12 February 2021
A brace of books from Frontline reveal how Nazi war criminals were tracked down and prosecuted.
On Valentine’s Day you probably aren’t thinking about the end of WWII and hunting down Nazi war criminals but a pair of books from Frontline will give you the opportunity to do just that. The man who was given the task of both translating the speech of those on trial at Nuremberg, and later of exposing subterfuge and evil in post-war Germany, was actually born in Bavaria on St. Valentine’s Day in 1913 (and there’s your spurious link).
The memoirs of Wolfe Frank, which lay hidden in an attic for 25 years, are a unique and highly moving behind-the-scenes account of all that happened at Nuremberg as seen through the eyes of a witness to the entire proceedings. They include important historical information never previously revealed. In an extraordinarily explicit life story, Frank includes his personal encounters, inside and outside the courtroom, with Goering, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Ley, Speer, Hess, et al. This book therefore is a unique record that adds substantially to what is already publicly known about the trials and the defendants.
Involved in proceedings from day one and used more than any other interpreter, Frank translated the first piece of evidence and concluded the trials by announcing the sentences to the defendants (and several hundred million radio listeners). This earned him the soubriquet ‘Voice of Doom’.
As an interrogator, he drew many confessions out of the war criminals including Otto Ohlendorf’s admission to ‘humanely’ killing 90,000 Jews with his mobile gas chambers.
Prior to the war, Frank, a man of Jewish descent, was a Bavarian playboy who, for over three years, managed to avoid giving the Nazi salute, even on the many occasions he was in Hitler’s presence. He was also an engineer, a resistance worker, a smuggler (of money and Jews out of Germany) and he was declared to be an enemy of the State to be shot on sight. Having escaped to Britain and been interned at the outbreak of war he successfully campaigned for his release and to be allowed to enlist in the British Army – in which he rose to the rank of Captain. Unable to speak English prior to his arrival, by the time of the Nuremberg trials he was described as being the: ‘Finest interpreter in the world’.
- Nuremberg’s Voice of Doom
- Frontline Books
- ISBN 978-1-5267-3751-9
- 224 pages. Hardback. £19.99
Following on from that, the sequel is called The Undercover Nazi Hunter. In the months following his service at history’s greatest trials, Frank became increasingly alarmed at the misinformation coming out of Germany, so in 1949 backed by the New York Herald Tribune he risked his life again by returning to the country of his birth to make an undercover survey of the main facets of post-war German life and viewpoints. During this enterprise he worked as a German alongside Germans in factories, on the docks, in a refugee camp and elsewhere. Equipped with false papers he sought objective answers to many questions including: the refugee crisis; anti-Semitism; morality, de-Nazification; religion; and nationalism.
The result was an acclaimed series of articles that appeared under the generic title of Hangover After Hitler. The NYHT said at the time: ‘A fresh appraisal of the German question could only be obtained by a German and Mr Frank had all the exceptional qualifications necessary. We believe the result of his undercover work told in human, factual terms, is an important contribution to one of the great key problems of the post-war world – and incidentally it contains some unexpected revelations and dramatic surprises’.
The greatest of those surprises was Frank single handedly tracking down and arresting Waldemar Wappenhans ranked 4th on the Allies wanted list and taking and transcribing the confession of the Nazi who Himmler had decided would be Head of SS in Great Britain if Germany won the war.
- The Undercover Nazi Hunter
- Frontline Books
- ISBN 978-1-5267-3873-8
- 352 pages. Hardback. £25
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