Frank, Hans Michael°

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FRANK, HANS MICHAEL ° (1900–1946), Nazi politician and lawyer responsible for the mass murder of Polish Jewry. A member of the Nazi Party from its inception, Frank participated in the Munich putsch of 1923. He fled to Austria for a time and then returned to Germany to finish his doctorate at the University of Kiel (1924). He left the Nazi Party for a time to protest Hitler's moderation, namely his willingness to renounce German claims over South Tyrol. During the last years of the Weimar republic, Frank was the Nazis' leading lawyer, defending hundreds of party members accused of political crimes and Hitler in his many libel cases. He also handled some other difficult assignments for Hitler, including researching his possible Jewish roots. With Hitler's accession to power, Frank proved less useful and was given seemingly important titles but little independent power. He was appointed head of the association of lawyers who were members of the Nazi party, and charged with the unification of the judiciary system of the Third Reich. His stature was reflective of two conflicting realities: his veteran status in the Nazi Party and Hitler's general aversion to law and to any limitations on his power. After the German conquest of Poland in the autumn of 1939, Frank was named governor general of the German-occupied Polish territories under the General Government. He was primarily responsible for the persecution of the population of Poland, the plundering of the country, and the murder of its Jews. Frank exhorted the Nazi leadership first of all to exterminate the Jews living in Poland. He was thus responsible for greatly hastening the program of the death camps in the East. Frank succeeded in depriving the Jews of the benefits and protection of the laws, beginning with his promulgation of a law on Oct. 27, 1939, ordering forced labor by the Jewish population and culminating in a law on Oct. 15, 1941, by which Jews were forbidden to leave their special districts under penalty of death. He confiscated their goods, forced them to wear a special insignia (the yellow badge), and concentrated them into ghettos, where they starved. His quest for power put him in conflict with the military occupation and with Hermann Goering regarding the economic use of Poles and Jews, as well as the ss. He never exercised control over the ss but did reach an accommodation with Goering and the military. His approach to the Poles general-government alternated between pragmatic stability and harsh brutality. He was stripped of his control of racial and police matters in March 1942 – prior to the deportation of the Jews from the ghettos – which were controlled by Himmler and Friedrich Wilhelm Kruger. Thus, as the major deportations began, Frank was a figurehead, deprived of all power. Hitler kept him that way, refusing all letters of resignation.

During his rule over Poland, until January 1945, Frank kept a diary in which he noted every speech and official engagement. He never concealed his plans for the "Final Solution" for Polish Jewry. Condemned to death by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, after admitting his own guilt and that of Nazi Germany as a whole, Frank was hanged on Oct. 16, 1946.


E. Davidson, Trial of the Germans (1966), 427–45; imt, Trial of the Major War Criminals, 24 (1949), index; G.M. Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary (1947), 276–90; S. Piotrowski (ed.), Hans Frank's Diary (1961).

[Yehuda Reshef /

Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]