On November 20, 1945, a few months after the end of World War II, a series of military trials began in the German city of Nuremberg.
The first trial was the Great War Crimes Court, where 22 high-ranking Nazis were tried at the Palace of Justice. Twelve defendants will be sentenced to death.
A further 12 trials – known as the subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings – were held in Nuremberg between 1946 and 1949.
Seventy-five years after the Nuremberg trials began, we hear from three people whose trial life and the events that followed cast a long shadow: the son of one of those on trial, the son of one of the prosecutors and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.
Niklas Frank is the son of Hans Frank, the governor-general of Poland that the Germans occupied during World War II. Known as the “Polish Butcher,” Hans Frank was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg trials for his role in the deaths of millions of Jews and Poles, and was executed.
Here, Niklas, who was born in 1939, describes what it was like growing up with a father who was a high ranking Nazi:
I remember visiting my father in prison in Nuremberg when I was seven years old.
On the other side of the door is Hermann Goring, a very senior member of the Nazi party who was also on trial in Nuremberg (he was sentenced to death but committed suicide hours before he was to be executed), talking to his wife, Emmy, and their little daughter, Edda.
I sat on my mother’s lap and my father was on the other side of the large window with a small hole in the bottom, through which we could hear each other speak.
“We will soon be having a happy Christmas at our home in Schliersee [in Upper Bavaria], “He told me, and I knew he was lying. His lies tore my heart
It was my last visit to my father.
No verdict yet, but her attorney had visited my mother many times during the summer of 1946 and prepared her for what was to come. It was a summer full of adventure for me. The American soldiers were friendly and I would run behind them collecting the remains of their cigarettes to take to my mother.
The previous year, in the fall of 1945, I first saw the pictures in the newspapers – photos of corpses piled high. Among them were children my age.
I know that my father is someone important; we live in the castle, have a maid and I consider Poland our private property. Then suddenly I found out that my father was somehow related to these photos.
I remember my oldest brother Norman, who was born in 1928, visiting our mother and saying, “If these photos were true, our father wouldn’t have a chance to survive.”
I don’t understand what’s going on, but the fact that my father is linked to the photos bothers me a lot.
I knew that we had privileges, that we were not “normal” people, but the war wasn’t so real to me. I remember one time, when I was four or five years old, sitting in my father’s black Mercedes and looking at a burning German tank. Our driver said “oh that’s the Tiger Tank” and I was excited. But I’ve never experienced anything bad, anything war. There was only one time, near the end of the war, when we sat on Lake Schliersee and watched a fleet of planes en route to bomb Munich.
One of my most important memories of my dad is when I was about three years old and we were at Belvedere Palace, where we sometimes live.
I was running around the large round table, trying to run into my father’s arms, but he was always out of reach. My dad mocked me: “What do you want Niki [this was what my family called me]? You don’t belong to our family. You are a fremdi. “I mean fremder, foreigner. The implication is that I am illegitimate, that I am not his child.
When you are rejected in this way by your father, you only have two choices: you can become a psychological wreck or you can keep a healthy distance from your father, who, unconsciously or coincidentally, is what I did.
According to rumors 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 head of the SS, didn’t like my father and wanted him replaced. But because he couldn’t get Adolf Hitler’s permission for this, he instead tried to hurt people close to my father. Lasch’s father was about to drive a truck full of stolen goods from Poland to Germany and when Himmler discovered this, he caught Lasch, knowing that he was my father’s friend. Himmler kills Lasch in Breslau prison.
When my father learned of this, he told my mother, “Now Niki’s father is dead.”
My mother was very upset by the accusation and explained to my father that it was not true.
My mom has a lot to do, but she’s always aborting kids who aren’t Frank’s dad. I later learned that she had two or three abortions. She wouldn’t let anything stand in her way of becoming “queen of Poland”.
Shop in the Krakow ghetto
My mother was going to the Krakow ghetto to buy expensive furs and fabrics that her private tailor would make into clothes.
I remember an occasion when I was about four years old when I sat in the back of a car with my nanny, Hilde, on one of my mother’s shopping trips to the ghetto.
Near the car was a boy between the ages of eight and 10, looking at me with great sorrow. I stuck out my tongue at him. He didn’t respond; he just walked away. I felt victorious against him, but Hilde pulled me back. I don’t understand where we are.
My mom is very cold. Like my father, he doesn’t care about the death and suffering of others. He just enjoys his life – dinners with guests, shopping trips.
My mother is a person with a strong personality. We are all afraid of him. My father is weak in comparison. When I later interviewed the American pastor, Pastor O’Connor, who baptized my father into the Catholic Church during his imprisonment in Nuremberg, he told me, “Niklas, I have to tell you one thing: even in prison your father is still afraid of your mother. “
At one point during the war, my father, who had reconnected with the great love of his life since his youth, wanted to divorce my mother. He asked Hitler’s permission, as, I think, was requested from a senior member of the party, but Hitler forbade him until the war was over. My mother, knowing my father’s wishes, wrote to Hitler, sent her a picture of herself and her five children, and asked why a husband would leave such a beautiful family?
‘You poor child’
After my father was arrested in May 1945, our situation changed dramatically. The Americans moved us to a two-bedroom flat. We have no helpers or money. That is the old fall from grace. But for me it is a wonderful adventure. I have freedom, I can fish and there is a lethal weapon left by running away from the SS soldiers to play with.
My mother tried so hard to feed us. He’s always making deals, trading everything – especially stolen jewelery – for bread. It was the toughest time of his life, but he never gave up, only complaining in a letter he wrote to my father in prison.
For me, being a child of a mass murderer brings many advantages. “Oh, poor little boy,” said the people. “What happened to your poor and innocent father? What do you want to eat and do you have enough money? “At that time, there was only advantage in Germany if your father was hanged as a high ranking Nazi.
I am against the death penalty, but I am glad that my father experienced the fear of death that he had inflicted on so many innocent people.