Niklas Frank (born 9 March 1939) is a German author and journalist best known for an intimate and strongly accusatory book about his father, Hans Frank, the Nazi lawyer who became Governor-General of occupied Poland during World War II.
Niklas Frank was born in Munich on 9 March 1939 to Hans Frank and Brigitte Herbst as the youngest of five siblings. His brothers and sisters were Sigrid (1927), Norman (1928), Brigitte (1935), and Michael (1937). When Niklas was about eight months old, his father was appointed Hitler's 'Governor-General' of the Polish rump state. In this position, Hans Frank became responsible for the Nazi policy of enslaving the Poles and exterminating the Polish Jews. Niklas grew up in Cracow, Poland. He was seven years old when his father received the death penalty and was executed (16 October 1946). His mother died in 1959. Niklas studied German literature, sociology, and history, and became a journalist, working for the German edition of Playboy and for the weekly Stern. Over the course of the years, his initial embarrassment about his father developed into a "burning, obsessive hatred" as he uncovered minute details of his father's life during a 40-year search. In the early 1990s, Frank was still working as a journalist, after a distinguished career during which he interviewed, among others, the Polish trade-union leader, Lech Wałęsa.
Niklas Frank contributed as a writer to the 1967 film A Degree of Murder and also to the 1973 Tatort television series episode Weißblaue Turnschuhe, but this would not have earned him lasting fame. In 1987, however, he published a book about his father, Der Vater: Eine Abrechnung ("The Father: A Settling of Accounts"), translated into English as In the Shadow of the Reich (1991). This book, serialized in the magazine Stern, caused controversy in Germany because of the unheard-of, savage way in which its author sought to utterly destroy the memory of his father, referring to him as "a slime-hole of a Hitler fanatic" and questioning his remorse before his execution. Together with the Israeli author, Joshua Sobol, Frank later wrote the play Der Vater (The Father), commissioned for the Wiener Festwochen (Vienna Festival). It was first performed in 1995 at the 'Theater an der Wien' and directed by Paulus Manker. In it, the son exhumes the putrid corpse of his father Hans and revivifies him to answer for his deeds, while his 'phallic mother' (Brigitte) and Hitler are played by one and the same person. Having thus dealt with his father, Niklas Frank entirely concentrated on his mother, the once 'Queen of Poland', in his book "My German Mother" (2005), which reads in part like a brilliant satire of high-ranking Nazi women. He concluded his trilogy with "Brother Norman!" (2013), reporting the painful discussions with his eldest and favorite brother, who had died three years before, on their diverging views of a youth spent in occupied Poland and on filial love.
Appearances in documentaries
Niklas Frank appears as himself in the 1993 television documentary Personenbeschreibung and also in the 2012 film, Hitler's Children. He also appeared in a 2015 BBC documentary which was shown as an episode of Independent Lens, My Nazi Legacy: What Our Fathers Did that aired in May 2016. An April 2017 BBC HARDtalk programme was dedicated to him.
- Frank, Niklas (1991). In the Shadow of the Reich. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-394-58345-7.
- Benesch, Susan (1 November 1991). "In the Shadow of the Reich, by Niklas Frank". The Washington Monthly. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Nagorski, Andrew (23 January 2000). "There's No End of History". Newsweek. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
- Sands, Philippe (2012). "In the Shadow of the Reich". walesartsreview.org. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
- Steiner, John M. (1975). Power Politics and Social Change in National Socialist Germany (in German). The Hague, The Netherlands: Mouton & Co. ISBN 90-279-7651-1.
- McGlothlin, Erin H. (2006). Second-Generation Holocaust Literature: Legacies of Survival and Perpetration. Rochester, NY: Camden House.