Childhood & Early Life
Hans Frank was born on May 23, 1900, in Karlsrule, Germany, to Karl Frank and Magdalena (née Buchmaier). His father was a lawyer, and his mother was a rich banker’s daughter. Theirs was a middle-class Catholic family.
Frank was the second of the three children of his parents. He grew up with an older brother named Karr Jr. and a younger sister named Elizabeth.
He graduated high school from the ‘Maximilians’ gymnasium in Munich. He joined the German army at 17. Although the army was fighting in World War I at that time, he did not serve in the front.
Following the war, Frank joined the ‘University of Munich,’ where he studied law and economics from 1919 to 1921. From 1921 to 1922, he studied at the ‘University of Kiel.’ He went back to Munich and joined the winter semester and studied there from 1922 to 1923. He cleared the final exam on July 21, 1923. He then received his “Doctor juris” degree in 1924.
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Although Frank joined the German army in 1917, he did not fight in World War I. However, after the war, he was part of the ‘Freikorps,’ under the command of Franz Ritter von Epp, which helped crush the ‘German Revolution’ in Munich.
From 1919 to 1920, he served as a member of the ‘Thule Völkisch’ society. In 1919, he joined the ‘German Workers' Party,’ or ‘Deutsche Arbeiterpartei’ (DAP), along with other members of the society.
The ‘DAP’ was short-lived and soon became the ‘National Socialist German Workers' Party,’ or the ‘Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei,’ (NSDAP), also known as the ‘Nazi Party.’
In September 1923, he became a member of the ‘Sturmabteilung’ (SA). In October that year, he officially joined the ‘NSDAP.’
Frank participated in the ‘Beer Hall Putsch’ in November. It was an unsuccessful “coup d'état” by Adolf Hitler, intended to match Mussolini's “March on Rome.” Following this, Frank fled to Austria. He returned to Munich in 1924, after the legal cases were stayed.
Frank soon became Adolf Hitler's personal lawyer. Following this, he became the official ‘Nazi Party’ lawyer. He represented the party in more than 2,400 cases.
Between September and October 1930, Frank was the defense lawyer at the court-martial of Lieutenants Richard Scheringer, Hanns Ludin, and Hans Friedrich Wendt in Leipzig. They were charged with membership in the ‘NSDAP.’ The same year, Frank was elected to the ‘Reichstag.’
After Hitler took over as the chancellor of Germany in 1933, he made Frank the minister of justice in Bavaria. Frank was also at the helm of the ‘National Socialist Jurists Association’ and served as the president of the ‘Academy of German Law.’
He was against the illegal extrajudicial killings at the Dachau concentration camp. During the “Night of the Long Knives,” Frank went against the proposal of the execution of 110 members of the ‘Sturm Abteilung’ (SA) without trial. Following this objection, only 20 men were killed. After this, Frank lost his power in the ‘NSDAP.’
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After World War II broke out, Frank was made the governor-general of Poland. Back then, Heinrich Himmler was in charge of the concentration camps. During that time, countless Poles were executed, and their property and belongings were confiscated. Scores of Polish workers were shipped to Germany and crammed in ghettos before being killed. Frank later claimed he did not know about the mass killings until much later.
The American army captured Frank in May 1945. At the ‘Nuremberg War Crimes Trial,’ he was accused of war crimes. Frank seemed to be genuinely affected by the happenings in ‘Nazi’ Germany. At the trial, he admitted his guilt for the ‘Holocaust.’
Frank said he had submitted his resignation to Hitler 14 times but Hitler did not allow him to resign.
Frank then converted to Roman Catholicism, which many believe was an attempt to escape the trial. He gave the court 43 volumes of his personal accounts of the war. These were later used as proof of his guilt.
Frank attempted suicide on his first day in prison, by trying to cut his own throat, but failed. After going to trial on November 20, 1945, He tried committing suicide again, but failed this time too.
Awards & Achievements
Frank had received a number of awards and recognitions in his country, for his service. Some of the honors received by him were the ‘Nuremberg Party Day Badge’ (1929), the ‘Golden Party Badge’ (1933), ‘Blood Order Number 532’ (1934), the ‘Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus’ (1936), the ‘Danzig Cross 1st Class’ (1940), the ‘War Merit Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class without Swords’ (1940), and the ‘NSDAP Long Service Award’ (in gold, silver, and bronze).
Family & Personal Life
Frank married his secretary, Brigitte Herbst, on April 2, 1925. She was a 29-year-old lady from Forst (Lausitz). The wedding was held in Munich. They had their honeymoon in Venetia. They had five children: Sigrid, Norman, Brigitte, Michael, and Niklas.
Brigitte was known for her domineering personality. After 1939, she began calling herself "a queen of Poland" ("Königin von Polen").
Their relationship turned sour later. Frank asked Brigitte for a divorce in 1942. However, Brigitte was desperate to save their marriage so that she could remain the "First Lady in the General Government.” She is believed to have said "I'd rather be widowed than divorced from a Reichsminister!"
Frank was found guilty of war crimes and received the death sentence on October 1, 1946. He was hanged on October 16, 1946. He was 46 years old at the time of his death. It is believed that Frank was the only person who had entered the execution chamber with a smile.
He was cremated at the ‘Ostfriedhof’ in Munich, along with nine executed prisoners and Hermann Göring. His ashes were later scattered in the Isar.
Sigrid was a loyal ‘Nazi’ and emigrated to South Africa during the apartheid. She died later. In 1981, Brigitte (Frank’s daughter) committed suicide. Michael and Norman died later too. Niklas became an author and journalist. His book, ‘Der Vater: Eine Abrechnung’ ("The Father: A Settling of Accounts"), was later published in English (as ‘In the Shadow of the Reich’ in 1991). The book had Niklas raising doubts over his father’s remorse before his death.