The Butcher of Poland: Hitler's Lawyer Hans Frank

The Butcher of Poland: Hitler's Lawyer Hans Frank


View All Available Formats & Editions
Usually ships within 6 days


The only biography of a key member of Hitler's inner circle, described by his own son as "a slime-hole of a Hitler fanatic"

The life of the Bavarian Hans Frank, one of the 10 war criminals hanged at Nuremburg in 1946, who converted to Catholicism before he died, has not received the full attention the world has given to other Nazi leaders. In many ways he warrants it more. His life symbolzses the hubristic and visionary ambition Germany had to an alarming degree much better than anyone else, perhaps because he was an intellectual of the highest caliber: "Can't they see," he said of his fellow accused at Nuremberg, "that this is a horrible tragedy in the history of mankind, and that we are the symbols of an evil that God is brushing aside?" As he recognized by the end he was a primary, if not the exemplary, symbol, his remorse, self-pity, and arrogance knew no bounds as they vied with his contrition. "In Prague, big red posters were put up on which one could read that seven Czechs had been shot today. I said to myself, 'If I had to put up a poster for every seven Poles shot, the forests of Poland would not be sufficient to manufacture the paper.'"  —Hans Frank, June 1940

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780752498133
Publisher: Spellmount, Limited Publishers
Publication date: 04/01/2014
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Garry O'Connor is a theater director and the author of more than a dozen books including Universal Father: A Life of Pope John Paul II. Michael Holroyd is the author of A Book of Secrets.

Read an Excerpt

The Butcher of Poland

Hitler's Lawyer Hans Frank

By Garry O'Connor

The History Press

Copyright © 2013 Garry O'Connor
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7524-9862-1



'The Russians,' said Deutschlin sententiously, 'have profundity but no form. And in the West they have form but no profundity. Only we Germans have both.'

Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus

President Woodrow Wilson, a good Presbyterian, put forward plans to reform the United States by taking business out of the hands of businessmen, and turning it over to the politicians. Now, in 1918, with the brief of changing the wider world after World War One, to make Europe a safer and saner place to live, he had selected a cohort of distinguished American scholars, men like himself, an ex-President of Princeton, who derived their ideas from books, to eradicate evil forever from the conduct of governments. He had the whole civilised world for his classroom. 'Open covenants of peace openly arrived at' stood at the heart of President Wilson's Fourteen Points to which the Germans had agreed as the basis for the Armistice on 11 November 1918.

At Versailles, in May the following year, the Germans found themselves not so much an active participant in peace negotiations, as passive recipients of what became known as the diktat of Versailles imposed on them. Wilson, dressed in black, lean in figure and face, eyes magnified by shiny lenses, presided. Président Clemenceau of France, aged 78, a diabetic with grey silk gloves hiding his eczema, made it clear revenge would be his agenda: 'The hour has struck for the weighty settlement of our accounts.' But while in the West it had lost, Germany had been winning the war in the East and still had an army of 9 million men under arms. Count von Brockdorff-Rantzau, Germany's negotiator to whom Clemenceau addressed these words, did not deign to rise from his seat to read a bitter reply. Wilson's response to this strengthened the perception of his growing anti-German animus: 'What abominable manners! ... It will set the whole world against them.' So much for peace.

The Diktat, signed finally on 28 June 1919 by the German Social Democrat Government yielding to overwhelming force, described by Robert Lancing, Wilson's Secretary of State, as Germany 'being forced to sign their own death warrant', provoked fury not only in Germany. Maynard Keynes, British Treasury representative at the Paris Peace Conference, resigned. He thought the economic reparations forced on Germany by the 'Damned Treaty' were a formula for economic disaster and future war. In a letter to a friend he called Wilson 'the greatest fraud on earth'; to Lloyd George, British Prime Minister, he wrote, 'I am slipping away from this scene of nightmare.'

Keynes returned to his alma mater, King's College, Cambridge. Here, he penned a blistering condemnation of the Conference, as much to re-enlist himself, it seemed, with his cultural peers in the Bloomsbury set – they disapproved of his Realpolitik engagement. His The Economic Consequences of Peace reverberated with coruscating force around the world. It was written to warn how the effects of imposing a 'Carthaginian peace' on Germany would contribute directly, as the French historian Etienne Mantoux said later, to the future war Keynes sought above all to avert.

For all his academic aestheticism, his attachment to the pacifist sensitivities of his Bloomsbury peers and sponsorship of the arts, especially the theatre, Keynes was an economist. He knew, as Thomas Mann said, 'the economic is simply the historical character of this time, and honour and dignity do not help the state one bit, if it does not of itself have a grasp of the economic situation and know how to direct it.'

Like the subject of this book, Keynes was a man of two worlds. Not so that master progenitor of twentieth-century evil who, in August 1914, aged 25, had fallen on his knees at the outbreak of war and thanked God. This was the moment he termed, in high-sounding phrases, of 'unity and integrity', the moment that National Socialism was begotten, when Germany was freed from a world of stagnation which could go on no longer, an appeal to duty and manhood, an opportunity for heroism. But above all, it was a means of achieving a life in which state and culture could become one. This book is about Hans Frank; but without some consideration of Hitler, we cannot know Frank, so I hope the reader will forgive what may seem like digressions both here and in what follows, but, it is hoped, will not prove to be so.

Adolf Schicklgruber, although born on 20 April 1889 in Braunau am Inn just over the Bavarian border in Austria, was bursting with the consciousness that his adopted land was to become the dominating world power. He was convinced the twentieth century would be Germany's century: that after Spain, France and England in previous eras, it was Germany's turn to lead the world. War would be the means, an understanding of power combined with a readiness for sacrifice.

Defeat and Hitler's wartime experiences drove home that earlier flash of subjective truth. His dangerous role in the war was that of a volunteer dispatch runner; he was an infantryman but was close to officers in command who were ready to use men as cannon fodder. He had already lived the life of a down-and-out in Vienna from 1908 to 1912 before he moved to Munich. On the very edge of society, scratching a living by whatever means he could, he had written or worked on plays and novels and even a musical drama in the style of Wagner. He painted pictures which he tried to sell and while the general misconception is that he gained his political insights from newspapers and magazines, in time he became more famed for burning books than reading them. The truth is that he was obsessed with books and read voraciously. His roommate in Munich, Rudolf Hausler, complained he read until three or four many mornings. Not only did he have a photographic memory, but the range of his reading was immense, from the Divine Comedy, Goethe's Faust and William Tell, to Carl May's Wild West stories for boys. Much later, Hans Frank recalled that Hitler claimed to have had works by Homer and Arthur Schopenhauer with him in the First World War trenches. Ernst Hanfstaengl, at one time close to the Führer before becoming an opponent, stated that 'Hitler was neither uneducated nor socially awkward ... My library came to experience his voracious appetite for books.'

At the front Hitler had found himself engaged in fighting 'man-to-man' and overcome the instinctual aversion to killing, confirming his social-Darwinian worldview that life was a continual savage battle. Combat was for him a great formative event. The community of comradeship, in the absence of homeland and family, grew to be overwhelming. The Bavarian or 'List' Regiment comprised 3,600 men when first deployed. Four years later, by the time of the armistice in November 1918, 3,754 of the troops that had served in the regiment had been killed. So few of his comrades survived that it is not surprising Hitler came in time to believe Providence was on his side. Wounded twice, he received six medals and decorations, including the exceptional Iron Cross 1st Class, usually only won by officers. But he was not officer material in the opinion of his military superiors, despite this bravery, and never rose above corporal. Complimented later on this promotion, Hitler admonished his superior Max Amann: 'I would ask you not to do that, I have more authority without stripes than with stripes.' It enabled him later to separate himself from the career officers who were seen as the architects of German defeat. It would become commonplace to state that at heart and soul, together with all his ex-servicemen followers, he never stopped being a soldier. Some psychologists have claimed the traumatic but positively experienced war motivated him subconsciously and that this created a 'repetition compulsion' that stayed with him.

After being blinded by gas at the front line at Werwick in October 1918, Hitler was taken to the Bavarian Field Hospital stationed near Brussels to be treated. Then, exceptionally, he was separated from his fellow wounded and sent 1,000km to a small hospital in Pasewalk, near the Polish border, which specialised in treating 'war neurotics'. The authorities were determined to separate these from other serving men lest they spread the infection of hysterical or psychotic behaviour to other men and affected morale.

No documentation exists of how or with what he was treated, though various testimonies were collected by the US Secret Service which confirmed that what Hitler called his 'blindness' caused by the gas poisoning had an unadmitted, psychopathological dimension. It was undoubtedly at Pasewalk that Hitler experienced a transformation – whatever the effect of the assumed mustard gas, both physical and psychological – from an unexceptional introverted 'armchair scholar' and practical joker, lax in attitude and with eccentric ideas, into a visionary with a burning mission. It was there, hearing of the unrest and armed uprising in Munich, that he became seized with certainty, in the form of supernatural, ecstatic visions, of a victorious Germany, in the course of which his eyesight was restored. Such delusion, reported the Frankfurter Zeitung on 27 January 1923, 'eliminates any complexity, and that alone makes a huge impression in the spineless times we live in. These people are certainly not lacking in activity, but rather in the sense and value of the goals by which their will is achieved – which is why they are so dangerous in their obsession to the nation as a whole.'

Before this transfiguration Hitler had believed himself to be a genius; now he 'knew it'. Before, he had believed divine Providence protected him; now he was utterly convinced. Likewise, his convictions became 'absolute truths'. It was this transformation, this unshakable certainty in his own power, which gave him unlimited authority and empowered him to represent his views with an unparalleled fanaticism.

Not surprisingly, then, he kept quiet about what had happened to him in Pasewalk, only given a mention in Mein Kampf, never refeering to it as 'paranormal' again for political reasons, nor that he had been diagnosed as a war neurotic. This became another secret for, as he often said, 'a secret known by two people is no longer a secret.'

* * *

He left Pasewalk Hospital on 11 November 1918. The news of the German Army's surrender brought on the sickening sense, as he later described it in Mein Kampf, of selling out, of a stab in the back that gave him both a personal and national sense of utter collapse. The total despair served only to bolster his visionary or hallucinatory summons to free Germany from bondage.

It was a conversion as powerful as any in religious history, a spiritual shock and re-orientation of such enormous proportions it transformed Hitler's whole personality. Unlike Nietzsche, he never believed God was dead. God was alive and well and infused him with power, took him away from his early failure and depression, and gave him a feeling he was the new Godhead. Hysterical blindness and autism may also have contributed to his certainty that Providence had chosen him to perform the mission of liberation. He was, from now on, to be guided 'with the certainty of a sleepwalker along the path laid out for me by Providence'. His sight, so he claimed, came back the next day.

It was the prohibition, the disbanding of the German Army, which spurred him into action in 1919. He had to recreate that moment in 1914 when Germany had been conscious of its military power; when she united in it, and exulted in it. Had not the Treaty of Versailles robbed Germany of its decisive character, denied the activities that were its very life-blood, Hitler would never have come to power. 'The exercises, the receiving and passing on of orders, became something which [Germans] had to procure for themselves at all costs,' wrote Elias Canetti, the Nobel Prize-winning author:

The prohibition on universal military service was the birth of National Socialism ... The party came to the rescue of the army, and the party had no limits set to its recruitment from within the nation. Every single German – man, woman, or child, soldier or civilian – could become a National Socialist. He was probably even more anxious to become one if he had not been a soldier before, because, by doing so, he achieved participation in activities hitherto denied him.

So, for Hitler, the prohibition of the army by the Diktat of Versailles became the prohibition of the specific and sacrosanct practices he could not imagine life without. Every man's sacred duty became the re-establishment of this faith of his fathers. Hitler could whip up resentment and a desire for revenge against the world, could rally support for his vision, by repeating and repeating the slogan Diktat of Versailles with unwavering monotony. The paranoiac could probe the nation's wound and keep it bleeding, proclaiming the phrase at mass meetings with terrifying and coercive force.

So he joined up again as soon as he could, enrolling in the remnant German Army as a press officer and propagandist in what was now a politically motivated force. From now on, from that moment of rebirth or conversion, Hitler was to act with a kind of genius. He was able to make things happen exactly as he had foreseen and wanted them to happen. Here was a satanically inspired Mephistopheles who, in the future and among his legion of servile subordinates, would find many fanatic followers, and one young Faust in particular, close to his mind and will, ready to sell his soul for lavish reward.



Hans Michael Frank, Nazi Germany's top lawyer, was born eleven years after Hitler in Karlsrühe, Bavaria, on 23 May 1900. He was christened a Catholic and, as he said himself, adhered to the liberal doctrine of being 'an Old Catholic'. This meant he belonged to a breakaway body of the Munich Church which, led by the famous theologian Ignaz Döllinger, didn't adhere to the nineteenth century edict of papal infallibility, and was in some ways akin to the Anglican Protestant Church.

On the face of it, his childhood was not all that extraordinary. He had a younger sister, Elizabeth, and a brother, Karl junior, nine years older. Magdalena, his mother, was an independent-minded, sensual, irrepressible woman of old Bavarian stock, but neither particularly intelligent nor spirited. The daughter of a small food shop owner in Munich, she was obliged to work and did not attend any schools. She married the much older Karl Frank to find a better life, but was bored after some years.

Karl senior was an outwardly respectable middle-class lawyer originally from the Rhineland; according to his grandson Niklas, he was 'a very uninspired mediocre character and a bad lawyer because he was not very bright'. A photograph of him with Hans aged 12 shows a bald man in his fifties, wide and bushy browed, sporting a walrus moustache. He is formally dressed, and has his hand on Karl junior's thigh. Hans has dark hair parted on the left and is wearing a brass-buttoned sailor suit. In another photo we see a younger Hans in Bavarian top hat with boots and knotted scout tie, his doll-sized sister in headscarf and rural waistcoat and skirt, standing next to him. A solid, ordinary middle-class Bavarian boy, one might think – in appearance at least.

All was not as it seemed on the surface. Magdalena, increasingly bored, fled the marital home and set up house in Prague with her lover, a teacher, not really an intellectual but more a dealer in foodstuffs and coal. Elizabeth and Karl Junior joined her there. Judging by the accounts we have of Hans' early years, his mother was around him perhaps to the age of 10. He was a quiet lad, of an obstinate frame of mind. He preferred studying to frivolous games with other boys. Magdalena was especially proud that, on his first day at school, he took a newspaper with him and could already read it.

By the age of 10, Hans had moved in with his father running a law practice in Munich, and there he went to the famous Staatliche Maximiliansgymnasium attended by many eminent Germans, including the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Werner Heisenberg and future pope Joseph Ratzinger. Hans excelled at everything; he was an all-rounder, although apparently keen on outward form and display more than inward commitment. As one of his school friends described it, he accumulated information in order to show off.


Excerpted from The Butcher of Poland by Garry O'Connor. Copyright © 2013 Garry O'Connor. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements 7

Introduction 11

Part 1

1 Saving Germany from Self-Accusation 19

2 In the Superior Range 25

3 Gretchen 32

4 The Mission 40

5 Mephistopheles Unveiled 46

6 Sexuality 56

7 Bürgerbräu Cellar 62

8 Marriage 69

Part 2

9 Mein Kampf 75

10 Bad Blood 82

11 Not Far from the Vienna Woods 88

12 Kirchenkampf 97

13 'A Humble Soldier' and Il Duce 111

14 Faustus at the Feast 117

Part 3

15 To Poland 123

16 Warsaw - 'From Which Everything Harmful Flows' 137

17 Anni Mirabili of the Reich, 1940-41 141

18 Himmler Reacts 149

19 Redemption-The Real Gretchen 157

20 The Sex Life of King Stanislaus 162

21 L'Uomo Universale 173

22 Managerial Problems 177

23 The Prince Archbishop 187

24 Vogue La Galère 195

Part 4

25 Walpürgisnacht 199

26 To Nuremberg 204

27 The Butcher's Conversion 215

28 Governor Faust Takes the Stand 222

29 Punishment 236

Appendix: Definition of the Term 'Jew' in the Government General 241

Notes 244

Select Bibliography 250

Index 252

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews