Niklas Frank carries with him a photo of his late father.
But it’s not for love or fondness.
Rather, the photo shows the corpse of Hans Frank, a trusted adviser of Adolf Hitler and the Governor-General of Poland during the Nazi occupation in the Second World War, shortly after his execution for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Niklas Frank, 78, carries that grim photo as a reminder of the death of his father, but also that the hateful ideas he and other Nazis expressed are not dead in his native Germany.
“His bloody ideas are still alive in Germany, so therefore I have it with me,” Niklas Frank told CTV’s Your Morning Thursday. “He’s still alive in many brains of the Germans.”
Frank points to a recent election in which a new, right-wing party earned 13 per cent of the vote.
“What makes me furious is that the Germans, because of these unique crimes against humanity, we should know better how to deal with foreigners, how to deal with refugees, how to deal with our past. We didn’t learn anything from all the crimes we committed between 1933 and 1945.”
Hans Frank was Hitler’s private lawyer during the 1920s and 1930s, and became a member of his inner circle as he rose to power.
“He fell in love with Hitler and did everything to please Hitler,” says his son.
Hitler appointed Frank to lead the government after Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Niklas was just eight months old at the time.
His father eventually became known as the “Butcher of Poland” for his role leading the relocation of Polish Jews to ghettos and then to concentration camps, where it’s estimated at least 3 million Jewish citizens of Poland were murdered.
It’s believed at least 1.9 million non-Jewish civilians died as well, in the Nazi effort to quash resistance and eliminate the Polish culture and leadership.
According to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the German occupation of Poland was “exceptionally brutal. The Nazis considered Poles to be racially inferior.”
Niklas, the youngest of six children of Hans Frank, grew up to be a journalist and author who has spent his life speaking out against his father and his atrocities. He is in Toronto for Holocaust Education Week.
Niklas says he cannot forgive his father, whom he describes as a mass murderer.
“He was, by law, the deputy of Hitler in this occupied country and so he was responsible for every killing.”
The family lived a life of privilege and power during those years in Poland, says Niklas.
“I had a very happy childhood, as you can imagine. Everyone was giving us, my brother and me, a lot of toys. We were, really, very well off.”
It was only after his father’s arrest that he learned about the concentration camps through photos in a newspaper, he says.
“It was Poland, the results of it was really ours. Suddenly my father was connected with something evil,” he said.
“The more I found out, the more I despised my father.”
Though Hans Frank expressed remorse during the Nuremberg trials, he also said he didn’t know of the concentration camps until 1944, and that he had tried 14 times to resign his post.
Niklas recalls a last visit to his father before his execution in October 1946. Asked what they shared in those last moments, he answered: “No love. I came knowing that this would be my last visit. I was sitting on my mother’s lap and he was sitting behind the window with small holes so we could understand each other,” he said.
“And he lied to me, you see. He smiled at me and said, ‘Hi Niky. Soon we will celebrate Christmas in our house and I’m looking forward to it.’ And I was sitting there and thinking why is he lying? Why is he lying? He knows he will be dead very soon. And it was very disappointing for me.”
Niklas says his father didn’t write a single sentence against Jews in his youth diaries, but because Hitler espoused such hate, “he did everything in his power to kill Jews.”