Born: 23 May 1900 in Karlsruhe, Baden, Germany.
Died: 16 October 1946 in Nuremberg, Germany.
Governor-General of the General Government 26 October 1939 to January 1945
Hans Michael Frank was born on 23 May 1900 and became a German lawyer who worked for the National Socialist Party during the 1920s and 1930s, and after Adolf Hitler's accession to power in 1933, became chief jurist of Nazi Germany and Governor-General of the 'General Government' territory of occupied Poland. During his tenure 1939 to 1945, he instituted a reign of terror against the civilian population and became directly involved in the mass murder of the Polish Jews. At the Nuremberg trials, he was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and executed.
Hans Frank was born in Karlsruhe, and his parents were Karl Frank, a lawyer, and his wife Magdalena (née Buchmaier). He had an older brother, Karl Jr., and a younger sister, Elisabeth. He joined the German army in 1917, during World War I. After the war he served in the Freikorps under the command of Franz Ritter von Epp, and then joined the German Worker's Party (which soon evolved into NSDAP), in 1919, and was one of the party's earliest members.
He studied law, passing the final state examination in 1926, and rose to become Adolf Hitler's personal legal adviser. In this capacity, Hans Frank was privy to personal details of Adolf Hitler's life. In his memoirs, written shortly before his execution, Hans Frank made the sensational claim that he had been commissioned by Adolf Hitler to investigate Adolf Hitler's family in 1930 after a blackmail letter had been received from Adolf Hitler's nephew, William Patrick Hitler, who allegedly threatened to reveal embarrassing facts about his uncle's ancestry. Hans Frank said that the investigation uncovered evidence that Maria Schicklgruber, Adolf Hitler's paternal grandmother, had been working as a cook in the household of a Jewish man named Leopold Hans Frankenberger before she gave birth to Adolf Hitler's father, Alois, out of wedlock. Hans Frank claimed that he had obtained from a relative of Adolf Hitler's by marriage a collection of letters between Maria Schicklgruber and a member of the Hans Frankenberger family that discussed a stipend for her after she left the employ of the family. According to Hans Frank, Adolf Hitler told him that the letters did not prove that the Hans Frankenberger son was his grandfather but rather his grandmother had merely extorted money from Hans Frankenberger by threatening to claim his paternity of her illegitimate child.Hans Frank accepted this explanation, but added that it was still just possible that Adolf Hitler had some Jewish ancestry. Nevertheless, he thought it unlikely because, ...from his entire demeanor, the fact that Adolf Hitler had no Jewish blood coursing through his veins seems so clearly evident that nothing more need be said on this.
Given that all Jews had been expelled from the province of Styria (which includes Graz) in the 15th century and were not allowed to return until the 1860s, scholars such as Ian Kershaw and Brigitte Hamann dismiss the Hans Frankenberger hypothesis, which before had only Hans Frank's speculation to support it as baseless.There is no evidence outside of Hans Frank's statements for the existence of a Leopold Hans Frankenberger living in Graz in the 1830s, and Hans Frank's story is notably inaccurate on several points such as the claim that Maria Schicklgruber came from Leonding near Linz, when in fact she came from the hamlet of Strones near the village of Döllersheim. It has been suggested that Hans Frank, who turned against National Socialism after 1945, remained an anti-Semitic fanatic, made the claim that Adolf Hitler had Jewish ancestry as way of proving that Adolf Hitler was thus really a Jew and not an Aryan and in this way, proved that the crimes of the Third Reich were the work of the Jewish Adolf Hitler. The full anti-Semitic implications of Hans Frank's story were borne out in a letter to the editor of a Saudi newspaper in 1982 by a German man living in Saudi Arabia entitled Was Adolf Hitler a Jew?. The letter-writer accepted Hans Frank's story as the truth, and added since Adolf Hitler was a Jew, the Jews should pay Germans reparations for the War, since one of theirs caused the destruction of Germany. The American author Ron Rosenbaum wrote about Hans Frank:
On the other hand, a different version of Hans Frank emerges in the brilliantly vicious, utterly unforgiving portrait of him by his son, Niklas Hans Frank, who (in a memoir called In the Shadow of the Reich) depicts his father as a craven coward and weakling, but one not without a kind of animal cunning, an instinct for lying, insinuation, self-aggrandizement. For this Hans Frank, disgraced and facing death on the gallows for following Adolf Hitler, fabricating such a story might be a cunning way of ensuring his place in history as the one man who gave the world the hidden key to the mystery of Adolf Hitler's psyche. While at the same time, revenging himself on his former master for having led him to this end by foisting a sordid and humiliating explanation of Adolf Hitler on him for all posterity. In any case, it was one Hans Frank knew the victors would find seductive.
As the Nazis rose to power, Hans Frank served as the party's lawyer, representing it in over 2,400 cases, and spending over $10,000. This sometimes brought him into conflict with other lawyers, and one, a former teacher of Hans Frank's appealed to him: I beg you to leave these people alone! No good will come of it! Political movements that begin in the criminal courts will end in the criminal courts! In September October 1930, Hans Frank served as the defence lawyer at the court-martial in Leipzig of Lieutenants Richard Scheringer, Hans Friedrich Wendt and Hanns Ludin, three Reichswehr officers charged with membership in the NSDAP. The trial was a media sensation with Adolf Hitler himself testifying, and the defence successfully putting the Weimar Republic on trial, and many Army officers won over to a sympathetic view of the National Socialist movement.
Hans Frank was elected to the Reichstag in 1930, and in 1933 he was made Minister of Justice for Bavaria. From 1933, he was also the head of the National Socialist Jurists Association and President of the Academy of German Law. Hans Frank objected to extrajudicial killings, both at the Dachau concentration camp and during the Night of the Long Knives.
Hans Frank's view of what the judicial process required should not be exaggerated:
The judge's role is to safeguard the concrete order of the racial community, to eliminate dangerous elements, to prosecute all acts harmful to the community, and to arbitrate in disagreements between members of the community. The National Socialist ideology, especially as expressed in the Party programme and in the speeches of our Leader, is the basis for interpreting legal sources.
From 1934, Hans Frank was Reich Minister Without Portfolio.
In September 1939 Hans Frank was assigned as Chief of Administration to Gerd von Rundstedt in the German military administration in occupied Poland. From 26 October 1939, following the end of the invasion of Poland, Hans Frank was assigned Governor-General of the occupied Polish territories (Generalgouverneur für die besetzten polnischen Gebiete), controlling the General Government, the area of Poland not directly incorporated into Germany (roughly 90,000 km² out of the 187,000 km² Germany had gained). He was also granted the SS rank of Obergruppenführer.
One of his first operations was the AB Action, aimed at destroying Polish culture, and in which more than 30,000 Poles (intellectuals and the upper classes) were arrested and 7,000 were subsequently massacred. Hans Frank oversaw the segregation of the Jews into ghettos and the use of Polish civilians as forced and compulsory labour. In 1942 he lost his positions of authority outside the GG after annoying Adolf Hitler with a series of speeches in Berlin, Vienna, Heidelberg, and Munich and also as part of a power struggle with Friedrich Wilhelm Krüger, the State Secretary for Security head of the SS and the police in the GG. Krüger himself was ultimately replaced with Wilhelm Koppe.
An assassination attempt by Polish Secret State on 29/30 January 1944 (the night preceding the 11th anniversary of the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany) in Szarów near Krakow failed. A special train with Hans Frank traveling to Lviv was derailed after an explosive device went off but no one was killed.
As governor general, Hans Frank stripped away his appearance of culture stating to his cabinet,
Gentlemen, I must ask you to rid yourself of pity. We must annihilate the Jews.
The General Government was the location of four of the six extermination camps. Hans Frank later claimed that the extermination of Jews was entirely controlled by Heinrich Himmler and the SS and that he, Hans Frank, was unaware of the extermination camps in the GG until early in 1944. During his testimony at Nuremberg, Hans Frank claimed he submitted resignation requests to Adolf Hitler on 14 occasions, but Adolf Hitler would not allow him to resign. Hans Frank fled GG in January 1945, in advance of the Soviet Army.
Hans Frank was extremely interested in chess. He not only possessed an extensive library of chess literature but was also a good player, and he even received the Ukrainian chess grandmaster Efim Bogoljubow at the Wawel castle. He was a patron of General Government chess tournaments (1940 1944). On 3 November 1940 he organized a chess congress in Krakow. Six months later he announced the establishment of a chess school under Bogoljubow and the World Chess Champion, Dr. Alexander Alekhine, and he visited a chess tournament in October 1942 at the Literary Café in Krakow.
Capture and trial
Hans Frank was captured by American troops on 3 May 1945, at Tegernsee in southern Bavaria. Upon his capture, he tried to cut his own throat two days later, he lacerated his left arm while attempting to slit his wrists in a second unsuccessful suicide attempt. He was indicted for war crimes and tried before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg from 20 November 1945 to 1 October 1946. During the trial he renewed the faith of his childhood, Roman Catholicism, and claimed to have a series of religious experiences.
Hans Frank voluntarily surrendered 43 volumes of his personal diaries to the Allies, which were then used against him as evidence of his guilt. Hans Frank confessed to some of the charges put against him and viewed his own execution as a form of atonement for his sins. Although on the witness stand he expressed remorse, during the trial, he vacillated between penitence for his crimes and blaming the Allies, especially the Soviets, for an equal share of wartime atrocities.
The former Governor-General of Poland was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity on 1 October 1946, and was sentenced to death by hanging. While awaiting execution, he wrote his memoirs. The sentence was carried out on 16 October by Master Sergeant John C. Woods. Journalist Howard K. Smith wrote of the execution:
to Hans Frank was next in the parade of death. He was the only one of the condemned to enter the chamber with a smile on his countenance. And, although nervous and swallowing frequently, this man, who was converted to Roman Catholicism after his arrest, gave the appearance of being relieved at the prospect of atoning for his evil deeds.
He and Albert Speer were allegedly the only defendants to show remorse for their war crimes. My conscience does not allow me simply to throw the responsibility simply on minor people... A thousand years will pass and still Germany's guilt will not have been erased. He answered to his name quietly and when asked for any last statement, he replied I am thankful for the kind treatment during my captivity and I ask God to accept me with mercy.
On 2 April 1925 Hans Frank married 29-year-old secretary Brigitte Herbst (1895 1959) from Forst (Lausitz). The wedding took place in Munich and the couple honeymooned in Venetia. Hans and Brigitte Hans Frank had five children:
Sigrid Hans Frank (born 13 March 1927, Munich)
Norman Hans Frank (born 3 June 1928, Munich)
Brigitte Hans Frank (born 13 January 1935, Munich)
Michael Hans Frank (born 15 February 1937, Munich)
Niklas Hans Frank (born 9 March 1939, Munich)
Brigitte Hans Frank had a reputation for having a more dominant personality than her husband, and from 1939 she called herself a queen of Poland (Königin von Polen). The marriage was unhappy and became colder from year to year. When Hans Frank sought a divorce in 1942, Brigitte gave everything to save their marriage in order to remain the First Lady in the General Government. One of her most famous comments was I'd rather be widowed than divorced from a Reichsminister! Hans Frank answered: So you are my deadly enemy!
In 1987, Niklas Hans Frank wrote a book about his father, Der Vater: Eine Abrechnung (The Father: A Settling of Accounts), which was published in English in 1991 as In the Shadow of the Reich. The book, which was serialized in the magazine Stern, resulted in controversy in Germany because of the scathing way in which the younger Hans Frank depicted his father, referring to him as a slime-hole of a Adolf Hitler fanatic and questioning his remorse before his execution.
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