Hans Frank

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Hans Frank (1900-1946) was a Nazi lawyer, who headed the colonial occupation of central Poland, the Generalgouvernement. G.M. Gilbert, the staff psychologist at the Nuremberg Trials, characterizes him as a well-educated, second-rank official "who might have been presumed to have more rational frames of reference tp evaluate the appeals of dictatorial demagoguery...his is a storyof pathological influence vs. better judgment in submitting to dictatorship in a time of socioeconomic stress.[1]

He expressed remorse at the Tribunal, saying "A thousand years will pass and the guilt of Germany will not be erased," but was sentenced to death and hanged.

Early life

According to Gilbert, his father, also a lawyer, had been suspended or disbarred. He also told Gilbert that his father had some Jewish background. Gilbert concluded that this created conflict toward authority and law.

He was an early Nazi, joining the German Workers Party, its predecessor, in 1919, and the Sturmabteilung (SA) in 1923, marching in the student ranks of the Beer Hall Putsch. Nevertheless, he graduated with a law degree in 1924, passed the bar in 1926, and opened a private practice in 1927. It did not flourish, and Rudolf Hess recruited him as the Party's chief defense counsel.

In 1929, he was made head of the legal department of the Supreme Party Council, and elected to the Reichstag in 1930.

Rise of the Nazis

He had hoped to become Reich Minister of Justice, but was given the post of State Minister of Justice of Bavaria, President of the German Academy of Law, and the National Socialists Jurists Association. He was able to continue his private practice which, with the reputation of the Fuehrer's Counsel, grew greatly.

Frank retained some respect for law through 1934. He had argued with Hess and Adolf Hitler about turning over, to the Night of the Long Knives purge, individuals against whom there had been no legal proceedings, only an order from Hitler. Nevertheless, he gave in, and, when Hitler abolished the state ministries of justice at the end of the year, became Minister without Portfolio, "on good behavior". From then on, his speaking and writing emphasized Hitler's concepts, and the idea that the interest of the state superseded law.


While he had reactivated his reserve military commission, he did not take part in the German invasion of Poland, but was appointed Governor of the Generalgouvernement, the central part of Poland that was treated as a colony for exploitation, rather than the Warthegau of Western Poland, which was made part of Germany. His administration was corrupt, and he had major conflicts,which Hitler would not resolve, with Heinrich Himmler and his SS representatives in Poland. The most basic conflict came from Himmler's authority to treat Poland as a racial laboratory, as the Reichscommissioner for the Strengthening of Germanism (RKFDA). Frank also had no authority over the Einsatzgruppen. [2]

Frank, however, was not alone in resisting Himmler within bureaucratic circles. He and Hermann Goering, the latter in the role of economic dictator, the Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan, resisted the constant forced resettlement of non-Germans, especially Poles, into the Generalgouvernement. This disrupted economic and social planning. It also led to further concentrating the Jews into ghettoes, to make more room.[3]

His deputy, Josef Buehler, represented him at the Wannsee Conference. He certainly was aware of the Final Solutions, but did not have direct authority over the concentration and extermination camps in Poland.

This resulted in the removal, in 1942, of all his state and party offices except heading the civil government.


  1. G.M. Gilbert (1950), The Psychology of Dictatorship, Ronald Press Company, p. 136
  2. Lucy Dawidowicz (1975), The War against the Jews, 1933-1945 (10th Anniversary ed.), Bantam Books, ISBN 0-553-34532-X, p. 112
  3. Yehuda Bauer (2001), Rethinking the Holocaust, Yale University Press, ISBN 030008222568, pp. 87-88