Hans Frank

Hans Frank

Hans Frank was born in Karlsrule, Germany on 23rd May, 1900. He joined the German Army in 1917 and after the First World War was active in the Freikorps that helped to defeat the German Revolution in Munich.

Frank joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) and took part in the Beer Hall Putsch. Afterwards he trained as a lawyer and became legal adviser to Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP. In 1930 he was elected to the Reichstag.

When Hitler became Chancellor in 1933 he appointed Frank as Minister of Justice in Bavaria. While in this post he complained about the illegal killings that was taking place in the concentration camp at Dachau.

During the Night of the Long Knives Frank raised objections to the execution of the proposed execution without trial of 110 members of the Sturm Abteilung (SA). As as result of his intervention only 20 men were shot. After this Frank lost his influence in the NSDAP hierarchy.

On the outbreak of the Second World War Frank was appointed as governor general of Poland. Heinrich Himmler was responsible for the extermination camps but Frank said he did not become aware of the mass killings until late in the war and on 7 February 1944 raised the issue with Holocaust, who denied knowledge of what was taking place.

Frank was captured in May 1945 and was accused of crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial. Unlike most of of the other men on trial at Nuremberg he appeared to be genuinely ashamed at what had been taking place in Nazi Germany. He said at his trial he admitted his guilt for the Holocaust: "I myself have never installed an extermination camp for Jews, or promoted the existence of such camps; but if Adolf Hitler personally has laid that dreadful responsibility on his people, then it is mine too, for we have fought against Jewry for years; and we have indulged in the most horrible utterances." Hans Frank was found guilty and executed on 1st October, 1946.

Primary Sources

(1) Hans Frank, speech at a meeting of soldiers (December, 1941)

This war would be only a partial success if the whole lot of Jewry survived it, while we shed our best blood to save Europe. My attitude toward the Jews will therefore be based solely on the expectation that they must disappear. They must be done away with. Gentlemen, I must ask you to rid yourself of all feeling of pity. We must annihilate the Jews wherever we find them and wherever it is possible.

(2) Hans Frank, speech on the need to exterminate the Poles (25th January, 1943)

We must not be squeamish when we learn that a total of 17,000 have been shot. We are now duty bound to hold together we, who are gathered together here figure on Mr. Roosevelt's list of war criminals. I have the honour of being Number One.

(3) Hans Frank was cross-examined by Alfred Seidl at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial (18th April, 1946)

Alfred Seidl: You have mentioned the various positions which you held over a number of years. I now ask you: Did you, in any of the positions you held in the Party or the State, play any vital part in the political events of the last 20 years?

Hans Frank: In my own sphere I did everything that could possibly be expected of a man who believes in the greatness of his people and who is filled with fanaticism for the greatness of his country, in order to bring about the victory of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist movement. I never participated in far-reaching political decisions, since I never belonged to the circle of the closest associates of Adolf Hitler, neither was I consulted by Adolf Hitler on general political questions, nor did I ever take part in conferences about such problems. Proof of this is that throughout the period from 1933 to 1945 I was received only six times by Adolf Hitler personally, to report to him about my sphere of activities.

(4) Hans Frank defended the SS Waffen during his trial in 1946.

Wherever the SS is discussed here, the SS and the police are considered as forming one body. It would not be right of me if I did not correct that wrong conception. I have known during the course of these years so many honest, clean, and upright soldiers among the SS, and especially among the Waffen SS and the police, that when judging here the problem of the SS in regard to the criminal nature of their activities, one can draw the same clear distinction as in the case of any of the other social groups. The SS, as such, behaved no more criminally than any other social groups would behave when taking part in political events. The dreadful thing was that the responsible chief, and a number of other SS men who unfortunately had been given considerable powers, were able to abuse the loyal attitude which is so typical of the German soldier.

(5) At his trial Hans Frank was asked by Alfred Seidal if he had "participated in the annihilation of the Jews?" (18th April, 1946)

I say "yes;" and the reason why I say "yes" is because, having lived through the 5 months of this trial, and particularly after having heard the testimony of, the witness Hoess, my conscience does not allow me to throw the responsibility solely on these minor people. I myself have never installed an extermination camp for Jews, or promoted the existence of such camps; but if Adolf Hitler personally has laid that dreadful responsibility on his people, then it is mine too, for we have fought against Jewry for years; and we have indulged in the most horrible utterances. My own diary bears witness against me. Therefore, it is no more than my duty to answer your question in this connection with "yes." A thousand years will pass and still this guilt of Germany will not have been erased.

(6) At his trial Hans Frank was asked by Alfred Seidal when he first heard of the Maidanek Concentration Camp (18th April, 1946)

I heard the name Maidanek for the first time in 1944 from foreign reports. But for years there had been contradictory rumors about the camp near Lublin, or in the Lublin District, if I may express myself in such a general way. Governor Z`rner once told me, I believe already in 1941, that the SS intended to build a large concentration camp near Lublin and had applied for large quantities of building materials, etc. At that time I instructed State Secretary Báhler to investigate the matter immediately, and I was told, and I also received a report in writing from Reidisfáhrer SS Himmler, that he had to build a large camp required by the Waffen-SS to manufacture clothes, footwear, and underwear in large SS owned workshops. This camp went under the name of "SS Works," or something similar.

Now, I have to say I was in a position to get information, whereas the witnesses who have testified so far have said under oath that in the circles around the Fáhrer nothing was known about all these things. We out there were more independent, and I heard quite a lot through enemy broadcasts and enemy and neutral papers. In answer to my repeated questions as to what happened to the Jews who were deported, I was always told they were to be sent to the East, to be assembled, and put to work there. But, the stench seemed to penetrate the walls, and therefore I persisted in my investigations as to what was going on. Once a report came to me that there was something going on near Belcec. I went to Belcec the next day. Globocznik showed me an enormous ditch which he was having made as a protective wall and on which many thousands of workers, apparently Jews, were engaged. I spoke to some of them, asked them where they came from, how long they had been there, and he told me, that is, Globocznik, "They are working here now, and when they are through - they come from the Reich, or somewhere from France - they will be sent further east." I did not make any further inquiries in that same area.

The rumor, however, that the Jews were being killed in the manner which is now known to the entire world would not be silenced. When I expressed the wish to visit the SS workshop near Lublin, in order to get some idea of the value of the work that was being done, I was told that special permission from Heinrich Himmler was required.

I asked Heinrich Himmler for this special permission. He said that he would urge me not to go to the camp. Again some time passed. On 7 February 1944 I succeeded in being received by Adolf Hitler personally - I might add that throughout the war he received me three times only. In the presence of Bormann I put the question to him: "My Fuhrer, rumors about the extermination of the Jews will not be silenced. They are heard everywhere. No one is allowed in anywhere. Once I paid a surprise visit to Auschwitz in order to see the camp, but I was told that there was an epidemic in the camp and my car was diverted before I got there. Tell me, My Fuhrer, is there anything in it?" The Fuhrer said, "You can very well imagine that there are executions going on of insurgents. Apart from that I do not know anything. Why don't you speak to Heinrich Himmler about it?" And I said, "Well, Himmler made a speech to us in Krakow and declared in front of all the people whom I had officially called to the meeting that these rumors about the systematic extermination of the Jews were false; the Jews were merely being brought to the East." Thereupon the Fuhrer said, '"Then you must believe that."

(7) The journalist, Howard K. Smith , observed the execution of Hans Frank and nine other leaders of the Nazi Party on 1st October 1946.

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.

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 answered to his name quietly and when asked for any last statement, he replied in a low voice that was almost a whisper, "I am thankful for the kind treatment during my captivity and I ask God to accept me with mercy."