The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th April to 1st May, 1946

One-Hundred-and-Eleventh Day: Thursday, 18th April, 1946
(Part 3 of 10)

[DR. SEIDL continues his direct examination of Hans Frank]

[Page 109]

Q. Which policy did you pursue for the recruiting of labourers for the Reich in your capacity as Governor General?

A. The policy is laid down in my decrees. No doubt they will be held against me by the prosecution, and I consider it will save time if I answer that question later, with the permission of the Tribunal.

Q. Witness, did Hitler give you any instructions as to how you should carry out your administration as Governor General?

A. During the first ten minutes of the audience in his special train Adolf Hitler gave me the instruction that I should see to it that this territory, which had been utterly devastated, where all bridges had been blown up, where the railways were not running and the population completely displaced, was put into order somehow, and that I should see to it that this territory should become a factor which would contribute to the improvement of the terribly difficult economic and war situation of the German Reich.

Q. Did Adolf Hitler support you in your work as Governor General?

A. All my complaints, everything I reported to him, were, unfortunately, dropped into the wastepaper basket by him. I did not send in my resignation fourteen times for nothing. It was not for nothing that I tried to join my brave troops as an officer. In his heart he was always opposed to lawyers, and that was one of the most serious shortcomings of this outstandingly great man. He did not want to assume formal responsibility, and that, unfortunately, applies to his policy too. As I have found out now, every lawyer to him was a disturbing element working against his power. All I can say, therefore, is that, by supporting Himmler's and Bormann's aims to the extreme, he has permanently jeopardised any attempt to find a form of government worthy of the German name.

Q. Witness, which departments of the Reich gave instructions to you regarding the administration of the Government General?

A. In order to expedite the proceedings I should like to suggest that the witness Buehler give the whole list.

Q. Witness, did you ever loot art treasures?

A. This accusation, which is one that touches my private life, and affects me most deeply, is that I am supposed to have enriched myself by the art treasures of the country entrusted to me. I did not collect pictures and I did not find time during the war to appropriate art treasures. I took care to see that all the art treasures of the country entrusted to me were officially registered and I had that official register incorporated in a document which was widely distributed; and, above all, I saw to it, that these art treasures remained in the country right to the very end. In spite of that, art treasures were removed from the Government General. Some were taken away before my administration

[Page 110]

was established. Experience show that one cannot talk of responsibility for an administration until some time after it has been functioning, namely, when the administration has been built up from the bottom. So that from the outbreak of the war, 1 September, 1939, until this point, which was about the end of 1939, I am sure that art treasures were stolen to a considerable extent either as booty of war or under some other pretext. During the registration of the art treasures, Adolf Hitler gave the order that the Veit Stoss altar should be removed from St. Mary's Church in Cracow and taken to the Reich. In September, 1939, the Mayor Liebel came from Nuremberg to Cracow for that purpose with a group of S.S. men and removed this altar. A third instance was the removal of the Durer etchings in Lemberg by a special deputy before my administration was established there. In 1944, shortly before the collapse, art treasures were removed to the Reich for storage. In the Castle of Seichau, in Silesia, there was a collection of art treasures which had been brought there by Professor Kneisl for this purpose. One last group of art treasures was handed over to the Americans by me personally.

Q. Witness, did you introduce ghettos, i.e., Jewish quarters in the Government General?

A. I issued an instruction regarding the setting up of Jewish quarters.

I do not remember the date. As to the reasons and the necessity for that I shall have to answer the prosecutors questions.

Q. Did you introduce badges to mark the Jews?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you yourself introduce forced labour in the Government General?

A. Forced labour and compulsion to work was introduced by me in one of the first decrees, but it is quite clear from all the decrees and their wording that I only had in mind a labour service within the country for repairing the damage caused by the war, and for carrying out the community work necessary for the country itself, as was, of course, done by labour service in the Reich.

Q. Did you, as was stated by the prosecution, plunder libraries in the Government General?

A. I can answer that question emphatically with no. The largest and most valuable library which we found, the Jagellonian University Library in Cracow, which, thank God, was not destroyed, was transferred to a new library building on my own personal orders, and its entire collection, including the most ancient documents, was looked after with great care.

Q. Witness, did you as Governor General close down the universities in the Government General?

A. The universities in the Government General were closed when we arrived because of the war. The re-opening of the universities was prohibited by order of Adolf Hitler. I supplied the needs of the Polish and Ukrainian population by introducing courses of instruction for Polish and Ukrainian students which were, in fact, on a university level, which scheme the Reich Authorities did not criticise. The fact that there was an urgent need for native university trained men, particularly doctors, technicians, lawyers, teachers, etc., was the best guarantee that the Poles and Ukrainians would be allowed to continue university teaching to the extent which war conditions would allow.

Q. Witness, we were last speaking of the universities. Did you yourself, as Governor General, close the secondary schools?

A. My suggestion to re-open the high schools and secondary schools was rejected by Adolf Hitler. We helped to solve the problem by permitting secondary school education in a large number of private schools.

Q. Now, a basic question.

The prosecution accuses you of having plundered the country ruled by you as Governor General. What do you have to say to that?

A. Well, evidently that accusation embraces everything that happened in the

[Page 111]

economic sphere in that country as a result of the arrangements between the German Reich and the Government General. First, I would like to emphasise that the Government General had to start with a balance sheet which revealed a frightful economic situation. The country had approximately twelve million inhabitants. The area of the Government General was the least fertile part of the former Poland. Moreover, the boundary between the Soviet Union as well as the boundary between the German Reich and the Government General had been drawn in such a way that the most essential elements which were indispensable for the economic life were left outside. The frontiers between the Soviet Union and the German Reich were immediately closed and so right from the start we had to make something out of nothing.

Galicia, the most important area in the Republic of Poland from the viewpoint of food supplies, was given to the Soviet Union. The province of Posen belonged to the German Reich. The coal and industrial areas of Upper Silesia were within the German Reich. The frontier to Germany was drawn in such a way that the iron works in Czenstochowa remained with the Government General, whereas the iron-ore mines, which were ten kilometres from Czenstochowa, were incorporated into the German Reich.

The town of Lodz, the textile centre of Poland, came within the German Reich. The city of Warsaw, with a population of several millions, became a frontier town because the German border came as close as fifteen kilometres to Warsaw, and the result was that the entire agricultural hinterland was no longer at the disposal of that city. A great many more facts could be mentioned, but dealing with them would probably take us too far afield. The first thing we had to do was to set things going again somehow. During the first weeks the population of Warsaw could only be fed with the aid of German institutions and supplies for mass feeding. The German Reich at that time sera six hundred thousand tons of grain, as a loan, of course, and that created a heavy indebtedness for me.

I started the financial economy with twenty million zloti which had been advanced to me by the Reich. We started with a completely impoverished economy due to the devastation caused by the war and, by 1 January, 1944, the savings bank accounts of the native population had reached the amount of eleven and a half billions of zloti, and we bad succeeded by then in improving the feeding of the population to a certain extent. Furthermore at that time the factories and industrial centres had been reconstructed, to which reconstruction the Reich Authorities had made outstanding contributions - especially Reich Marshal Goring and Minister Speer deserve great credit for the help given in reviving the industries of the country. More than two million fully paid workers were employed; the harvest had increased to 1.6 million tons in a year; the yearly budget had increased from twenty mi1lion zloti in the year 1939 to 1.7 billion zloti. All this is only just a sketch which I submit here to describe the general development.

Q. Witness, in your capacity as Governor General did you persecute churches and religion in the areas which you had under your administration?

A. I was in constant personal contact with the Archbishop, now Cardinal Sabieha in Cracow. He told me of all his sufferings and worries and they were not few. I myself had to rescue the Bishop of Lublin from the hands of Herr Globocnik in order to save his life.

Q. You mean the S. S. Gruppenfuehrer Globocnik?

A. Yes, that is the one I mean.

But I may summarise the situation by quoting the letter which Archbishop Sabieha sent to me in 1942 in which, to use his own words, he thanked me for my tireless efforts to protect the life of the church. We reconstructed seminaries for priests and we investigated every case of arrest of a priest as far as that was humanly possible. The tragic incident of the shooting of two assistants of the Archbishop Sabieha, which has been mentioned here by the

[Page 112]

prosecution, stirred me very deeply. I cannot say any more. The churches were open, the seminaries were educating priests, the priests were in no way prevented from carrying out their functions. The Monastery at Czenstochowa was under my personal protection. The Cracow monastery of the Camedulians, which is a religious order, was also under my personal protection. There were large posters around the monastery indicating that these monasteries were protected by me personally.

Q. Witness, when did you hear for the first time about the concentration camp at Maidanek?

A. I heard the name Maidanek for the first time in 1944 from foreign reports. But for years there had been wild rumours about the camp near Lublin or in the Lublin district, if I may express myself in such a general way. Governor Zoerner once told me, I believe in 1941, that the S.S. intended to build a large concentration camp near Lublin and had applied for large quantities of building materials, etc. At that time I charged State Secretary Buehler to investigate the matter immediately, and I was told, and also received a report in writing from Reichsfuehrer S.S. Himmler, that he had to build a large camp for the Waffen S.S. who were going to manufacture clothes, footwear and underwear in large S.S. workshops. This camp went under the name oil "S.S. Works" or something similar.

Now, I wish to point out that I was in a position to get some information, whereas the witnesses who have testified so far have said under oath that in the circles of the Fuehrer nobody knew anything about all these things. We out there were more independent, and I heard quite a lot through enemy broadcasts and enemy and neutral papers. In answer to my repeated questions as to what happened to the Jews who were deported, I was always told they were to be sent to the East and put to work there. But the stench of the rumours seemed to penetrate the walls of secrecy and therefore I persisted in my investigations as to what was going on. Once a report came to me that there was something going on near Belsak. I went to Belsak the next day. Globocnik showed me an enormous ditch which he was having made as a protective wall and on which many thousands of workers, apparently Jews, were engaged. I spoke to some of them, asked them where they came from, how long they had been there and he told me, that is, Globocnik: They work here now and when they are through - they come from the Reich or somewhere in France - they will be sent further to the East." I did not make any further observations in that area.

The rumour, however, that the Jews were being killed in the manner which is now known to the entire world could not be silenced. When I expressed the wish to visit the S.S. workshop near Lublin in order to get some idea of the value of the work that was being done, I was told that special permission from Heinrich Himmler was required.

I asked Heinrich Himmler for this special permission. He said that he would urge me not to go to the camp. Again some time passed. On 7 February, 1944, I succeeded in being received by Adolf Hitler personally - I might add that throughout the war he only received me three times. In the presence of Bormann I put the question to him: "My Fuehrer, rumours persist about the extermination of the Jews. One hears them everywhere and we are prevented from making any investigations. Once I paid a surprise visit to Auschwitz in order to see the camp but I was told that there was an epidemic in the camp and my car was diverted before I got there. Tell me, my Fuehrer, is there anything in it?" The Fuehrer said, "You can very well imagine that there are executions going on - of insurgents. Apart from that I do not know anything. Why don't you speak to Heinrich Himmler about it?" And I said, "Well, Himmler has made a speech to us in Cracow and declared in front of all the people whom I had officially called to the meeting that these rumours about the systematic extermination of the Jews were false the Jews were

[Page 113]

merely being brought to the East." Thereupon the Fuehrer said, "Then you have to believe that."

When, in 1944, I got the first details from the foreign Press about the things which were going on, my first remark to the S.S. Obergruppenfuehrer Kopps, who had replaced Krueger, was: "Now we know," I said, "you will not be able to deny that." And he said that nothing was known to him about these things; apparently it was a matter between Heinrich Himmler and the camp office. "But," I said, "as early as 1941 I heard about such plans and I have spoken about them." So he said, "Well, that is your business," and that he could not worry about it.

The Maidanek Camp must have been run solely by the S.S. in the way I have mentioned, and, apparently, in the same manner as stated by the witness Hoess.

That is the only explanation that I can give.

Q. Therefore you did not know of the conditions in Treblinka, Auschwitz and other camps?

A. Did Treblinka belong to Maidanek - I do not know that - or is that a separate camp?

Q. I don't know; it seems to be a separate camp. Auschwitz was not in the area of the Government General.

A. I was never in Maidanek nor in Treblinka, nor in Auschwitz.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.