Hans Michael Frank

Hans Michael Frank

German lawyer, statesman and politician
Date of Birth: 23.05.1900
Country: Germany

  1. Biography of Hans Frank
  2. Political and Government Career
  3. Capture and Trial

Biography of Hans Frank

Hans Michael Frank was born on May 23, 1900, in Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. He was a German lawyer, state and political official, and a high-ranking member of the Nazi Party in 1920s and 1930s. Later, he became a prominent official in Nazi Germany, serving as the Governor-General of occupied Poland and a Reichsleiter of the NSDAP.

Hans Michael Frank

Frank joined the German army in 1917 during the First World War and fought against the Bavarian Soviet Republic. After the war, he served in the Freikorps under Franz Ritter von Epp and joined the Party of German Workers, which later evolved into the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP). Frank became one of the party's earliest members.

As a dedicated member of the Nazi Party, Frank studied law and passed the state examination in 1926. With a law degree, he was appointed as Adolf Hitler's personal legal advisor, representing his interests in 150 court cases. In this role, Frank became intimately involved in many aspects of Hitler's personal life. He claimed in his memoirs to have found evidence that Hitler's grandmother, Maria Schicklgruber, worked as a cook for a wealthy Jewish family, the Frankenberger's, before giving birth to Hitler's father, Alois, out of wedlock. While Frank agreed with this claim, he personally found it unlikely that Hitler had Jewish ancestry.

Political and Government Career

When the Nazis came to power, Frank served as the party's lawyer in over 2,400 cases. This sometimes led to conflicts with other lawyers, and one of his former teachers urged him to leave the political movement, whose history began with criminal cases. In 1930, Frank was elected to the Reichstag and in 1933, he was appointed as the Minister of Justice of Bavaria, as well as the head of the National Association of Lawyers and the President of the Academy of German Law. Together with Franz Gürtner, he began developing a new criminal code.

According to Frank, the role of a judge in the judicial process was to protect the interests of the people, eliminate dangerous elements, and make choices in disputes between members of society. The Nazi ideology, according to Frank, did not allow for unlimited police power. He attempted to limit the power of Hitler and the Gestapo, abolish concentration camps, and extrajudicial executions. However, when he and Gürtner presented the new criminal code to Hitler in the summer of 1934, the Führer sent it to the archives, stating that the time for such changes had not yet come.

In September 1939, Frank became the head of the administration under Gerd von Rundstedt in the General Government. After the German invasion of Poland in October 1939, he became the Governor-General of the occupied Polish territories, overseeing areas that were not directly incorporated into Germany. Frank was given the rank of SS Obergruppenführer. During the campaign to eliminate the Polish intelligentsia and the upper classes, Frank focused his efforts on destroying Polish culture. He supervised the segregation of Jews into ghettos and utilized Poles in "forced and compulsory" labor.

Eventually, tensions between Frank and one of the key political and military figures of the Third Reich, Heinrich Himmler, deteriorated. The ethnic cleansing of the Goralians, Lemkos, Kashubs, and Hutsuls by the SS hindered Frank's ability to oppose them with the Poles. The SS increasingly interfered in the civil administration of the General Government and plotted against Frank behind his back. However, the real confrontation between the SS and Frank began after Lublin Globocnik, an SS chief, launched a campaign to evict Poles and subsequently resettle them on Volksdeutsche lands. Hitler stripped Frank of almost all his positions but did not accept his resignation as Governor-General. Frank later claimed that he was unaware of the death camps until early 1944 when the extermination of Jews was being conducted under the complete control of the SS and Himmler in the General Government.

Capture and Trial

On May 3, 1945, American forces captured the fugitive Frank in Tegernsee. After two failed suicide attempts – he tried to slit his throat and wrists – Hans appeared before the International Military Tribunal. In his testimony at Nuremberg, he stated that he had requested retirement 14 times and spoke about his religious beliefs from childhood and his Roman Catholicism.

While awaiting execution by hanging, Frank wrote memoirs and, together with Albert Speer, was one of the few who showed true remorse for their war crimes. He was executed on October 16, 1946. Witnesses claimed that he had a smile on his face until the end. His final words were, "I am grateful for the good treatment during my captivity, and I ask God to accept me with mercy."

According to the court psychiatrist Gustav Gilbert, Frank was "one of the most intelligent but emotionally unstable old fighters." His wife, Brigitte Frank, dominated him and referred to herself as the "Queen of Poland." Their marriage grew colder with each passing year, but Brigitte did everything to prevent their union from falling apart and to remain the "first lady of the General Government." One of her most famous quotes was, "Better to be a widow than to divorce a Reich Minister!" to which her husband replied, "So it turns out you are my sworn enemy!"