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Hans Michael Frank

Gauleiter of Poland
Gauleiter of Poland.

Hans Michael Frank (May 23, 1900 - October 16, 1946) was a German lawyer who worked for the Nazi party during the 1920s and 1930s and a senior official in Nazi Germany. He was prosecuted during the Nuremberg trials for his role in perpetrating the Holocaust during his tenure as Governor-General of occupied Poland. He was found guilty of complicity in the murder of millions of Poles and Polish Jews, and executed on October 16, 1946.

Pre-war career

Frank was born in Karlsruhe to lawyer Karl Frank and his wife Magdalena Buchmaier. He had an elder brother, Karl Jr., and a younger sister by the name of Elisabeth. He joined the German army in 1917. He served in the Freikorps and joined the German Worker's Party (which soon evolved into NSDAP), in 1919, being one of the party's earliest members. He studied law, passing the final state examination in 1926, and rose to become the personal legal advisor to Hitler. In this capacity he was privy to personal details of Hitler's life. In his memoirs, written shortly before his execution, Frank made the sensational claim that he had investigated Hitler's family in 1930 after a "blackmail letter" had been received from Hitler's English nephew William Patrick Hitler. William Patrick allegedly threatened to reveal embarrassing facts about Hitler's ancestry. Frank claimed to have uncovered evidence that Hitler's father was the illegitimate son of a Jew named Frankenburger. According to Frank, Hitler told him that his grandmother had merely extorted money from Frankenburger by threatening to claim his paternity of her illegitimate child. No evidence has ever emerged to support Frank's claims.

He was elected to the Reichstag in 1930, and in 1933 he was made Minister of Justice for Bavaria. He was also the head of the National Socialist Jurists Association and President of the Academy of German Law from 1933. Frank objected to extrajudicial killings, both at the Dachau concentration camp and during the Night of the Long Knives. However, 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, Frank was Reich Minister Without Portfolio.

Wartime career

In September 1939 Frank was assigned as Chief of Administration to Gerd von Rundstedt in the General Government. From October 26, 1939, following the invasion of Poland, Frank was the Governor-General of the General Government for the occupied Polish territories (Generalgouverneur für die besetzten polnischen Gebiete), that is head of the General Government controlling those areas of Poland that had not been directly incorporated into Germany (roughly 90,000 km▓ out of the 170,000 km▓ Germany had gained). He was granted the SS rank of Obergruppenführer.

Frank oversaw the segregation of the Jews into ghettos (Jewish quarters) and the use of Polish civilians as "forced and compulsory" labour. In 1942 he lost his positions of authority outside the General Government after annoying 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 General Government. But it was Krüger who was ultimately replaced, with Wilhelm Koppe. Frank later claimed that the extermination of Jews was entirely controlled by Heinrich Himmler and the SS and that he, Frank, was unaware of the extermination camps in the General Government until early in 1944. During his testimony at Nuremberg, Frank claimed he submitted resignation requests to Hitler on fourteen occasions but Hitler would not allow him to resign. Frank fled the General Government in January 1945, in advance of the Soviet Army.

Capture and trial

The corpse of Hans Frank after he was hanged
The corpse of Hans Frank after he was hanged.

Frank was captured by American troops on May 3, 1945, at Tegernsee near Berchtesgaden. Upon his capture, after a very rough treatment from the American soldiers, he tried to cut his own throat. Two days later, he lacerated his left arm 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 his childhood practice of Catholicism and, under the pressure of being on trial for his life, claimed to have a series of religious experiences.

Frank voluntarily surrendered over forty volumes of his personal diaries to the Allies, which were then used against him as evidence of his guilt. Frank confessed to some of the charges put against him and viewed his own execution as a form of atonement for his sins. On the witness stand he uttered: "A thousand years will pass and the guilt of Germany will still not have been erased." However, during the trial, he vacillated wildly 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 October 1, 1946, and was sentenced to death by hanging. While awaiting execution, he wrote his memoirs. The sentence was carried out on October 16. Journalist Howard K. Smith wrote of the execution:

" 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." "


On April 2, 1925 Frank married 29-year-old secretary Brigitte Herbst (1895 - 1959) from Forst (Lausitz). The wedding took place in Munich. The couple honeymooned in Venetia. Together Hans and Brigitte Frank had five children:

  • Sigrid Frank (born March 13, 1927 in Munich)
  • Norman Frank (born June 3, 1928 in Munich)
  • Brigitte Frank (born January 13, 1935 in Munich)
  • Michael Frank (born February 15, 1937 in Munich)
  • Niklas Frank (born March 9, 1939 in Munich)

Brigitte Frank had a reputation for having a more dominant personality than her husband. During the marriage she had several lovers, but resented Hans showing any interest in other women. From 1939 she called herself K÷nigin von Polen ("Queen of Poland"). The marriage was unhappy and became colder from year to year. When 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!" Frank answered: "So you are my deadly enemy!"

In 1987, Niklas 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 due to the vehement contempt and hatred expressed by the younger Frank toward his father.


About Polish partisans in Warsaw in 14 XII 1943, Krakˇw: If not for Warsaw in the General Government, we wouldn't have 4/5 of our current problems on that territory. Warsaw was and will be the center of chaos and a place from which opposition spreads throughout the rest of the country.

Fiction and film

Frank is featured in Robert Harris's novel Fatherland and in Italian Curzio Malaparte's novel Kaputt.

He was also featured as a villain in the movie about Pope John Paul II, Karol: A Man Who Became Pope.

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