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Hans Michael Frank (May 23, 1900 – October 16, 1946) was a Germanmarker lawyer who worked for the Nazi party during the 1920s and 1930s and later became a high-ranking official in Nazi Germany. He was prosecuted during the Nuremberg trialsmarker for his role in perpetrating the Holocaust during his tenure as Governor-General of occupied Polandmarker. He was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and executed on October 16, 1946.

Pre-war career

Frank was born in Karlsruhemarker, and his parents were Karl Frank, a lawyer, and his wife Magdalena (née Buchmaier). He had an elder 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 the personal legal advisor to Adolf 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 nephew William Patrick Hitler. William Patrick Hitler allegedly threatened to reveal embarrassing facts about Hitler's ancestry. Frank claimed to have uncovered evidence that Maria Schicklgruber, Hitler's paternal grandmother, had been working as a cook in the household of a Jewish family named Leopold Frankenberger before she gave birth to Alois out of wedlock. According to Frank, Hitler told him that his grandmother had merely extorted money from Frankenberger by threatening to claim his paternity of her illegitimate child. Frank accepted this explanation, but added that it was still just possible that 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." No evidence has ever emerged to support Frank's claims.

As the Nazis rose to power, 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 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!"

He was elected to the Reichstag in 1930, and in 1933 he was made Minister of Justice for Bavariamarker. 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 campmarker and during the Night of the Long Knives.

However, Frank's view of what the judicial process required should not be exaggerated:

From 1934, Frank was Reich Minister Without Portfolio.

Wartime career

Ruler of occupied Poland
In September 1939 Frank was assigned as Chief of Administration to Gerd von Rundstedt in the General Government (GG). From October 26, 1939, following the invasion of Polandmarker, 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 km² out of the 187,000 km² Germany had gained). He was granted the SS rank of Obergruppenführer.

One of his first operations was the AB Action, aimed at destroying Polish culture. 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 Hitler with a series of speeches in Berlinmarker, Viennamarker, Heidelbergmarker, and Munichmarker 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.

Frank later claimed that the extermination of Jews was entirely controlled by Heinrich Himmler and the SSmarker 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 14 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

was captured by American troops on May 3, 1945, at Tegernseemarker in southern Bavariamarker. Upon his capture, 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 Tribunalmarker in Nurembergmarker from November 20, 1945 to October 1, 1946. During the trial he renewed the faith of his childhood, Roman Catholicism, and claimed to have a series of religious experiences.

Frank voluntarily surrendered 43 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. Although on the witness stand he expressed remorse, during the trial, he vacillated between penitence for his crimes and blaming the Allies, especially the Sovietmarker, for an equal share of wartime atrocities.
The corpse of Hans Frank after he was hanged
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 by Master Sergeant John C. Woods. Journalist Howard K. Smith wrote of the execution:

He and Albert Speer were the only defendants to apparently show any true remorse for their war crimes during World War II."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 April 2, 1925 Frank married 29-year-old secretary Brigitte Herbst (1895–1959) from Forst marker. The wedding took place in Munichmarker and the couple honeymooned in Venetia. 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, and from 1939 she called herself "Königin 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 because of the scathing way in which the younger Frank depicted his father, referring to him as "a slime-hole of a Hitler fanatic" and questioning his remorse before his execution.


In a 1940 interview in the Völkischer Beobachter:

About Polish partisans in Warsawmarker in 1943, he spoke from Krakówmarker, stating:

Portrayal in the media

Hans Frank has been portrayed by the following actors in film, television and theater productions.


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