Frank, Hans

Generalgovernor Hans Frank at work: the extermination of the Jews

Right after the Generalgovernment came into existence, extermination of the Jews was begun. At the time, an estimated 2.5 to 3.5 million Jews were living in the area. Under Frank’s reign, they were locked up in ghettos, subjected to legally regulated discrimination, starved and ultimately exterminated.

On December 16th, 1941, Frank remarked during a meeting of the cabinet: "Gentlemen, I must ask you to put all feelings of compassion aside. We have to exterminate the Jews wherever we can find them and whenever possible. Of course, this should not be achieved by obsolete methods as those cannot be applied to such momentous and unique events. (…) To us, the Jews represent exceptionally evil gobblers. There are now approximately 2.5 million of them within the Generalgovernment , maybe 3.5 million with all others of mixed origin and whatever else more. We cannot shoot these 3.5 million Jews individually or poison them. Yet we are able to take measures to eradicate them with a reasonable chance of success. (…) The Generalgovernment must be freed of Jews, just like the Reich"

Years before, the threat had already been outlined. In 1936, the leading Nazi lawyer Frank had accepted and praised the policy of concentration camps and random arrests in an article in a magazine: "In full view of the world we are being blamed time and again for concentration camps. We are being asked, why arrest people without a warrant? Then I say: Put yourself in place of our nation. Do not forget that the enormous and still existing world of Bolsjevism can not forget that we, on German soil have prevented them from achieving a final victory in Europe"

In a speech on March 26th, 1941, Hans Frank addressed the issue in words that could not be mistaken: "The Führer has promised me that the Generalgovernment will be free of Jews within a reasonable time. Moreover it has been decided outright that the Generalgovernment will be a German area in the future. Where today 12 million Poles are living, at one tine 4 to 5 million Germans will live. The Generalgovernment must become an area just a German as the Rhineland is"

With regard to Frank’s direct involvement in the extermination of Jews within the Generalgovernment in the camps of Sobibor, Maidanek, Belzec and Treblinke and during Aktion Reinhard, some differentiation is called for. This without playing down the indescribable atrocities that have taken place in his name and his unconditional ideological justification of the mass extermination of the Jews.

Frank may well have been the highest civil administrator within the Generalgovernment but his authority was not unlimited. He managed to gain the support of the Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan Hermann Göring for the economic looting of the country but Heinrich Himmler and his SS took the extermination of the Jews within the Generalgovernment entirely for themselves. To Hitler, the Generalgovernment was no more than a racial garbage dump, an inexhaustible source of slave labour and the area where the mass murder of the Jews was to take place. The SS was the organisation of choice to do this without the disturbing interference of civil adminstrators like Frank who would only delay the speedy execution of the plans. As already said, Frank had no moral qualms whatsoever as to the fate the Jews were subjected to but he did have the greatest trouble with the infringement on his authority by the SS who used the Generalgovernment behind his back as the final destination of the deportations. Frank’s answer to this administrative split was twofold. He sometimes supported, in words and actions, the flood of Jews from the occupied territories and their mass murder, then again he voiced protest. On the one hand, Frank had no desire to set Hitler up against him too much by doubting the authority of the SS, on the other hand, he wished to maintain and expand his own sphere of authority.

In a speech on March 8th, 1940, Frank left no doubt as to who pulled the strings in the Generalgovernment: "Here in the Generalgovernment there is no authority higher in rank, influence and power than the Generalgovernor. Even the Wehrmacht has no administrative or executive function in this connection. It only has to take care of security and perform military tasks but has no political power whatsoever. The same applies to the police and the SS. There is no state within a state here, we are the representatives of the Führer and the Reich"

He still had the sane conviction on March 18th, 1942 at a meeting in Krakau when he put the SS in its place: "It is obvious that the Höhere SS- und Polizeifüher (supreme chief of the SS and police) is subordinate to me and that the police is part of the government. (…) The Reichsführer-SS has recognized this and has acknowledged it in writing. (…) The Reichsführer-SS and the chief of the German police must of course be enabled to take those measures which concern the interests of the Reich as a whole. However, this should be implemented in such a way that the measures to be taken will have to be presented to me first and be executed only after my permission"

Frank had expressed himself in similar terms before well attended meetings at the universities of Vienna, Berlin, Heidelberg and Munich, combined with a more or less covert plea for maintaining elementary principles of law. On the one hand, Frank tried to apply the brakes at times by a relatively sensible attitude towards the Poles, on the other hand by being even more ruthless than the SS. With this last action he hoped to gain Hitler’s support in his struggle for retention of his authority. Frank was to lose this conflict, not in the least because of the SS man he found opposite him in Krakau.

On May 7th, 1942, Hitler created by decree a state secretariat for security within the Generalgovernment. The post was held by the HSSPF in the Generalgovernment, SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Wilhem Krüger. He was an unscrupulous schemer who enjoyed unlimited protection by Himmler. Although he was part of the civil administration of the Generalgovernment as statesecretary and in fact subordinate to Frank, he acted entirely on his own in police affairs and matters concerning the extermination of the Jews. Frank was simply being pushed aside, at best, he could only put his signature to decisions Himmler had already approved. Frank’s continuous protests against this led to him being relieved of all of his partyfuctions in the summer of 1942. This made him lose all his influence, in any case outside the Generalgovernment.

It is undoubtedly true that a large number of the crimes, committed in the Generalgovernment by the police and the SS, have been committed under the direct responsibiliuty of Himmler. Frank had arguments with Himmler as to the authority over the police and the SS and Hitler usually sided with the Reichsführer-SS. It may equally be true that some crimes in the Generalgovernment have been committed without Frank’s knowledge and maybe even despite his protests. It may even be true that part of the criminal policy in the Generalgovernment has been implemented on direct orders from Berlin. This however does in no way whatsoever diminsh the fact that Hans Frank was a willing executor of a regime of terror and that he was aware of the most gruesome crimes committed in the Generalgovernment between 1939 and 1945. He played a major role in the economic exploitation of the Poles which led to the starvation of large numbers of people. He had more than a million Polish slave labourers deported to Germany. Finally, he was involved in a meticulously prepared programme that would ultimately claim the lives of more than 3 million Jews. Not for nothing, on January 25th, 1944, Frank declared with due pride that there were only 100.000 Jews left alive in the Generalgovernment.


Four Year Plan
A German economic plan focussing at all sectors of the economy whereby established production goals had to be achieved in four years time.
German word for leader. During his reign of power Adolf Hitler was Führer of Nazi Germany.
Middle Eastern people with own religion that lived in Palestine. They distinguished themselves by their strong monotheism and the strict observance of the Law and tradition. During World War 2 the Jewish people were ruthlessly persecuted and annihilated by the German Nazis. . An estimated 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated.
The will of the troops/civilians to keep fighting.
Abbreviation of a national socialist.
German-speaking demilitarized area on the right bank of the Rhine which was occupied by Adolf Hitler in 1936 after World War 1.
German armed military forces, divided in ground forces, air force and navy.

Pagina navigatie


Proclamation by Hans Frank about wearing the Jewish star

SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Wilhelm Krüger, statesecretary for security in the Generalgovernment

Heinrich Himmler visits Hans Frank in Wawel Castle
(Source: USHMM)


Translated by:
Arnold Palthe
Article by:
Robert Jan Noks
Published on:
Last edit on:
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