Hans Frank Interview

himmler , frank & Daleuge

Himmler, Frank and Daleuge in Krakow (Bundesarchiv)

This interview took place between captive Hans Frank and an unidentified  American officer on August 4 -5, 1945

Frank; I was so stupid all these years. You know we are so guilty. Look here I saw the moving-pictures of those concentration camps and I saw how these people had been treated.

American Army Officer; Who organised all those concentration camps?

Frank; Always the same gang, Himmler, Heydrich and the whole rotten clique. No opposition was possible. For me it was a real torture all these years. And the Fuhrer degraded me and threw me out. In 1942 he simply chased me away.  I was then stripped of all my offices in the Party, because I always protested against these procedures. We could do nothing…. I was thrown into a cellar and beaten up. My papers were taken away from me in Augsburg. Well, we did it too, it’s bad everywhere. What bothers me most – (Weeps)

 It’s a catastrophe such as the world has never yet seen…. In the beginning all was so different. You mustn’t judge National Socialism by those concentration camps. You have to go back to the Party program of 1920 ….. if Hitler had stepped before the entire German people and had announced: When I assume the power I will set up concentration camps and rule by sheer force. But he said; When I assume the power justice will prevail. I will set up new courts and install new judges.  At the time in my capacity as his legal advisor in Leipzig I induced him to take the oath of legality; “I shall strive to come to power by legal means and after the assumption of power I shall rule by legal means. So help me God.”I have recalled that to his mind. But you know all that so much better than I…..

 And then always those speeches of Churchill preaching hatred, the Fuhrer always spoke of peace, but Churchill’s everlasting hate-speeches against National Socialism, in turn, induced Hitler to make other speeches…..  The worst thing for me was the rise of Himmler…. If it hadn’t been for the outbreak of war and for the fact that I was sitting in Warsaw as Governor General, trying to straighten out the situation there, I wouldn’t be here at all today.

 As a lawyer I understand very well that it is quite difficult to bring all these men to trial. I understand that world opinion clamours for it and I assume that many hundreds of trials are in the process of preparation. What you have here in Mondorf is from the judicial viewpoint the last supreme selection.

You might well call it that and yet the original perpetrators who are connected with those atrocities are not amongst them. They are Globocnik and Kaltenbrunner and the SS leaders. We all are worried about being extradited to Moscow, and then it would be all over. Should such an extradition be contemplated, I would ask as a favour to be questioned just once more by an American judge.

 You see there are three viewpoints: The viewpoint of the enemy which sees quite understandably in Hitler and National Socialism the arch criminal who disturbed world peace etc. That is the viewpoint not only of the enemy, the Russians and Americans, but also of a majority of the German people. That’s what many colleagues and ministers over in ASHCAN constantly forget. They are actually of the opinion that if they were released and returned to Germany, many people would say, “Thank God, you are back” I am convinced that the reverse would be the case. If today men like Streicher or Ley or any of those notorious fanatics were released they would be slain, the reason being, I think that it is too well known that they enriched themselves personally

American Army Officer; Where is your wife? Where were you arrested?

 Frank; In Fischhausen on the Schliersee (Chiemsee) …. You know, I and my whole family are Catholics. I am a very devout Catholic. To me it’s a spiritual matter. I was brought up as a Catholic. I am very much upset.  Look here, I sat for five years at my reduced post over in Krakow, which was unbelievably difficult, what with the SS being granted special powers and carrying out all those dreadful atrocities. I had to put up a constant fight against those people to avert the worst. The fight against the resistance movement and the Jews. (Weeps).

I took care of the legal matters of the Party and defended Hitler and the Party members. Politically I was never active. I confined myself to the purely legal end.

American Army Officer; Who else was with you?

Frank; Dr Fischer and several others

American Army Officer; Is Dr Fischer still alive?

Frank; I believe so. Then there was Schwarz in charge of the Party administration centres.  At the time he (?) issued a report against all the parties which did not stand on the grounds of the Constitution and which desired something different. So Schaub declared, “We renounce this Weimar Constitution, we desire a different regime,” and then there was the so-called “Law for the Protection of the Republic.”

Any speaker who made any statement against the Republic or against Weimar or against anyone was brought before the judge.

American Army Officer; But did you always win your trials?

Frank; We won most of the trials …. The Party was prohibited then and was dissolved, and the SA was dissolved; then there were different incidents during the elections for the diet. In short, this was this judicial activity.  

American Army Officer; And that is why you never became a professor?

Frank; Otherwise I should be a full professor today. My conscience is quite clear even though I couldn’t put it through, when I say to myself that my aim was the constitutional state. I wanted the Fuhrer to do it properly. At least I prevented a good deal.

It would have been much worse if I hadn’t continually struggled at the time when I was still “Reichsleiter.” I was able to help so many persons. I was in the Party and I had a high position. I could make my influence felt and for this reason Himmler strove to throw me out of this position.

And that it only succeeded in 1940 is significant. And then I was bruskly thrown out. One day the Fuhrer let it be known through Lammers. I held four important speeches publically before the students and professors at my universities, Heidleberg, Munich, Vienna and Berlin. I got up and said that Adolf Hitler hadn’t kept his word. Just imagine, I gave the four speeches in one week, otherwise they would have arrested me already. I was briefly being investigated. 

 American Army Officer; When was that?

 Frank; That was in 1942 after the speech in Munich. I was investigated by the Gestapo and then the Fuhrer wrote me quite an indignant letter – how could I do such a thing? You are hereby degraded with prejudice as “Reichsleiter of the Party,” and since that time I have been quite an ordinary Party member.

 In 1933 I became Minister of Justice in Bavaria. Then, because I spoke out against Roehm as Minister of Justice during the Roehm trial – that was the first time that Adolf Hitler had men shot without trial, and I protested against it.I put myself in prison, in Stadelheim, just imagine the Bavarian Minister of Justice sitting in prison and I kept 200 persons from being shot. I sat in the prison and told my associates, “No one is to leave the prison.” I saved 200 SA leaders and the Fuhrer never forgave that.

 The Fuhrer wanted to have 240 SA leaders shot at once, the SS platoons were there and I declared, “No I am still Minister of Justice, the prison is under my control.” And then they said, “We are fools and idiots. Why did we lock up the prisoners in a prison?” If they had delivered them to the police, which was under Himmler, I should have had nothing to say. But this is only an example. Thereupon Adolf Hitler declared, “You were named Minister of Justice by mistake. A person like yourself is not to be trusted.”

American Army Officer; When was that?

 Frank; 1934 

American Army Officer; When did you first become Minister of Justice?

Frank; In 1933 after the revolution… Hitler threatened me. He said, “Who do you think you are?” I replied, “Herr Hitler, I am responsible.”  Then he gave me the names of those whom he wanted to have shot, some 220 persons. And then he said to me, “As Chief of the German nation, I hereby order you to deliver these twelve men.” “Very well,” I replied, “I shall do it on your responsibility.” And Roehm was among them, he simply shot him with the others. As for the others, three days later came the counter-order saying they could return home. And then, on 31 December 1934, I was dismissed from the Ministry of Justice and became Reichsminister Without Portfolio.

 American Army Officer; And then you had your position in Poland?

Frank; One day he (Hitler) called me up – that was still in October; there was a terrible mess of course in Poland. And he immediately gave me to understand, “You have nothing to do with the police, that is exclusively under Himmler. You have nothing to do with economic problems- that is in the hands of Herr Goering. You have nothing to do with technical matters.”

 I said, “What have I then…”

 And they did not establish any concentration camps in Poland – the SS. They had them in Upper Silesia, in Auschwitz. That was not in my district… I and no-one of my staff was allowed into these concentration camps.  All these camps were in command of Zentrale Berlin whether it was Dachau or Oranienburg or Auschwitz or Lublin. They were uniformly separated from the general administration. There were strict orders not to let any government officials, also from my office, into these concentration camps.

 I only learned about the camps for Jews from the newspapers, when the Russians marched into Lublin. The Russians reached Lublin last summer and then published throughout the press what they discovered there. I was informed of this one day from the Foreign Office in Berlin. I then went to Himmler and made an official declaration for myself and for the government of the General Government, last summer, that we had nothing to do with this matter.  

American Army Officer; Who did then? The SS?

Frank; SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Krueger, SS- Gruppenfuhrer Globocnik. They were under Kaltenbrunner and before that under Heydrich. I hope these persons have been caught.

 I kept a large diary of my activity in Krakau for which I had an official stenographer take down all of my activities – all speeches, discussions, decrees, and so on. And I gave these five cases to the American officer at the Tegernsee. I am so happy that I have these. If Jackson gets my diaries I shall be able to stand there as a fighter for law and justice in Poland…. I didn’t allow a single Pole to be handed over to a concentration camp – not one. To the contrary, I continually struggled and I succeeded in having Krueger recalled. When I left Krakau the Poles kissed my hands and there were tears in their eyes. Indeed, I had 240,000 Polish officials, teachers, judges, and so on, in my service.Staatssekretaer Buehler or Staatssekretaer Dr Boepple have been my closest collaborators, they were involved in all these struggles during all these years, our negotiations with the Poles and so forth. They know everything in case they are interrogated.

The German people and the German leaders were two great opposites, if I may put it that way. On the one hand there was the exclusive domain of the overlords, the SS – the Himmler – Bormann clique – and on the other, there were those who attempted somewhat to keep things in order.

 A gentleman in Augsburg knew that I had held these speeches and he asked me, “Why didn’t you leave?” I replied, “Do you realise that I have offered to resign eight times, continually attempted to get away.” No I couldn’t get anywhere. And Adolf Hitler said to me, “That is out of the question.” Now I know why he said that, he didn’t want to release anyone because he feared that he would lodge accusations. We were all being watched. Himmler was there, but only to make sure that I made no attempt to get any further with the Fuhrer. He was with me two or three times in Krakau, but only for short visits. He continually attempted to effect an intensification of our policy.He kept saying to me, “The Poles are dangerous. You are so disliked. You are too soft. The whole Reich is laughing about your softness. And the Fuhrer said recently that he didn’t need jurists, “these damned jurists!” I replied and said to him, “My dear Himmler, I’ll leave here tomorrow, I only need to be recalled.” That was the pressure, they desired without qualification this political direction.

I made only one mistake, and that was the decisive mistake, namely, that I accepted the position in the first place, I shouldn’t have taken it. As a man, I declare myself guilty. But then I was told that it was only a representative position. I’d only have to be up in the citadel and see that the thing functioned somewhat.“You’ll only be a figure-head, like old Neurath, who was in charge of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. “Look here, we need representative figure-heads. You speak foreign languages, and so on, and you will be doing me a great service.”

And then in addition, there came the war. And I was forced to admit to myself that somehow I had to serve my country…… I must say that I did only good and I strongly reject all these terrible things. On the other hand I can prove positively that we worked magnificently with the Poles with those who were on our side. The Poles themselves must admit that. Look here, I was in Poland during the entire five years. Only once an attempt was made on my life. That happened last year in February, but I don’t think that was against me but against the military authorities, since I personally had good relations.

The Poles are a brave people, a good people, and they are now dead. When I took leave and handed over the citadel I took a picture off the wall, from the citadel, and they requested me to take the picture for the Polish government in London. I did this, and I gave up these pictures after I was taken prisoner.

 You know the protocol now, from it you can see that I preserved these pictures and the diaries in my office – on the basis of the protocol – and I was to preserve them somehow for the Polish people. You know the Germans are a decent people, a people of high cultural attainments. We never countenanced such atrocities. Everyone believed that people were sentenced, but that a man could disappear without trial was impossible. And at that time I declared it.  ou can’t imagine what joy there was …. The Frankfurter Zeitung brought out a leading article, the bishops cited me in their Sunday sermons, and I received 10,000 letters too.

 American Army Officer; But you weren’t put into a concentration camp, were you?

Frank; Yes, but I stayed there for only three days.

  American Army Officer; And what did the Fuhrer say?

 Frank; “This is a dangerous situation, you are becoming a martyr. That isn’t becoming to a person like yourself.” My organisation was dissolved and I was removed as President of the Academy of German Law, which I founded. You know, that is perhaps true, I might be accused of having offered too little resistance. However, my witnesses must be heard, including Poles, if within the framework of the trials one can interrogate witnesses. You know we must continually be aware that there must be a higher justice.

 The Fuhrer was a man who was possible in Germany only at that very moment. Had he come, let us say, ten years later when the republic was firmly established, it would have been impossible for him.  And if he had come ten years previously or at any time when there was still the monarchy he would have got nowhere. He came at exactly this terrible transitory period when the monarchy had gone and the republic was not yet secure. Lammers said to Adolf Hitler a year ago, “Mein Fuhrer, this isn’t getting us anywhere, it is impossible; no council of the ministers.” And the Fuhrer said, “I won’t have it.” So Lammers said, “Yes, it must be possible that under my presidency the ministers have conferences, or under the presidency of Goering.” Lammers told me that in Mondorf, he (Hitler) said, “Most of the ministers are lawyers and thus are defeatists, and I will have nothing to do with defeatists.”No judicial proceedings were carried out from 1 January 1935 on. That can’t go on. You see, it was a systematic fight which was carried on against such things. It is only a pity that I don’t have these records. I exposed them all in Augsburg and they are revealing.

But Good Lord – it sounds as if I were trying to excuse myself, I am telling the truth. When I accuse myself I do it of my own free will. And what I feel as my personal guilt is that we had too little energy. Actually one of us should have picked up a revolver and shot Himmler. But why was I satisfied with words? I reproach myself personally that in one moment instead of talking I didn’t strike.   

 American Army Officer; Why do you consider yourself a war criminal?

Frank; “I feel myself conscious-stricken, to speak quite frankly, because I didn’t shoot Hitler. I – we- should have had the courage to do away with the man…. Look here, Hitler had power over men.  And I was the only one whom he did not want to see because he feared me, because I was a man possessed with the passion of a Matthew. I hoped to lead the Fuhrer onto the right road.

 Listen, four weeks before the outbreak of war I held quite a large legal conference in Leipzig, I brought 25,000 jurists from all over Germany to Leipzig and I presented once again the important reasons for the legal state quite openly.  The press was forbidden to report this but the conference took place, and my books were all forbidden, of course you know that.  

American Army Officer; What kind of books did you write?

Frank; Well, my chief work, in which I criticised most sharply the SS, I produced in a public speech which I held in January 1939, concerning the “Technic of the State.”

 American Army Officer; What was its substance?

Frank; The Technic of the State – that is a very fine title and was just the thing for the technical college and I wanted later to found an institute for the “Technic of the State” at this technical college. And Reichsleiter Bormann, in the name of the Fuhrer forbade it, the institute was never allowed to come into being.

 American Army Officer; That was in 1939?

Frank; That was in 1939.

 American Army Officer; What other books have you written?

Frank; “The Principles of Law.” All these writings were forbidden. My last treatise was on “Dilettantism.” This was printed only last October and was immediately quashed. All the copies, they are all in my office. One day a letter from Lammers arrived; “the Fuhrer has learned with the utmost surprise that you have published another writing by the title of “Interpretation of the Law” and you are informed that this work cannot be published and disseminated publically.”

But it was already printed, I distributed it. But Major isn’t it awful that intelligent persons can take such steps. I am a personal friend of Richard Strauss and Gerhart Hauptmann. Believe me, it was a heavy blow to those of us who belong to intellectual Germany, persons of an old culture.  There is only one thing, it is good that it is becoming obvious that the Americans too have an interest in preserving the intellectual Germany. 

 American Army Officer; What happened to Gauleiter Koch who was in East Prussia?

Frank; The swine. You see, I had to set up a refugee centre in Lemberg for Ukrainians who fled from Gauleiter Koch’s area into the General Government. In the course of two years perhaps some 5 to 10,000 Ukrainians fled across. We received them and when they reached the border of the General Government they breathed freely again.

 American Army Officer; What did Koch do?

Frank; I don’t know, I was never over there, he was a most intimate friend of Bock. The military commanders were quite independent of me. You see, I had next to me in Poland, Goering’s representatives for economy, upon whom I had no influence; Himmler’s representatives for police matters- with the Jews and concentration camps – I had no influence.

 American Army Officer; What did you do then?

Frank; I had charge of the mails, railroads, culture, the theatre, the inner administration and was supposed to sit in the citadel as the representative figure-head, and all over the world I was called the “Murderer of the Poles” because I had the terrible title of “Governor General.”

American Army Officer; What happened to General Bor?

Frank; An uprising broke out in Warsaw last year. When the Russians approached from the East a tremendously large revolt broke out in Warsaw.

I received the report and immediately sent it on by teletype to the Fuhrer’s Supreme Headquarters.  General Bor was the leader of the uprising, at first I supposed that he created this uprising so that he could say that he had done something similar to the French, in Paris, when the Allies were coming. I transferred the obligation in combating the uprising in Warsaw to the Reichsfuhrer of the SS, the commander became then an SS-Obergruppenfuhrer von Dem Bach –Zelewski, the uprising was suppressed in frightful street-fighting. And then another order arrived from Adolf Hitler. Adolf Hitler commanded that the entire population of Warsaw should be transferred to German concentration camps. Thereupon I sent a teletype message that if the order were put into action I would kill myself.

That is the greatest and most inhuman measure which exists. Then Dr Buehler arrived. Upon my demand the Fuhrer said, “No.” He withdrew his command. However, he made it the duty of the General Government to withdraw the population from Warsaw and to shelter it in the General Government.

 And we then did so, that was a terrible task, and a camp was built in Bruschkow* that was the only camp which was controlled by the administration. We then split up the population into different places in the General Government. You surely know that the General Government comprised only one-fourth of Poland, the biggest part of Poland was divided.

American Army Officer; And who was responsible?

Frank; I was responsible for the Four-Tear Plan and…………..

 American Army Officer; So you always could go to Goering, whenever you wished?

Frank; Goering attacked me vigorously and I couldn’t defend myself – a man who always said, “It doesn’t make any difference to me whether someone in Europe goes hungry or not.”

 American Army Officer; He said that?

Frank; Publically. He protested because I brought food into Poland.

 American Army Officer; From whom did you get support? You were responsible for it, were you not?

Frank; I won for the reason that I declared I would not abandon my post, and with this the others became discouraged. 

 American Army Officer; And Goering said that it was your obligation?

Frank; In every newspaper you could read it. I said to my officials, “I can’t see it – people having nothing to eat; they should get exactly what human beings need.” We sent them food but Goering protested. Thereupon I declared that I would withdraw.  

 American Army Officer; And it is to your credit that these people received food

Frank; Yes. And I can tell you that the relations with Poles were most excellent. They were perfectly agreeable to me, personally. For this I can bring hundred of thousands of Poles as witnesses, starting from the church, then the police, and down to the agricultural workers.

You see, as soon as I was appointed Governor-General, Himmler was given full powers and only he had anything to do with the police. The police was not under me and I was not to give any orders. He (Himmler) said, “It isn’t so in the Reich,” upon which the Fuhrer asserted, “If it isn’t so in the Reich, then Frank can’t do it either.”

 Thereupon I empowered the Poles to have their own police. Naturally, this was an eternal fight. And for the second time, only he could handle the Jewish question; he alone was responsible for the regulation of the Jewish problems, and thirdly, he alone was responsible as so-called Reich Commissar for the Strengthening of German-hood.  At that time I said to Lammers, “There is no sense in my being here under these circumstances.” Then Lammers said to me, “Well, the Fuhrer won’t accept your resignation.” I had to threaten with a resignation. I will tell you very frankly that fundamentally I succeeded with it.

 With me there was a Commandant of the Armed Forces who was also responsible for the soldiers, moreover I came rather late. I arrived in Krakau on 7 November 1939 and on the 1 September the war had started.You can imagine what already happened between 1 September and 7 November. Then on 6 November Himmler arrested all the professors of Krakau University. I arrived then and at the Gestapo I was told that I could not put in a complaint. I said, “That won’t do, that is entirely against my intensions,” and it took me three months to release these poor Polish professors. Himmler knew that I would be in office on the 7 and on the 6. He had already arrested these people. After three months I had liberated them. He then attacked me furiously. They were well known professors, people whom I knew when I was a lawyer..

All of the University professors were arrested by Himmler in Krakau. Old men, 70 –year old men were among them. I complained to the Fuhrer and he said that Himmler knew better than I. That was my first fight with the Fuhrer, in March 1940 I had my last encounter with him. The University was occupied by the military. I instituted college courses in order to give the Poles the possibility of resuming their university studies. So these professors of mine attended these Polish college courses – we called them that – it was actually under another name, in order to say “Hochschulkurse” to the gentlemen in Berlin. We had many students, because the Poles are a studious people and are wonderfully gifted.

 American Army Officer; So you believe that Hitler was not insane, but had only this power?

Frank; Over the last period I don’t have a clear picture; I was not with him anymore, but I believe that in the last six to eight weeks he was insane.

 If it had been insanity then it could have been excused, but I don’t excuse it. You see I am very frank, I don’t take this for an excuse. What he did with the good German people and with the good and brave people of other nations can’t be excused merely by insanity.

Today there are those who say, “My God you can’t speak ill of Hitler; he was insane.” He was not insane – even though I don’t know about the last quarter of a year – such crazy orders were issued that it is possible that his mind was disturbed. He (Hitler) had his advisors in everything. This was the closest circle: Goering, Ribbentrop, Himmler, Bormann and he was together with them every day, from morning until night. Keitel and Doenitz were there too, I am sure. I know Bormann as well as one knows a man; he wished death upon everyone, so to speak.  

 American Army Officer; You were not a Party man?

Frank; There were Party investigations proceedings against me to determine whether I deserved to belong to the Party. But this was postponed until after the war, it was to be decided after the war.

 I could help so many people, they wouldn’t have received help otherwise, they would have perished. Up to the end I took advantage of my position in order to help people. I set up such popular courts in each district court-house, and I had a confidant from the Party who, in the name of the Party, worked down to the smallest detail as a counterbalance against the SS. This of course was dissolved later on.

 You know, I would like to say the following about Hitler: He was not a statesman, but a fanatical Party man. He had no idea about the State; he hated the State and all that was connected with it. See here, an order such as this, that lawyers could not be used in the foreign service in the future, that lawyers could not be promoted, and that a lawyer was not allowed to enter any Party court, could only happen in Germany. This decree was released by Ribbentrop by order of the Fuhrer. In the past two to four years this developed more and more. After my resignation the lawyers were in a bad position, of course. The declaration of war on the USA by this war assembly was justified by the Fuhrer by saying that he didn’t know whether the lawyers would blame Germany one day for the sinking of ships. “And these dam lawyers,” he said, “make themselves only guilty.”   


Conversation Report - National Archives Kew- WO208/4459

Photograph - Bundesarchiv

© Copyright Holocaust Historical Society, January 16, 2020