I have a coworker who is borderline obsessed with the Holocaust — she’s still in college and wants to make it her main focus of study. I was a history major as well — although I focused mainly on the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War — so we discuss her classes and what she’s learning (both in class and on her own) often at work. She knows I’m a big reader, so when she heard of Niklas Frank’s biography of his father, Hans Frank, in a documentary, she bought a copy and lent it to me.
I took a while to start reading it, primarily because it was a hardback book and I hate lugging hardbacks around (since I bring a book with me everywhere). Plus, it honestly looked dull. Hans Frank was Hitler’s personal attorney and the Governor General of Poland. I’ve read a lot of books concerning the Holocaust, both fiction and non-fiction, but I tend to read those that tell the stories of the victims, not their oppressors.
But she kept bugging me about reading it, so I finally picked the damn thing up. I’m glad I did. This was probably one of the strangest books I’ve ever read, but I could not put it down.
Like I said, Hans Frank was Governor General of Poland. His son, Niklas, who wrote the book, was about seven years old when Hans was hanged for his crimes. Niklas grew up hearing how his father was a hero among the German people and when Niklas’s mother published his father’s memoirs, the praise grew even more.
It wasn’t until Niklas grew up and moved to America that he began to realize who his father really was. He researched Hans, read every single thing the man ever wrote and from this research, he wrote his father’s biography. He wrote about how horrible his father was, the crimes he committed for Hitler’s vision and how he never felt guilt about a single damn thing he ever did. He exposed his father’s lies — both public and the lies he wrote in his diaries after he knew he would be put on trial. He insults his father, his mother and everyone else involved in the horrors of the Holocaust. He explains how his father had multiple opportunities to either step down from his post, or how he could have used his post to HELP people, but chose to continue doing what he did in order to stay in Hitler’s good graces.
In The Shadow Of The Reich is rather bizarre because Niklas insults his father over and over — calls him a son of a bitch, a cuckold and a fat face. He reprints his father’s diary entries and inserts his own commentary. The book is funny. Really. The lengths he goes to to hurt his father’s reputation and image and the language he invents to insult him had me actually laughing. But the crimes his father and his father’s friends committed were, of course, horrific. I was unaware of a lot of what his father oversaw in Poland, and the book was definitely an education in those events. It’s the ultimate in dark humor, black comedy.
Like I said, a strange book. But worth reading.