Zum Inhalt Zum Hauptmenü Zur Suche Zum Footer

How did Frankfurt become what it is today? And what makes Frankfurt different from other cities? A look into the Snow Globe provides answers to these questions.

Eight artists created models of these characteristics typical of Frankfurt. Get a first impression in the trailer on

Das Foto zeigt das Modell der kriminellen Stadt in der Schneekugel im Museum.
Modell der kriminellen Stadt. CC-BY-SA 4.0: HMF, Thijs Wolzak
Das Foto zeigt die Elbestraße bei Nacht mit den Leuchtreklamen der Spielkasinos und Bordelle
Blick in die Elbestraße bei Nacht CC-BY-SA 4.0: HMF, Tracey Snelling
Das Foto zeigt das Modell der kriminellen Stadt in der Schneekugel im Museum. Das Foto zeigt die Elbestraße bei Nacht mit den Leuchtreklamen der Spielkasinos und Bordelle

Almost every year, Frankfurt is at the top of nationwide crime statistics. Does Frankfurt deserve this image? US-American artist Tracey Snelling interprets the cliché of the criminal city. She questions what is meant by "criminal" and why Frankfurt has this image.

Many associate Frankfurt with a cold, calculating and profithungry city with a notorious red-light district, tough drug scene and corrupt bankers. However, Frankfurt's top position in the crime statistics is mainly due to its status as an international hub: Between the central station and airport, there are far more people moving about in Frankfurt on a daily basis than actually live here. The crime statistics include everyone, including communters and travellers. Fare evasion is one of the most frequent "crimes" committed in Frankfurt.

Frankfurt Airport is an internaitonal hub. Every year, 57 million passengers from all over the world arrive here with or without valid documents. And at times all sorts of illegal items are found in passengers' luggage: For example, smuggled money amounting to around 42 million euros is seized every year. The "most criminal" place in Frankfurt is therefore the airport and it is mainly due to the transit passengers that this is the case. Tax evasion, illegal bank and real estate tranactions were long regarded as trivial offences, although these crimes are extremely damaging to the national economy – only in recent years a more focussed view was applied. The image of the criminal city, however, continues to be marked by prostitution and drug consumption – which actually do not present criminal offences, but are still publically criminalised and stigmatised.

Das Foto zeigt das Modell der Geldstadt in der Schneekugel im Museum.
Modell von "Bankfurt". CC-BY-SA 4.0: HMF, Foto: Thijs Wolzak
Die Zeichnung zeigt die Börse am Römerberg, viele Häuser und Hütten sind zu sehen.
Die Börse am Römerberg, CC-BY-SA 4.0: HMF
Das Foto zeigt das Modell der Geldstadt in der Schneekugel im Museum. Die Zeichnung zeigt die Börse am Römerberg, viele Häuser und Hütten sind zu sehen.

Many companies from the financial sector are located in Frankfurt. They are the reason for the city to be the leading financial centre of Germany. A visible sign of this are the bank towers, for which Frankfurt has received the epithet "Mainhattan". They inspired Jakob Michael Birn to create a model in reference to the Tower of Babel, the symbol of human hubris.

Since the Middle Ages, Frankfurt has been an important centre for exhibition and trade. The city benefited from its central location and its importance as an election and coronation city of the German kings. In 1240 and 1330, Frankfurt received imperial trade fair privileges, which promoted trade and thus the money and credit economy. Merchants from the great trading centres in Europe met at the autumn and spring fairs; all paying in their own currencies. Initiated by foreign merchants, for the first time fixed exchange rates were agreed upon in 1585 – the stock exchange was founded!

The development of the financial sector also shaped the face of the city. Initially, trading and bartering took place in the city's squares, streets and halls. Over the centuries, activities shifted indoors and today they now take place behind reflecting glass facades. The financial sector has developed into a rather closed world of insiders. After the exposure of financial speculations, currency fraud and other scandals, the image of the respected, discreet banker with integrity has also changed. The modern banker is described as an arrogant, calculating and cold-blooded careerist, who has literally lost his grounding in his skyscraper.
Diese Bild zeigt das Modell der Industrie-und Chemiestadt in der Schneekugel im Museum
Modell der Industriestadt. CC-BY-SA 4.0: HMF, Foto: Thijs Wolzak
Plakat der Gesellschaft des ächten Naxos Schmirgels, 1880
Gesellschaft des ächten Naxos Schmirgels, Naxos Union, Schmirgel-Dampfwerk Frankfurt am Main. Klimsch’s Druckerei J. Maubach & Co., Frankfurt 1880. HMF.C03334, CC-BY-SA 4.0: HMF, Foto: Horst Ziegenfusz
Diese Bild zeigt das Modell der Industrie-und Chemiestadt in der Schneekugel im Museum Plakat der Gesellschaft des ächten Naxos Schmirgels, 1880

Frankfurt presents itself as the city of banks and services. However, the industry plays a much bigger role when it comes to the income of the city! Frankfurt is still manufacturing today, but as these locations are spread across the entire city, they are hardly noticeable. With his model, Rob Voerman creates a condensed portrayal of the places, products and people of industrial Frankfurt.

Frankfurt's trademark is the comibination of different industries. They city's path to industrialisation first began in the 1870s. By this time, the infrastructure was already well-developed, the roads were well-established and Frankfurt was able to enter at a high level straight away. The new municipal building regulations introduced in 1884 now allowed "troublesome factories" to be built within city limits. To this day, many red brick buldings on the edges of the city centre still bear witness to Frankfurt's industrial past. And even Frankfurt's first high-rise – built in 1926 –  did not belong to a bank either, but to the Mouson company, which produced perfume.

Frankfurt's industrialisation was based on new technologies; smoking chimneys which we know from early industrial cities were rather the rarity. Whether typewriters, car bodies, machines, measuring instruments or the first chemotherapeutic agent – many products that caused a global sensation were once manufactured in Frankfurt. While most production sites moved to the surrounding area or abroad throughout the 20th century, the chemical industry mainly established itself in Höchst. To this day, the trademark of Frankfurt as a city of industry is still diversity.
Diese Bild zeigt ein Plakat zur Internationalen Luftschiffahrt Ausstellung in Frankfurt 1909
„Internationale Luftschifffahrt Ausstellung“ Ausstellungsplakat von Alfred Nathaniel Oppenheim, 1909, Farblithographie, CC-BY-SA 4.0: HMF, Foto: Horst Ziegenfusz
Dieses Bild zeigt ein Foto der Parade zum Empfang König Humberts I. von Italien im Mai 1889 vor dem Hauptbahnhof
Parade zum Empfang König Humberts I. von Italien im Mai 1889 vor dem Hauptbahnhof, Fotografie von Carl Friedrich Mylius CC-BY-SA 4.0: HMF, Foto: Horst Ziegenfusz
Diese Bild zeigt ein Plakat zur Internationalen Luftschiffahrt Ausstellung in Frankfurt 1909 Dieses Bild zeigt ein Foto der Parade zum Empfang König Humberts I. von Italien im Mai 1889 vor dem Hauptbahnhof

Many paths have always led through Frankfurt. Frankfurt has made a name for itself as an important hub for air, road and rail traffic. Its geographical location in the heart of Europe also made it a centre for economy and trade. In his model, Edwin Zwakman visualises they city as a hub and junction for people, goods, capital and data.

The traffic hub even plays a significant role in the legend of the founding of Frankfurt: During the flight from the Saxons, Charlemagne of Francia encountered the River Main. A white hin corssing the river with her calf at a ford, indicated Charlemagne and his entourage the way to the other, safe bank. The hind probably never existed, but the ford did – it gave the settlement dating back to around 794 its name. Thanks to imperial privileges and its position as a city independent from the empire, Frankfurt developed into an important trade and fair city as early as the Middle Ages. People from all over the world came here on a daily basis. Even today, Frankfurt is still a city of commuters, who turn Frankfurt into a city of over a million people every morning.

The significance of the hub is particularly visible at the airport, one of the most important aviation hubs in the world. It is constantly expanding, which is always a cause for massive protests. Even the motorway construction was given a significant boost: In 1926, the HaFraBa association decided to build a motorway from the Hanseatic cities in the North via Frankfurt to Basel – the construction of the motorways was later exploited for propaganda purposes by the National Socialists. Most people in Germany today probably know the "Frankfurter Kreuz", at least from traffic broadcasts. With around 335,000 vehicles per day, the crossing of the A3 and A5 is one of the busiest intersections in Europe. Frankfurt is also an important virtual hub: With the "DE-CIX", the largest Internet hub in the world (measured by data troughput) is in Frankfurt.

Since the Middle Ages, Frankfurt has been a political centre in Germany – even if it was never a "capital city" in the sense of the constitution. Marc Giai-Miniet shows the history and facets of the "secret capital" in his model.

After the Second World War, Frankfurt almost became the capital of the new Federal Republic of Germany. Even if Frankfurt was never a real capital, it has carried out the functions of a capital city since the beginning of its history: The East Francia of the Carolingians in the 9th century had its centre here and, since the 12th century, the kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of ther German nation were elected and sometimes also crowned here. The German Confederation met here between 1816 and 1866 and thus made Frankfurt a capital city in the sense of the constitution. The first German National Assembly in 1848/49 came together in the St Paul's Church Frankfurt. Frankfurt was supposed to become the capital of a new German Empire, but this never came to pass.

With the Prussian annexation in 1766, Frankfurt lost its status as a Free City and fell into second place to Berlin. This was only changed again by the outcome of the Second World War: Frankfurt was the "natural" capital city of the new Federal Republic. The race that was already thought to be won was lost to Bonn. The city then concentrated on its longstanding role as the German financial centre. The headquarters of the Americans in Frankfurt tipped the scales in favour for the location of the Bank Deutscher Länder (later the Bundesbank). Since 1998, Frankfurt has also been the seat of the European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB's new building has given Frankfurt a reputation as the third European capital (after Brussels and Strasbourg).

Frankfurt is considered a city of obstinancy, protest and criticism. Without the printed word, the critical mind would not have come far. In his model, Florian Göttke presents the unwavering connection between word and criticism over the centuries.

Frankfurt has been one of the centres from which letterpress printing spread since its invention around 1540 by Johannes Gutenberg. He spent several years in Frankfurt working on his ground-breaking, world-changing discovery. The first copies of his famous bible were sold at the Frankfurt fair. Since the 15th century, there has been a book fair in Frankfurt; today, the Frankfurt Book Fair is one of the most important gatherings in the book industry.

In the 19th century, Frankfurt became a place of political protest: Supporters of the early national movement, radical democratic parties and the first labour movement demonstrated here. Critical newspapers were published in Frankfurt's publishing centre. In the early 20th century, German sociology and so-called Frankfurt School, whose "Critical Theory" is world-famous, emerged at the still young university. The Frankfurt School was an important source of inspiration for the student movement. Frankfurt became the centre of the West German student movement.

Frankfurt has had an unbroken Jewish tradition for almost nine centuries – longer than in any other German city. The Frankfurt Jewish community was and still is one of the largest in Germany. In Stephan Mörsch's model, important places and moments of Jewish life in Frankfurt are captured.

In 1462, the creation of the Judengasse ("Jew's Alley") resulted in the first ghetto in Europe. For four centuries, it was the only place in Frankfurt where Jews were permitted to live. Although established as a compulsory measure, a Jewish community developed here like no other in terms of size during the Early Modern Period. Many well-known Jewish families, such as the Rothschilds and the Franks originally lived here, as well as famous rabbis, who made Frankfurt a centre of Jewish scholarship as the "mother of all communities".

In 1933, Frankfurt had the largest Jewish population of any German city, with almost 30,000 people. In 1945, only 160 Jews still lived in the city. Between 1941 and 1945, more than 10,000 Jews were forcibly transported from Frankfurt to ghettos and concentration camps and murdered. The new Jewish community founded in 1949 was – just like the city itself – more international and cosmopolitan than in the rest of Germany. Numerous conflicts were resolved publicly, which not only concerned the Jewish community in Frankfurt, but symptomatically stood for cultural and political developments in the whole of the Federal Republic of Germany.

In no other city German city has there been a construction activity comparable to that in Frankfurt since the destruction of the Second World War. Daniel Verkerk's model shows the city in perpetual restoration.

The cityscape of Frankfurt is characterised by constant modification: There are always several concurrent large-scale construction sites with towering cranes, both in the heart of the city and on the periphery. The cityscape is primarily characterised by cranes. Older buildings stand as islands in the urban space – only fragments from earlier eras have survived. Repeatedly, there are always large new construction projects to reconstruct historical buildings in Frankfurt, such as the "new Old Town", which has developed around the cathedral.

The city offers extreme contrasts: large and small, old and new, decayed and polished. Cosy neighbourhood and tough cosmopolitan city stand right next to each other. An immense daily flux of commuters counteracts the impression of "cosiness". In Frankfurt, daily life takes place in a small space. In 1965, psychologist Alexander Mitscherlich described the "inhospitality of our cities" and had Frankfurt in mind.