The German carries in his racial character a feature that must be taken infinitely seriously: an unusual need for justice and sensitivity concerning justice. — Hans Frank
We must not be squeamish when we hear the figure of 17,000 shot. — Hans Frank
Hans Frank was one of the most equivocal figures among the National Socialist top leadership, weak, unstable and full of strange contradictions. Behind the bloody image of the 'slayer of Poles' and the party's leading jurist we see, on closer inspection, an insecure and vacillating character; Frank's unrestrained veneration for the person of Hitler and for the party programme of the NSDAP — which throughout his life he completely misinterpreted in keeping with illusions rooted in theatrical idealism — carried him to the most abysmal depths of criminality. Governed by emotions and cranky ideas, ready to surrender himself and at the same time subject to sudden spells of self-destructive obstinacy springing from an awareness of normal standards from which in the last resort he could not escape, he seemed among all those cold manipulators of power as though made for the role of a sectarian, whose usual fate he actually avoided only with some difficulty. What prevented him from offering the ultimate challenge was solely a deeply rooted subservience and a remnant of devotion to the 'glorious shaper' Hitler, which he preserved even
'in sight of the gallows. While I sit here in the solitude of Nuremberg [Adolf Hitler] goes striding through my earnest, profound thoughts as a concentrated, rich personality whose influence has attained gigantic proportions.' (1)
He never belonged to the innermost circle of the leadership; the stigma of middle-class origins, which only Speer and Ribbentrop really succeeded in overcoming, no doubt prevented that. Admittedly, any sociology of the National Socialist movement would be incomplete without a consideration of the educated man of upper middle class origin; this type certainly had its role to play, especially in the early phase of the party's history. (2) Nevertheless men of this stamp always stood a little outside the movement's true centres, which at no time received their decisive impulses from the Rauschnings, Darres or Franks, but almost exclusively from the petty-bourgeois prophets of violence and the extremist members of the war generation. The function of the 'middle-class' leaders was solely to provide a backcloth of respectability and various forms of ideological cover for the movement's ruthless will to power. Prepared, for reasons outlined elsewhere in this book, to be fascinated by any romantically decked barbarism, they fluttered around this revolutionary movement, magically attracted by its strength and brutality and intoxicated by the new principles of order announced by the marching feet of the brown columns. Whatever pseudo-rational structure they contributed to the National Socialist ideology, strictly speaking they had no say in practical policy, and Hitler, to whom 'being educated and being weak' meant the same thing, (3) made little effort to hide his contempt for them.
Sensitive to the humiliations that went with a sense of belonging on sufferance, Frank hungered after acknowledgment and acceptance with full rights into the inner circle. He liked to boast of his special confidential relationship with Hitler and would claim, for example, that the Fuhrer
'freely confided in him everything which he kept from even his closest political associates'. (4)
Unstable and unsure of himself by nature, the prey of his own emotions, and with a markedly feminine character, Frank gazed with secret admiration at the men of violence around him, who obviously carried out every task entrusted to them without a moment's hesitation. Greedy for their approval, he imposed their role on himself, at times showing himself harder, more cynical and more merciless than they, Hitler's vassal who as Governor-General of Poland actually turned the country entrusted to him, both literally and figuratively, into that 'vandal Gau' of which he had once spoken. At the same time he lacked the tough nerves of the swashbucklers he imitated, the professional murderers — the Globocniks, Stroops and Kroogers repeatedly fell back on 'bourgeois' standards and, as Hitler contemptuously observed, was 'merely a lawyer like all the rest'. (5) He burned behind him bridges such as the others had never crossed, to the accompaniment of dreadful mental contortions intended to drown the inner voices that disturbed him.
From this situation of conflict sprang the obvious disharmonies of his personality: the million-fold murderer, as others saw him; the servant and almost the martyr of justice, as he saw himself. The man who cried to the ruthless advocates of the overriding claims of the state that when justice is not supported
'the state too loses its moral backbone, it sinks into the abyss of night and horror. You can depend on it that I would rather die than give up this idea of justice,'
and who, on the other hand, at almost the same time, considered it only worth a marginal note that in consequence of measures taken by him '1-2 million Jews will perish'. (6)
The man who, in the vulgar phraseology characteristic of the officials responsible for the Final Solution, described his task as being to cleanse Poland of lice and Jews, and who then, in four sensational university lectures in summer 1942, stated in criticism of Hitler that
'no empire has ever been conceivable without justice — or contrary to justice'. (7)
Although Frank's liking for highfalutin phrases repeatedly concealed his real convictions, it cannot be denied that behind this exhortation to respect justice there lay at least an emotional honesty. Frank the man of violence, on the other hand, was the result of the urge to imitate felt by a weak eccentric who was as ashamed of his own weakness as he was filled with admiration for self-confident brutality. Characteristically adopting one of Hitler's favourite expressions, he had a predilection for the term 'ice-cold', although this was something he never managed to be, and he repudiated the suspicion of weakness often enough to take care not to provoke it, until he finally confessed 'And then I am such a weak man'. (8) At Nuremberg he admitted to the court psychologist G. M. Gilbert that at times
'It is as though I am two people — me, myself, Frank here — and the other Frank, the Nazi leader. And sometimes I wonder how that Frank could have done those things. This Frank looks at the other Frank and says, "Hmm, what a louse you are, Frank! - How could you do such things?"' (9)
The problems of the intellectual with a longing for contact with the idealistically misconstrued world of the primitive man of violence — the 'noble savage' returned in a barbaric modern guise — led thousands of members of the educated classes to take the way of National Socialism. Not in every case did individual insecurity and weakness play such an important part as in Frank's, but without exception there was always a profound dissatisfaction with the whole basis of the established order and its 'mechanical', 'soulless', 'rationally diluted' structures. Where personal inadequacy and discontent with things as they were supplemented each other as drastically as they did in Frank's case, the path to revolutionary nihilism was almost inescapable.
For Hans Frank the jurist, the decisive impetus to his discontent came from the gulf between law and real life so much complained of at the time, which had laid the judiciary open to the reproach of critical inadequacy; 'justice divorced from the people' was the popular slogan. With the collapse of the monarchy and the foundations of order which had remained till then unchallenged, people suddenly saw the end of the era of legal positivism. Into the vacuum left by the collapse of ideas there poured a plethora of idealist theories, most with a romantic tinge, which sought to give new life to law by linking it with mystical concepts like nation, national community, national soul, history, and so on. However much they differed over details, these new systems agreed in repudiating the liberal constitutional state, whose complex structure was denounced as a danger to the homogeneous mythological ground upon which the 'people' stood. Critics of the law and legal practice waxed indignant, for example, over the prevailing 'formalism', over the degeneration of law into a technical legal procedure in which the idea of real justice was lost, and also over the antithesis between 'alien Roman' and 'indigenous German' legal principles. From this starting-point there arose many cross-links with National Socialism, though here as elsewhere they were frequently based on misunderstandings.
Undoubtedly Hans Frank too, after joining the National Socialist movement, believed for a long time that he had found in Adolf Hitler a partner for the realization of those dreams in which he saw himself winning immortality as the creator of a legal system linked to the people and based on ancient Germanic ideas. When he exclaimed at the proclamation of the founding of the 'German Legal Front' in June 1933, 'Germany has always been the saviour of mankind', the implication was that the event was of an epoch-making significance extending far beyond Germany alone. (10) Despite all experience to the contrary, he was incapable of recognizing his misunderstanding about this. Hitler's innate hostility to law, and his failure to see the necessity for ordering life according to the dictates of law in a civilized community, deprived all Frank's plans for reform of any chance of success. Starting from the maxims of struggle derived from social Darwinism, Hitler could see nothing in law or the institutions of justice but instruments for combating political foes. This view was later embodied in the formula that criminal law was a law of struggle and annihilation, (11) and the scope of the law was extended in principle only to the point where it did not restrict the permanent freedom of the Political Police to take what measures they wished. Consequently Hitler felt fresh bitterness every time unpolitical — that is to say, judicial concepts came into play and set limits to totalitarian self-assertion, until finally all lawyers were to him nothing but 'traitors to the nation', 'idiots', 'utter fools'. In his memorable speech to the Reichstag of 26th April 1942 he declared that he
'would not rest until every German sees that it is a disgrace to be a lawyer'. (12)
While Frank, still undeterred and with his taste for resounding phrases, announced that
'National Socialism is carrying out a secular revolution to resurrect German popular law and replace the dead law of jurists',
Hitler stated that
'There is no one to whom the lawyer is closer than to the criminal',
adding that the lawyer really deserved, like actors in the past, to be buried in the knacker's yard. (13) Frank lectured with emotion about Germany as a 'refuge of security for all members of the nation' and constructed his sentimental compromises between the idea of law and the totalitarian state, while Hitler commented that, if necessary, he would unhesitatingly disregard the jurists. (14)
The various drafts of a new legal code, particularly the revision of criminal law, never went beyond the first stages, even though they were tailored to suit the demands of the National Socialist regime. This was because the regime's continued practice of intervening by force in the legal system, whenever it wished — a practice which it established while still in the process of seizing power — guaranteed it greater freedom of manipulation than even a National Socialist legal system would have done if it had had binding force. The legal uncertainty engendered by this method itself created the certainty of power.
Frank was willing at any time to banish from his mind his discouraging experiences of Hitler's hostility to law. He created for himself an ideal world in which, even during the days immediately preceding his execution and in stubborn alienation from reality, principles and concepts held sway which Hitler had either acknowledged or had thrown overboard at the very beginning of his career. In dismay Frank appealed to the party programme which
'did not contain the very slightest reference to any extermination of the Jews' as proof 'that the party had nothing whatever to do with these events either ideologically or practically'.
Similarly he repeatedly invoked article 19 of the party programme, as though the utterly empty demand for a 'German common law' was enough to provide the National Socialist regime or at least its old fighters with a veneer of his lachrymose nostalgia for the early phase of the movement; 'honest tears' came to his eyes at Nuremberg at the thought of 'the Hitler of those days' and of that revolution which he had helped to make with such confidence in the future. (15)
Even as a student Frank, who in 1919 had belonged for a few weeks to the Epp Freikorps and then to the Thule Society, had come into contact with the NSDAP before entering the SA in September 1923 as a twenty-three-year-old junior barrister, like so many others 'positively spellbound' by Hitler's personality. In November 1923 he took part in the march on the Feldherrnhalle and finally, soon after settling down as a barrister, he became the NSDAP's legal adviser and star defence counsel; up to 1933 he had represented the party in more than 2,400 out of approximately 40,000 actions brought against it. (16) He had left the party in 1926 in the course of a controversy over the case of South Tyrol, which was abandoned by Hitler and the leadership for opportunist reasons; but it is clear that even as early as this he could not escape Hitler's sway. In any case, he rejoined the NSDAP a year later. A second attempt at a break also came to nothing. In 1929, when he wanted to withdraw for a career as a legal scholar, Hitler made a personal appeal to him.
'And I had embarked upon the new, strong, radiantly refulgent path in Adolf Hitler's world,' Frank wrote retrospectively in his high-flown style. 'An infinitely serious and difficult, sparkling, ultimately night-grey course.' (17)
At an early stage, this course brought his career to its high point. Head of the NSDAP's legal office since 1929, he became in 1933, in the course of the capture of power in the Länder, Bavarian Minister of Justice and soon afterwards 'Reich Commissioner for the Standardization of Justice in the Länder and for the Renewal of Legal Order', as the official title ran. The Association of German National Socialist Jurists, led by himself and till then rather obscure, swelled during those months, as a result of the opportunist rush to join, into a mass organization which, by the end of 1933, already numbered 80,000 members and could certainly have lent its weight to the isolated attempts made to assert the independence of law. Frank, however, regarded such attempts with total incomprehension, and it was merely characteristic self-dramatization when he later claimed that the Association had been 'a genuine fighting organisation against Himmler and Bormann'. (18) It became, rather, not merely an important instrument within the framework of legal and personal politics for imposing the party line, but also an ideological weapon for facilitating the breakthrough of totalitarian concepts into wide areas of the legal profession. The effects here were all the more devastating because the tactic of disguising the revolution as both legal and national caught the legal profession, as it had the civil service as a whole, at its weakest point. Such concepts of legal positivism as remained made it difficult to resist a seizure of power that was formally guaranteed and supported by the law; on the other hand the nationalist claims of the new power-holders paralysed all thought of counter-measures on the part of the traditional conservative class, enclosed within its own caste outlook, although its attitudes of mind and its solidarity had enabled it to come almost unscathed through the Republican era. It was possible, therefore, for the National Socialists to steer a course towards a permanent state of emergency without any particular difficulty and to effect almost without friction the transition from the constitutional principle of the stability of legal institutions to that of their total 'mobility'.
It was merely the logical last stage on this gradually descending path into what Frank, looking back, lamented as the 'night of law' when in a public speech he assured his hearers:
'In the Third Reich we must, as it were, remove the well-known blindfold from the eyes of justice, so that she may see clearly into life.'
In the same context he demanded
'only one total jurisdiction — the Fuhrer's'. (19)
Similarly he proclaimed in 'Guiding Principles for German Judges' in 1936:
'The judge has no right of review over the decisions of the Fuhrer as embodied in a law or a degree.'
And it is no proof of the resistance which he subsequently so emphatically claimed to have offered when, one paragraph later, he adds:
'In order to fulfil his task in the community of the nation the judge must be independent. He is not bound to follow instructions.' (20)
However, soon after the conclusion of the struggle for power, Frank noted a 'positively systematic persecution of jurists'. (21) His personal prestige in the eyes of Hitler and the top leadership was severely reduced after he had raised certain formal objections at the time of Rohm's murder. In any case, as he himself said with good reason, he was 'after 1934 a slowly but steadily declining political force'. Once having achieved his goal, Hitler no longer needed the law and Frank's complaint that
'never once in all these years' had Hitler received him in audience 'on legal matters'
merely showed his naivety. (22) His attempts to compensate for the steady erosion of his power found expression in a cult of the Fuhrer that attributed to him everything that a bombastic vocabulary could produce in the way of extravagant flattery. As late as 1944, after all the humiliations, defeats and clashes, Frank fulsomely celebrated the feeling
'of being truly lifted aloft in happiness' at having been called upon 'to be the first to prepare the way for this man'. (23)
Naturally this intoxicated grandiloquence did nothing to win back his continually diminishing authority. Hitler was manifestly unable to separate the person of the Reich legal chief from the hated subject which he represented. As the 'most unimportant area of the party leadership' the Reich Legal Office of the NSDAP was soon afterwards moved out of the national headquarters of the party, the Brown House in Munich. (24)
It was all the more of a surprise when, in the middle of September 1939, Hitler recalled him from an army unit in Potsdam and appointed him civilian administrative chief with the Commander-in-Chief East and, with effect from 26th October of the same year, Governor-General of the occupied territory of Poland. The post seemed tailor-made for Frank's histrionic thirst for prestige, and with the ostentation of an oriental despot he moved into the old royal palace in Cracow, set on a rocky plateau falling steeply to the Vistula. Here he resided with the extravagant ceremonial that went with his nature, regarding himself
'with audacious romanticism as a vassal king set by Hitler over Poland', (25)
lord of life and death, unpredictable in magnanimity or brutality, carrying on a patriarchal, arbitrary rule, the principles of which were manifestly gleaned at random from reading of the ways of supermen, the style of a world power, German consciousness of mission, and cheap literature on Slav psychology. In his first conferences with Hitler individual measures were agreed for the future lines of policy towards the occupied zone, including the razing of Warsaw Castle, the removal of art treasures, and the liquidation of Poland's intellectual leaders. Behind this stood the goal of that 'process of re-Germanization' of which Frank had occasionally spoken, the 'absolute permeation of the area by Germanness' and its cleansing from 'alien races that are no longer required'. Overwhelmed that now 'the greatest hour of Germanness is striking', he announced rapturously that the territory he governed 'has an immense world historical task to accomplish'. In Berlin government circles Poland under Frank soon came to be known as 'Frank-Reich' ['Frank's kingdom' — a pun on 'Frankreich', France] in the East'. (26)
Over and above this Poland was to provide an area for the practical application of that 'technique of state' whose systematic elaboration and perfection was one of Frank's pet ideas. This is, in fact, what it did become, as has since been demonstrated, (27) though in a sense diametrically opposed to Frank's own conception. The subjugated Polish territories became a model police state and a high school for the cadres who were to exercise totalitarian power. But it was the SS who here, inexorably and almost unhindered, developed the technique and the technicians of the SS state, and what emerged was later used to perfect the totalitarian apparatus inside Germany.
This also explains what Frank meant when he called his period as Governor-General of Poland 'the most terrible years' of his life and repeatedly pointed out that, contrary to appearances, he was 'an isolated, powerless man who had no influence on events'. (28) In fact, from the very day of his appointment his jurisdiction was eroded from all sides, and it casts a revealing light on the disloyal duplicity of Hitler's policies towards his followers that from the outset he failed to give Frank any support in his struggle for authority, in particular support against the bid for autonomy by SS Obergruppenfuhrer Kruger, who was in overall control of the SS and the police in Poland. Hitler actually fostered the rival independent authority, though Kruger was formally subordinate to the Governor-General. The system of half-jurisdictions that were combined into total jurisdiction only at the summit, in the person of Hitler as the final arbiter — a system which we can observe throughout the Third Reich — subsequently resulted in a total disorganisation that was quite obviously accepted as a necessary price to pay; it was also made the pretext for continual exhausting conflicts in which Frank, a man at the mercy of uncontrollable emotion, proved hopelessly inferior to the cold intriguer Kruger. While Frank, obviously in increasing desperation, invoked his exclusive competence to give orders at sittings of the government, Kruger, under Himmler's protection, simply went ahead with his, or at least the SS's, conception of a policy for Poland. Frank tried alternately to counteract this policy by one of relative leniency and reason towards the Poles, with occasional rudimentary attempts at cooperation, or to outdo the SS by even greater harshness, hoping by acts of terror and mass extermination to gain a reputation with Hitler and his entourage for National Socialist ability in dealing with the East. His famous diary, which he handed over during his imprisonment in May 1945, contains in thirty-eight volumes, along with minute descriptions of the events of every single day during his period of government, countless passages designed to impress by their brutality. For example, when asked by a correspondent of the Völkischer Beobachter named Kleiss what was the difference between the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and the government in Poland, Frank replied,
'I can tell you a graphic difference. In Prague, for example, big red posters were put up on which could be read that seven Czechs had been shot today. I said to myself: If I put up a poster for every seven Poles shot, the forests of Poland would not be sufficient to manufacture the paper for such posters.'
At a session of his government he declared in one of those countless speeches which were his passion:
'As far as the Jews are concerned, I will tell you frankly, they must be done away with by one means or another. Therefore I shall approach the Jews exclusively in the anticipation that they are going to disappear. They must go.'
And on another occasion, with nauseating humour:
'What's all this? There are said to have been thousands and thousands of these Flatfoot Indians [the Jews] in this city; now there are none to be seen. Surely you haven't used unkind methods against them?'
— and the record adds: 'Laughter.' Exactly four weeks later to the day, on the other hand, Frank noted in a memorandum:
'The power and the certainty of being able to use force without any resistance are the sweetest and most noxious poison that can be introduced into a government. In the long run this position is absolutely lethal, and history teaches that systems based on law last for thousands of years, but systems based on force barely for decades.'
Himmler, who was naturally unaware of utterances of this kind, once commented angrily that Frank was a 'traitor to the Fatherland who was hand in glove with the Poles' and whose downfall with the Fuhrer he would bring about in the very near future. (29)
These almost unresolvable contradictions, however, originated not only from Frank's bloody style of government but also from the lack of a unifying concept of how to rule the East. The idea of a Polish constitutional state, which seemed originally to be the guiding principle, was soon abandoned, as were projects tending towards protectorate status and Frank's own vague 'idea of a German multinational empire'. Hitler shied away from any clear commitment all the more because at a very early stage he had allowed the idea to get about that he would never give up this territory. Frank had to be content with the formula, which had no precise meaning in international law, that Poland was to be a 'secondary country (Nebenland) of the Reich'; this kept all the options open while it gave the office of Governor-General a certain sovereignty. (30) Hitler's original instructions to him read,
'to assume the administration of the conquered territories with the special order ruthlessly to exploit this region as a war zone and booty country, to reduce it, as it were, to a heap of rubble in its economic, social, cultural and political structure'. (31)
The destructive basis of these instructions, however, was too much at variance with the necessary mechanism of every method of governing — which always tends towards the establishment of order — to be put into practice. Furthermore Frank recognized that such principles worked diametrically counter to the needs of the Reich, especially as regards agricultural produce and labour; Hitler, deeply entangled in his racial resentment, was demanding the impossible — .to exploit and to exterminate at the same time. Only after his repeated suggestions to Hitler had fallen upon deaf ears did Frank, who wanted a policy of practical utility, begin to steer a cautious course in the opposite direction to Hitler's demands. However, this policy was continually frustrated by the terrorist line of SS Obergruppenfuhrer Kruger and by Frank's own alternative policy of harshness in reaction to this. In this chaos of opposite or competing aims and ideas all real possibility of settling for either one or the other disappeared, along with the principles of reason and humanity. 'Humanity,' Frank reflected in his diary in July 1942, when the word inadvertently slipped into something he was dictating,
'a word that one often does not dare to use, as though it had become a foreign word.' (32)
In view of the perpetual quarrels over jurisdiction and the lack of stability in the administration of his territory, Frank's position appears to have been severely undermined by 1942. When on top of that he laid himself open to the charge of privately enriching members of his family, he was forced to submit to a 'comradely interrogation' and to accept a painful diminution of his authority, which worked out to the advantage of his adversary. As State Secretary for Security, Kruger received ministerial rank and moreover, as deputy for Himmler (in his capacity as Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of the German National Heritage), was given supreme jurisdiction over the great resettlement of Poles and Germans that was planned. The ever more open rivalry was clearly coming to a head when, that summer, Frank delivered four university lectures which, at the infuriated Hitler's personal orders, resulted in his being forbidden to make any further public speeches and dismissed from every party office. This seemed to foreshadow his imminent recall from the post of Governor-General, for which Himmler and Bormann were working, and within the SS they were already casting about for a successor. In his uncertainty about his position and his fate, Frank wrote a report which, in its verbose mixture of audacity, self-castigation, sentimentality and confused idealism, presents an extraordinarily revealing portrait of his character. Frank, Goebbels noted soon afterward in his diary,
'enjoys absolutely none of the Fuhrer's esteem any more. I shall propose to the Fuhrer in all seriousness that he must either get rid of Frank or re-establish his authority; for a Governor-General, i.e. a viceroy. in Poland without authority is naturally unthinkable in these critical times.' (33)
Surprisingly enough, Hitler decided to drop not Frank but his adversary Kruger, after the ruthlessly executed resettlement scheme had produced a wave of revolt. 'The province is, as it were, a simmering crisis,' stated Frank. (34) Even those among the Poles who had originally been prepared to co-operate had been repudiated, and in so far as the population had not in the meantime joined in the resistance movement, whose cells had become focal points for the temporarily submerged sense of nationhood, they maintained a mute and stubborn indolence, ignoring all promises and attempts at a change of policy.
With Kruger's successor, SS Obergruppenfuhrer Wilhelm Koppe, who till then had worked as a Senior SS and Police Commander in Poznan, Frank reached a tolerable relationship; but quarrels continued on all sides, since their origin was more inherent in the setup than psychological, and up to the end of his term of office the Governor-General had offered his resignation fourteen times in all, naturally in vain. Outwardly he continued, in his insecurity, to boast of Hitler's special trust, and he assured a session of the government that his suggestions had earned him from Hitler 'the honorary title of the great realist politician of the East'. (35) In fact, his ideas, which had always been marked by distorted imaginative fancies, showed that particular lack of realism which became endemic, with the approaching end of the war, among officials of the Third Reich. He seemed to believe in all seriousness that the propagation of the idea of the Reich would help to reconcile the Polish population. While the war situation was visibly deteriorating and the front was drawing closer to the borders of his province, he proposed a policy of 'humanization' and 'Europeanization', but neither Hitler on the one hand nor the Polish population on the other were prepared for any such unconvincing and furthermore dishonest compromise. His rule came to an end among such delusions, a last flicker of hectic enthusiasm, and battles over jurisdiction, with abrupt, grandiosely phrased outbursts of contempt for humanity. On 18th August 1944 he informed Berlin of the 'complete collapse of the authority' of his administration and suggested the dissolution of the Governor-Generalship. In one of his last speeches in Cracow Castle he reminded his listeners of
'the organisms of the national being whose intoxicated and luminous blood must be preserved in its purity'. (36)
Then he bade farewell to Cracow, to the royal residence overlooking the Vistula, to his vice-kingdom. The great hour of Germanness, as he had called it, was in many ways at an end.
At Nuremberg he said the aim of his policy had been 'to administer justice without detriment to the interests of the war'. (37) He felt at home in such contradictions, and the more so the more contradictory they were. But whenever in the course of his career a party interest or reason of state had clashed with justice, he had decided for party and state and against justice. His claim to have held aloft the 'banner of justice' does not count for much. Had he done so he would not have risen so high under a man to whom the law was an alien concept and the service of justice a 'disgrace'.
'Here I stand with my bayonets, there you stand with your law! We'll see which counts for more!'
Hitler once told him scornfully, and it is hard to see how after that he could have persuaded himself that under Hitler law would ever count for anything besides the urge for prestige, ambition and vanity. (38) Did Frank believe in justice, or did he believe in force as he observed it in the person of Hitler and his power-hungry henchmen? The truth behind his life, paradoxical but more exact than his own explanation, was doubtless that he 'wanted to administer justice without detriment to the interests of force'. He admired law, morality and truth with the same enthusiasm — but also detachment — with which he admired force and the ideologically embellished horrors of 'historical grandeur'. Despite the extravagance of his apparent convictions, he really had no convictions at all, only moods, ecstatically exaggerated momentary leanings, blown this way and that by varying external stimuli.
'The half is worse than the whole,' he later stated with self-reproachful insight into his life. 'In that lay the curse. I said yes to Hitler's ideas, no to his methods. I should have said no to his ideas too. I remained caught up in this contradiction.' (39)
However, it was not merely through this single contradiction that he ultimately came to grief, dumbfounded at the way his life had gone astray and missed its purpose; it was through the whole contradictory structure of his personality, which was devoid of any firm foundation whatever. His aimless, emotionally directed readiness to surrender himself was at work to the last, as the inconsistency of the statement he wrote out in his Nuremberg cell vividly illustrates.
'I am seized now,' he wrote, 'as I prepare to say farewell to this earth in order to follow the Fuhrer[!], by the most profound melancholy when I recall this tremendous setting out of a whole great self-confident nation that followed a strong voice as though to a celebration of the eternal Godhead himself. Why, why was it all lost, why did it all fade away, why is it all gone, destroyed? I am seized by uncomprehending horror at the senselessness of destiny.' (40)
Destiny, with pedantic consistency, had led him where subservience, weakness and dishonesty take a man. When he had just made his first appearance as defence counsel for National Socialist strong-arm bands, one of his teachers, the old Geheimrat von Calker, warned him:
'I beg you to leave these people alone! No good will come of it! Political movements that begin in the criminal courts will end in the criminal courts!' (41)
Now the movement was indeed ending in the criminal courts. Shattered and bewildered, he found himself in the courtroom facing the evidence he had produced himself, the documents of a life in which out of weakness he had fled into destructive extremism, the documents of a life which now — and he imagined he heard the 'angry laughter of God' (42) — brought him contritely to his knees. The repentance which he proclaimed, the visible sign of an inner conversion, certainly deserves attention, but there is a lot to suggest that it was only a passing mood; for basically, in a character such as his there is no room for truth.
'A thousand years will pass,' he said, overwhelmed during questioning by his counsel before the court, 'and will not take away this guilt from Germany.' (43)
In his final speech, on the other hand, he withdrew this. And so his last words were a contradiction. The end fitted the man.
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