Post by Matt Seccombe
During March I began work on the defense documents of Hans Frank, who was prosecuted mostly for his activities as governor of occupied Poland (the Government General). I worked through three of his five document books.
Pluribus aut unum (many or one): On 24 April 1946 Frank’s attorney formally introduced his exhibits, most notably this one (paraphrased): “Exhibit ten is a set of extracts from Frank’s official diary, assigned evidence code number PS 2233 by the prosecution; it is contained in document books 2, 3, and 4.” Normally, a text from a single source (PS 2233) entered as a single exhibit is automatically a single document for purposes of analysis. But a text spanning three document books and more than 100 distinct parts (diary entries) is not an ordinary document; for one thing, it would be impossible to account for all the relevant subjects in the descriptive title and in the trial-issues field. I decided to treat each diary entry for a given day as a separate document.
A disclaimer: In June 1943 Frank met with a delegation of Poles about the need to improve the food supply for the population. With that topic covered, Frank felt it was necessary to make another point: “We are not here, to exterminate or annihilate them . . . I personally have nothing against the Poles.” By mid-1943 the subject of extermination was clearly on the minds of the people in the territory.
Lice and Jews: For Frank, extermination was already part of the agenda long before. In a speech to a group of soldiers in December 1940, he sympathized with their difficulty in being stationed in a territory “where there are so many lice and Jews.” As the transcript continues, he said, “Naturally, I could neither exterminate all the lice, nor all the Jews in the course of one year (Hilarity). But as time goes on and above all if you cooperate with me, this will be achieved all right.” (In his testimony in April 1946 Frank declared that he was guilty of the charge of genocide, ex officio as one of the leaders in the regime, though he stated that he had not been a direct participant in what he described as an SS operation.)
Night and fog: Jurisdiction over occupied Poland was split, with the military operating independently, German ministries controlling the armaments industries and sending workers to Germany, Frank managing the civil government, and the SS controlling the police and security operations. This produced constant tension and conflict, starting with Frank’s difficult relations with the ministries in Berlin. But the SS was more problematic, given its powers and reach, and the risks came close to home. Hein Albrecht, a legal and party official, reported a private conversation in which Frank described “the arbitrary acts of the SS . . . the ‘Black Plague’ . . . it would, for example, be absolutely unpreventable if my wife should be innocently arrested some day or night by agencies of the Gestapo and should disappear never to be seen again without having received the possibility of a defense in a legal trial.”
The HLS Library holds approximately one million pages of documents relating to the trial of military and political leaders of Nazi Germany before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and to the twelve trials of other accused war criminals before the United States Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT). We have posted five trials so far (NMT 1 through NMT 4 and NMT 7) and have completed digitization of all the documents and transcripts.
We are now engaged in the process of analyzing, describing and making machine readable the remaining trials’ materials in preparation for posting them to the Web. We hope to complete this work as soon as possible based upon available funding. For more information about this project, please contact [email protected].