, who, like the American troops passing through, found the baroque gate a traffic obstacle because of its relatively narrow passage.
As a curious aside: Franke, along with all other citizens, had to hand over his hunting rifles to the authorities, never to be seen again – something that still annoyed him, the passionate hunter, ten years later.
‘I would, however, like to refer to an international law. That international law was formulated 4,000 years ago. In a way, it was drawn up in times immemorial – the first ideas came from Hammurabi. It was then formulated in strict morality by the Jewish people. The whole of Christendom and what is called Western culture signed this international law. This international law, which unites Jews and Christians, the ancient foundation of Western culture par excellence, which can demand to be recognised, are the Ten Commandments.’
(Heinrich Franke at the session of the Bavarian Parliament, 24 February 1949)
The post-war years were a time of major change for Franke. They were also a time of great personal disappointment, even though his faith in humanity never wavered. It all began, he recalled some years later, with the sending of notes.
‘These notes said:
“For military reasons, it is necessary for the United States Army to requisition your home. We give you two hours in which you can take the most essential things with you. You are forbidden to enter your house until this unit is withdrawn. The United States Army has taken appropriate measures to assure you that you will find your house in much the same condition as you left it.” […]
In response to this note […] I also said to my neighbours, knowing the American people as I knew them from over there: You need not worry about your things. If you have the note here, you can have them back! These people today have just as little as I do, namely nothing at all.’(20)
It was not only that their possessions were stolen or destroyed by US troops; they were also plundered by fellow Germans or given away to be redistributed.
‘There is no substitute for the years of lost work after the loss of all my scientific papers with my desk, which was cleared out […]. Twenty years of scientific work are gone. […] The irreplaceable contents of my no longer existing desk could be found as an unrecognisable mass of glass and paper in a corner under the roof […].’(21)
‘My comrade Dr Hille recently characterised various members of the state parliament. Among other things, he also characterised me, in a way, as a specialist for criticising the occupying power. That is perhaps a somewhat dangerous label, because it can mean anything from troublemaker to Michael Kohlhaas; I am not that kind of person. But I am in favour of existing rights having to be enforced in the interests of all those actively and passively involved in them. […] I don’t want to criticise the occupying power or diminish its reputation. That would be madness and also wrong. […]
I once said […] that we must, of course, come to terms with the occupying forces, but that we want and need to have a debate […]. And then I said: I will take just one example, which has also been described in an American newspaper as a neuralgic point, that is the question of billeting. I pointed out that this newspaper said:
What do these people who have to give up their homes and therefore their possessions want? They need to assume that they have been bombed out!
I said then that I did not want to presume to compare American billeting to the effects of a bomb.
At that time my apartment was being requisitioned. At that time, at any rate, the apartment was still a flat with furniture and all its contents, and I had a right – in writing – to assume that not only I, but also others would get everything back. In view of what has happened in the meantime, however, I must say that a bomb was a very considerate instrument in comparison […].
Even back then, when I was talking about America, I said: It is, of course, difficult to get to know a people through their occupying forces; after all, an occupying force, an army, has other tasks than, for example, teaching democracy. An army must actually not be democratic, otherwise it is no longer an army.’(22)
But to Franke, it was much more than a personal issue. After all, he also noted: ‘A competition of misery is the saddest phenomenon one can imagine.’(23) For him, the material loss was far less important than the injustice and sheer opportunism he perceived in the proceedings.
‘I myself had to hand over manufacturing secrets; it was not easy for me and I’ve stood in front of a valuable optic with a hammer and asked myself whether I should strike. But I wanted to have a clear conscience in order to retain the right to protest against such a procedure […]. FIAT(24) went around and made people disclose not only patents, but secrets of how to do things. […] The value of such knowledge is calculated by saying that five annual sales represent the value. For example, we have had to deliver such a secret or “know-how” to an American council […]; this secret is estimated to be worth ten million, because they have calculated two million annual turnover, times 5 equals 10 million. This procedure is of use to only one American company, the Victor X-Ray Co.(25)
Then I ask the question: Why did the American soldier go to war? […] The answer was given to me by Sergeant Bird himself; he showed me the photos of his boy and told me: “You see, my father died in the First World War. I’m standing here again now; and we went to war so that there would finally be peace and so that this blond boy here would not have to go to war again.” So you see, for the restoration of justice and freedom, of the safeguarding of peace, America’s army believed it was going to war and went to war, not for the rise in the shares of Victor X-Ray Co.’(26)
Although Franke had already joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1918, only now, in the post-war years, did he make a political appearance. He ran for, and was elected to, the first Bavarian state parliament in 1946. In the first term of office he was a full member of the cultural policy committee, the constitutional committee, and the economic committee. During the legislative period from 1950 to 1954, he was a member of the committee for Bavaria-Palatinate, the committee for cultural-political affairs, and the subcommittee that drafted amendments to the Broadcasting Act. Franke left the Bavarian parliament on 28 November 1954.
As a democrat and a Christian, Franke had a lot to say when some members of Parliament proposed to allow Mitläufer (hangers-on, followers; persons who had joined the National Socialist Party to keep their jobs and positions but were not judged war criminals) to be elected into Parliament, especially when those colleagues reproached him for his supposed un-Christian behaviour of not forgiving and forgetting. ‘There is a certain pharisaism when one Christian comes to another and says: Listen, you are doing something wrong!’(27) he exploded. But more than that, he claimed, this was not about forgiveness. ‘What qualities, what political qualities must a person possess who wants to sit in the Bavarian Parliament? In my opinion, this question must be taken very seriously, extremely seriously, and it can only be answered politically. We must simply have the guarantee that no totalitarian view, no evil Nazism can in any way or form creep into our ranks, not even in the form of a single representative. […] In any case, the Mitläufer were also people who once were weak, or they were people who were fundamentally wrong. That is why I say: neither of them will therefore win any claim to ascend to the highest office that the Bavarian people have to grant, namely to be their representative. […] None of us, who have been carefully selected, screened, probed, checked, need be reproached for being directly or indirectly guilty of the German misfortune. Now all of a sudden […] we want to let our shining shield be tarnished in this way. We would not even be able to protest if further injustice were to happen to us, if once again people from the Party were sitting here whose election we ourselves have given the authority to. Then we really have sold our birthright for a lentil dish.’(28)
His impassionate words on the importance of the coalition, the working together of parties of different convictions and ideas for the common good, for presenting a united front against outside forces, almost invoke George Washington’s farewell address: ‘The democratic game of majority party and opposition […] can be afforded by a saturated state where a certain majority rules alone, with the others watching, or striving to the right and left. Any rally from our midst to the outside world today requires not only a majority, it requires the whole people to stand behind it, and that means the coalition.’(29) ‘Now I tell you – but without any pathos – for me the coalition was and is a sacred thing.’(30)
Aside from his career as politician, his vita reads like a study in awards and positions. From 1947 to 1950 Franke was a member of the Bavarian Constitutional Court, from 1948 to 1954 a member of the Bavarian Broadcasting Council, temporarily as its chairman. He also served on the city council of Erlangen. In 1950 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Medical Faculty of the University of Erlangen and was appointed honorary professor for X-ray physics by the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) in 1951 where a research department was founded especially for him in the Rieder Institute. In 1952 he received a lectureship for physical basics of X-ray photography at the Medical Faculty of the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen. Franke was chairman of the standards committee of the Deutsche Röntgengesellschaft, expert of the German Central Committee for the Fight against Tuberculosis, and scientific advisor to the Telegraph Construction Institute of Siemens & Halske. In 1957 he was awarded the Großes Verdienstkreuz (Grand Cross of Merit) of the Federal Republic of Germany, in 1961 the Röntgen-Plakette of the city of Remscheid, and in 1962 he became an honorary citizen of the city of Erlangen.(31) And in between he travelled to Great Britain, France, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the USA, Argentina and several other countries to build bridges to scientists and to hold lectures.(32)
Heinrich Franke had been an early motorist, driving cars since 1926, so there is something tragic in the fact that his life was impacted heavily by a car accident. On 3 November 1953, Heinrich and Hanna Franke travelled to Munich when another driver overtook them much too close, forcing Hanna to stear hard to the side, while splashing rain water onto the Frankes’ windshield. For a moment, Hanna lost sight and control, crashing the car into a bridge railing. In a time before the use of seatbelts, Hanna Franke was thrown out of the car and died on the spot from skull fracture and rupture of the lungs. As a sad statement of the views held at that time, the Frankes’ dog was put down when he – probably under shock himself – ‘turned vicious’ and tried to prevent helpers from reaching Hanna’s body.(33)
Heinrich Franke was brought to a Munich hospital with a contusion of the spine and a concussion. He was not well enough to attend his wife’s funeral which took part, following her wish, in her native town of Osnabrück. An effect of the concussion was short-time memory loss, a condition that would last for months. Following his doctor’s advice, Franke took nine months leave from office, but just like in his youth when he wouldn’t let pneumonia stop him from sightseeing, he now used the time to visit dear friends in Argentina, meet President Perón, receive honorary citizenship of Junín (former home of Eva Perón), and speak on a meeting of Argentinian physicists. A local newspaper, reporting on his visit, praised Franke’s giving a speech in fluent Spanish without any notes; Franke himself confessed in a letter that he simply had not expected having to give a speech, therefore being forced to improvise. ‘You have done more for the friendship between our two countries than many an assigned diplomat,’ he recalled a notable surgeon telling him. Yet for all outward successes, grief never really left him. ‘Matters of the soul are […] truly faithfully cared for here […], as far as it is at all possible through friendship to replace a family that no longer exists,’ he wrote, while already foreseeing the death of his fatherly friend Hohmann with whose family he was staying. (He died on 20 July 1954.)(34)
One of the last and, to my eyes, best stories about Franke involves a new school in Erlangen. Against all tradition – up to this point, schools had only ever been named after important persons from Erlangen itself – this new secondary school was to be named Albert-Schweitzer-Gymnasium. When the proposal was accepted, it was pointed out that Schweitzer had died only weeks before. So Heinrich Franke stepped in and bequeathed the school a letter from Schweitzer to him as a ‘christening gift’.
President Heuss(35) lets me read the letter accompanying the picture of Turckheim that you sent him. It moved me to learn from it that you keep a good memory of the time spent in the Gunsbach parsonage.
In fact, you slept in my room (in which I wrote the History of the Life of Jesus Research). How nice to learn that you are a grandson of Köstlin. I am pleased that you agree with my speech about the danger of the bomb test. I gave it because as a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize I had the Norwegian radio at my disposal. I had to take advantage of that unique opportunity. – But how sad things are again with this!
With best thoughts your obedient servant
The speech Schweitzer referred to was his ‘Declaration of Conscience’ speech; it was broadcast over Radio Oslo on 23 April 1957, pleading for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Franke, for his part, had always been strongly opposed to the destructive use of nuclear energy. Almost worse for him as an honest, outspoken soul, whose motto was ‘tell it like it is’, were the lies surrounding the effects of the bomb: ‘there is no radiation physicist who was not very well acquainted with the horrible long-term and internal burns that must result for innumerable victims from his experiences with X-rays and radium, and who did not know at least the order of magnitude of what intensities were to be expected. For [Franke] himself, the “alleged” surprise about the effect meant cynicism of a higher order.’(37)
But again death struck at the Albert Schweitzer school’s intended godfather. Franke, who was supposed to give the opening speech and present the letter at the inauguration on 27 January 1966, died on 7 January at the age of 78. The new director of the school, Heinz Koehler, recognised Franke’s commitment in his speech: ‘With Prof. Franke, the young school had unexpectedly gained a warm patron, who at the same time had been a constant friend of youth […] during the long years of his life.’(38)
Not surprisingly, Heinrich Franke’s funeral almost had state character. Representatives of all his major stations in life, as far back as Schulpforta, held speeches and laid down wreaths.
His gravestone, however, bears only his name and title as honorary citizen of Erlangen as well as his confession (Protestant, something that was always very important to him), and, after his own wish, a quote from John 1:1: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’
I still find it curious that such an accomplished man, a ‘giant’, to speak with Max von Oppenheim, has been virtually forgotten in the less than sixty years since his death. Even more curious is the fact that he was rediscovered only through a photograph of T. E. Lawrence that he took during his own ill-fated adventure in Mesopotamia, perhaps the least important of the many stations in his life. That photograph is now one of the most iconic pictures of young Lawrence and has thus – along with his unsung vital work in roentgenography – become Franke’s legacy to the world.
(1) Archive of the Bavarian Parliament, collection Heinrich Franke.
(2) Joseph von Kopf, Lebenserinnerungen eines Bildhauers. Stuttgart/Leipzig: Dt. Verlagsanstalt, 1899, p. 10
(3) Minutes of the Bavarian Parliament, 131st session, 24 February 1953, p. 868
(4) Minutes of the Bavarian Parliament, 55th session, 11 December 1951, p. 879
(5) Heinrich Franke’s CV, LMU Munich
(6) Max von Oppenheim to Walter Rößler, letter dated 14 December 1912 (RWWA Cologne)
(7) Nadja Cholidis, ‘“Schippe heil!“ – Die Mitglieder der ersten Grabungskampagne (1911-1913)’, in: Die geretteten Götter aus dem Palast vom Tell Halaf. Regensburg: Schnell & Steiner, 2011, p. 148
(8) Friedrich Sponsel, Ansprache aus Anlaß der Trauerfeier für den Ehrenbürger der Stadt Erlangen, Herrn Stadtrat Professor Dr. Dr. h. c. Heinrich Franke, am 11. Januar 1966 im großen Rathaussaal
(9) Busse, Kurt, „Fellinger, Richard“ in: Neue Deutsche Biographie 5 (1961), p. 74 [Online-Version]; URL: https://www.deutsche-biographie.de/pnd116459905.html#ndbcontent
(10) Ludwig Kohl-Larsen, Der Mann, der Lucy’s Ahnen fand. Landau: Pfälzische Verlagsanstalt, 1991, p. 87
(11) Minutes of the Bavarian Parliament, 139th session, 19/20 January 1950, p. 557
(12) Kohl-Larsen, p. 87
(13) Cholidis, p. 144
(14) Minutes of the Bavarian Parliament, 182nd session, 28 September 1950, p. 1052
(16) Nachlass Max von Oppenheim, Nr. 14, Schriftwechsel mit Teilnehmern der Tell-Halaf-Expedition, 1916-1919 (RWWA Cologne)
(17) Kurt Bischoff, ‘Der Iontomat, ein neuer Belichtungsautomat für Röntgenaufnahmen’, in: RöFo, vol. 71, no. 6 (1949), p. 994-1002
(18) About 12 km from Erlangen
(19) Dankeswort von Professor Dr. Dr. h. c. Heinrich Franke. Amtsblatt der Stadt Erlangen und des Landratsamtes Erlangen, vol. 19, no. 39 (28 September 1962)
(20) Minutes of the Bavarian Parliament, 103rd session, 24 February 1949, p. 723
(22) Minutes of the Bavarian Parliament, 103rd session, 24 February 1949, p. 721-722
(23) Minutes of the Bavarian Parliament, 31st session, 21 June 1951, p. 903
(24) Field Intelligence Agency, Technical
(25) After several name and corporate structure changes today GE Healthcare.
(26) Minutes of the Bavarian Parliament, 24th session, 16 July 1947, p. 771-772
(27) Minutes of the Bavarian Parliament, 104th session, 16 March 1949, p. 779
(28) Minutes of the Bavarian Parliament, 104th session, 16 March 1949, p. 780
(29) Minutes of the Bavarian Parliament, 6th session, 31 January 1947, p. 111
(30) Minutes of the Bavarian Parliament, 8th session, 20 February 1947, p. 191
(33) ‘Alles ereignete sich in Sekundenschnelle’, newspaper clipping, probably from Erlanger Tagblatt, 4 November 1953 (Stadtarchiv Erlangen, collection Heinrich Franke)
(34) Aus dem Sekretariat des Professors Dr. Dr. Heinrich Franke, 22 July 1954 (Archive of the Bavarian Parliament)
(35) Theodor Heuss (1884-1963), first president of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1959.
(36) Albert Schweitzer to Heinrich Franke, letter dated 18 October 1957 (Albert-Schweitzer-Gymnasium Erlangen)
(37) Albert Schweitzer to Heinrich Franke, letter dated 18 October 1957 (Albert-Schweitzer-Gymnasium Erlangen)