“I knew my father would be hanged”: in memory of Nuremberg | News Germany


On November 20, 1945, several months after the end of World War II, a series of military tribunals began in the German city of Nuremberg.The first of the trials was the Major War Crimes Trial, in which 22 high-ranking Nazis were tried in the courthouse. Twelve of the defendants are said to be sentenced to death.

Twelve other trials – known as the Nuremberg Subsequent Trials – took place in Nuremberg between 1946 and 1949.

Seventy-five years after the start of the Nuremberg trials, we hear from three people over whose lives the trials and the events that followed them have cast a long shadow: the son of one of the trials, the son of one. prosecutors and the girl. of a Holocaust survivor.

Niklas Frank is the son of Hans Frank, the Governor General of Poland occupied by Germany during World War II. Known as the “Butcher of Poland”, Hans Frank was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Nuremberg trials for his role in the deaths of millions of Jews and Poles, and executed.

Hans Frank and other accused in the Nuremberg courtroom [Photo courtesy of Niklas Frank]

Here Niklas, born in 1939, describes what it was like to grow up with a father who was a high-ranking Nazi:

I remember visiting my father in Nuremberg prison when I was seven years old.

On the other side of the door was Hermann Goring, a very high ranking member of the Nazi Party who was also on trial in Nuremberg (he was sentenced to death but committed suicide hours before his execution), speaking to his wife , Emmy and their baby girl, Edda.

Niklas, left, seven, his mother Brigitte Frank, 49, and sister Brigitte, known as “Gitti”, then 12, near the Nuremberg courthouse, September 1946 [Photo courtesy of Niklas Frank]

I sat on my mom’s lap and my dad was on the other side of a large window with little holes at the bottom of it, through which we could hear each other speak.

“We will soon be celebrating Christmas happily in our house in Schliersee [in Upper Bavaria]He told me, and I knew he was lying. His lie tore my heart.

It was my last visit to my father.

Hans Frank testifies in the Nuremberg courtroom [Photo courtesy of Niklas Frank]

There had not yet been a verdict, but her lawyer had visited my mother several times during the summer of 1946 and prepared her for what was to come. It had been an adventurous summer for me. The American soldiers were friendly and I was running behind them to pick up the remains of their cigarettes to take them to my mother.

The year before, in the fall of 1945, I had first seen the pictures in the newspapers – photographs of piled up corpses. Among them were children my age.

I had known that my father was someone important; we lived in castles, had servants and I regarded Poland as our private property. Then all of a sudden I learned that my father was somehow related to these photographs.

I remember my older brother Norman, born in 1928, who went to our mother and said to her, “If these pictures are true, our father will have no chance of surviving.”

Hans and Brigitte Frank with Niklas [Photo courtesy of Niklas Frank]

I didn’t understand what was going on, but the fact that my father was linked to these photographs bothered me deeply.

I had known that we were privileged, that we were not “normal” people, but the war was not so real to me. I remember once, when I was four or five, sitting in my father’s black Mercedes and seeing a German tank that had been burnt. Our driver said “oh it’s a Tiger Tank” and I was thrilled. But I have never experienced bad things, things of war. There was only one time, towards the end of the war, where we were sitting at Lake Schliersee and saw an armada of planes en route to bomb Munich.

The foreigner ‘

One of my most vivid memories of my father dates from when I was about three years old and we were at the Belvedere Palace, where we sometimes stayed.

I was running around a large round table, trying to run into my father’s arms, but he was still just out of reach. My dad laughed at me: “What do you want Niki [this was what my family called me]? You do not belong to our family. You are a fremdi. He meant a fremder, a stranger. The implication was that I was illegitimate, that I was not his child.

When you are rejected in this way by your father, you have only two options: you can become a psychological wreck or you can keep a healthy distance from your father, which I did, unconsciously or by chance.

Hans Frank with Adolf Hitler [Photo courtesy of Niklas Frank]

According to a rumor in the family, my alleged biological father was Karl Lasch, the governor of Galicia and one of my father’s closest friends.

Heinrich Himmler, who was the leader of the SS, did not like my father and wanted him to be replaced. But because he couldn’t get Adolf Hitler’s permission for it, he instead tried to hurt relatives of my father. Lasch’s father was driving a truck full of stolen goods from Poland to Germany and when Himmler found out about this he arrested Lasch knowing he was my father’s friend. Himmler had Lasch killed in Breslau prison.

When my father found out about this, he said to my mother, “Now Niki’s father is dead.

My mother was deeply upset by the accusation and made it clear to my father that it was not true.

My mother had a lot of affairs, but she always aborted those children who weren’t fathered by Frank. I later learned that she had had two or three abortions. She would let nothing prevent her from becoming the “Queen of Poland”.

Shopping in the Krakow ghetto

My mother would go to the Krakow ghetto to buy fur and expensive fabrics that her personal tailor would turn into clothes.

I remember a time when I was about four years old when I was sitting in the back of the car with my nanny, Hilde, on one of my mom’s shopping trips to the ghetto.

Three of the Frank children – Michael, Niklas and Brigitte (Gitti) – with their nanny Hilde [Photo courtesy of Niklas Frank]

Near the car there was a boy of 8-10 years old, who looked at me in a very sad way. I stuck my tongue out at him. He did not answer; he’s just gone. I felt triumphant with him, but Hilde pulled me away. I did not understand where we were.

My mother was very cold. Like my father, she didn’t care about the death and misery of others. She just enjoyed her life – the dinners with the guests, the shopping.

My mother was the one with a strong personality. We all feared her. My father was weak in comparison. When I later interviewed the American priest, Father O’Connor, who baptized my father in the Catholic Church during his imprisonment in Nuremberg, he said to me: “Niklas, I have to tell you one thing: even in prison, your father was still afraid. Of your mother.

At one point in the war, my father, who had reconnected with the great love of his life since he was young, wanted to divorce my mother. He asked Hitler for permission, which I think was demanded of top party leaders, but Hitler banned it until the end of the war. My mother, hearing of my father’s wish, wrote Hitler, sending him a picture of her and her five children, and asking him why would a husband leave such a beautiful family?

Brigitte Frank, wife of Hans Frank and mother of Niklas [Photo courtesy of Niklas Frank]

‘You poor boy’

After my father’s arrest in May 1945, our circumstances changed dramatically. The Americans put us in a two-room apartment. We had neither servants nor money. It was a long fall from grace. But for me it was a great adventure. I had the freedom, I could fish, and there were deadly weapons left by fleeing SS soldiers to play with.

My mother tried to feed us. She was still doing business, exchanging everything – especially stolen jewelry – for bread. It was the most difficult time of her life, but she never gave up, complaining only in the letters she wrote to my father in prison.

For me, being the son of a mass murderer brought me many benefits. “Oh poor little boy,” people were saying. “What happened to your poor innocent father?” What do you want to eat and do you have enough money? At that time, there were only advantages in Germany if your father was hanged as a high-ranking Nazi.

I oppose the death penalty, but I am glad that my father could have felt the fear of the death he himself had inflicted on so many innocent people.


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