With one man possessing a photograph of his hanged father to ensure he is definitely dead, and another one refusing to condemn his father for his role in the Holocaust, two sons of Nazi officials came together last week for the first time on British soil, to debate the impact of their fathers’ crimes.
Mr von Wächter and Niklas Frank were both born in 1939 and had similar upbringings. Mr Frank’s father, Hans, was Governor-General of occupied Poland during the Second World War while Dr Otto von Wächter was a top civil servant in Poland, Spain and Italy. The two men’s attitudes to their fathers’ roles in the genocide could not be more opposite, as Mr Frank sees his father and his actions as evil, whereas Mr von Wächter believes his father was simply a victim of circumstance.
While von Wächter tries to find the good in his father, Mr Frank claimed that he was resisting the compelling evidence that showed his father’s involvement in the genocides, citing the example of Independence Day in Poland, 1939, whereby Otto von Wächter arrested 120 Polish men in advance, ready to shoot them if they tried to celebrate in any form. Mr von Wächter claimed, “For me it is impossible that [my father] would have done it… I cannot say my father was a criminal. I love him”. Otto was once listed among the “unholy ten” by the New York Times.
Niklas Frank last saw his father, Hans, in a Nuremberg prison cell in 1946 shortly before he was hanged. Absent throughout his childhood, his father once told him that his son was “not of this family”. After realising the extent of his father’s actions and involvement as a Nazi, he released a book that condemned his actions, making it the first time the child of a high-ranking Nazi had made such a public outcry. He claims he is haunted by the photographs of the victims.
The debate between the two men lasted two hours as they continuously repealed each other’s views on the controversial subject.