Book Review: The Butcher of Poland: Hitler's Lawyer Hans Frank

By Gary O'Connor

Hans Frank was a German lawyer who worked for the Nazi party during the 1920s and 1930s. After Hitler's ascension to power in 1933, Frank became Nazi Germany's chief jurist and Governor-General of occupied Poland's 'General Government' territory. During his tenure (1939–1945), he instituted a reign of terror against the civilian population, systematic plunder and brutal economic exploitation and became directly involved in the mass murder of Polish citizens. At the Nuremberg trials, he was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and was executed. Author Garry O'Connor brings his skills as a playwright, biographer and novelist to this harrowing account of Hitler's lawyer, an educated man who formalised the Nazi race laws.

RRP: £18.99
Publisher: Spellmount Publishers Ltd
Publication Date: Nov 2013
ISBN: 978-0752498133
Buy this book: The History Press

He joined the German army in 1917 and after the war he served in the Freikorps under Franz Ritter von Epp's command, and then joined the German Worker's Party (which soon evolved into NSDAP), in 1919. He was one of the party's earliest members.

Frank studied law (he passed the final state examination in 1926) and rose to become Adolf Hitler's personal legal adviser. As the Nazis rose to power, Frank also served as the party's lawyer. He represented it in over 2,400 cases. From 26 October 1939, following the end of the invasion of Poland, Frank was assigned Governor-General of the occupied Polish territories, controlling the General Government, the area of Poland not directly incorporated into Germany.

His territory was the location of four of the six extermination camps. Frank later claimed that the extermination of Jews was entirely controlled by Heinrich Himmler and the SS and that he, Frank, was unaware of the extermination camps in the General Government until early in 1944. During his testimony at Nuremberg, Frank claimed he submitted resignation requests to Hitler on 14 occasions, but Hitler would not allow him to resign. Frank fled the General Government in January 1945 as the Soviet Army advanced.

Frank was captured by American troops on 3 May 1945, he was indicted for war crimes and tried before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg from 20 November 1945 to 1 October 1946. During the trial he renewed the faith of his childhood, Roman Catholicism, and claimed to have a series of religious experiences.

Frank voluntarily surrendered 43 volumes of his personal diaries to the Allies, which were then used against him as evidence of his guilt. Frank confessed to some of the charges and expressed remorse on the witness stand, showing penitence for his crimes. The former Governor-General of Poland was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity on 1 October 1946, and was sentenced to death by hanging.

The life of the Bavarian Hans Frank has not received the full attention the world has given to other Nazi leaders. In many ways he warrants it more. His life symbolises Germany's hubristic and visionary ambition to an alarming degree much better than anyone else's, perhaps because he was an intellectual of the highest calibre: "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 recognised by the end he was a primary - if not the exemplary - symbol of evil, his remorse, self-pity, and arrogance knew no bounds as they vied with his contrition.

This work ia a thorough analysis of the life and mind of this extraordinary manipulator, thief, and despot. A controversial look at the family life, religion, and legal brain that made the man.