Wilhelm Frick (12 March 187716 October 1946) was a prominent German Nazi official serving as Minister of the Interior of the Third Reich. After the end of World War II, he was tried for war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials and executed. Besides Adolf Hitler himself, he and Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk were the only members of the Third Reich's cabinet to serve continuously from Hitler's appointment as Chancellor until his death.
Early life and family
Frick was born in Alsenz, Bavaria, Germany, the last of four children of teacher Wilhelm Frick the elder and his wife Henriette (n e Schmidt). He was educated in Kaiserslautern and studied jurisprudence at Heidelberg, graduating in 1901. He joined the Bavarian civil service in 1903, working as a lawyer at the police headquarters in Munich. He was made a Bezirksamtassessor in 1907 and rose to the position of Regierungsassessor by 1917.
In 1910, Frick married Elisabetha Emilie Nagel (1890 1978) in Pirmasens. They had two sons and a daughter. The marriage ended in an ugly divorce in 1934. Later that year Frick remarried, to Margarete Schultze-Naumburg (1896 1960), the former wife of Paul Schultze-Naumburg. Margarete gave birth to a son and a daughter.
Frick finished school in Kaiserslautern. Between 1896 and 1900, he studied at the University of Munich, the University of G ttingen and the University of Berlin and completed his degree in law in Munich. Frick earned a doctor of laws from the University of Heidelberg in 1901.
Wilhelm Frick joined the NSDAP in September 1925 and worked for an insurance company. He took part in the Beer Hall Putsch (November 1923), at which time he was director of the Munich Kriminalpolizei. He was one of those arrested and imprisoned for the putsch and was tried for treason before the People's Court in April 1924. He was given a suspended sentence of 15 months' imprisonment and was dismissed from his police job. Frick was elected to the Reichstag in May 1924 and associated himself with the radical Gregor Strasser; he climbed to posts of leadership in the NSDAP, becoming Fraktionsf hrer (parliamentary leader) in 1928.
Wilhelm Frick was appointed Minister of the Interior and of Education in the state government of Thuringia during 1930 31, being the first Nazi to hold any ministerial-level post in pre-Nazi Germany. Press session after the first meeting of Hitler's cabinet on 30 January 1933: Frick standing third from right When Hitler came to power in January 1933, Frick was appointed as Reich Minister of the Interior. He was one of only three Nazis in the original Hitler Cabinet, the others being Hitler and Hermann G ring, as minister without portfolio. He initially had far less power than his counterparts in the rest of Europe. For example, he had no authority over the police. In Germany, law enforcement has traditionally been a state and local matter.
Frick's power dramatically increased as a result of the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act of 1933. He was responsible for drafting many of the "Gleichschaltung" laws that consolidated the Nazi regime. Under the Law for the Reconstruction of the Reich, which converted Germany into a highly centralized state, the state governors were responsible to him. By 1935, he also had sole power to appoint the mayors of all municipalities with populations greater than 100,000 (except for Berlin and Hamburg, where Hitler reserved the right to appoint the mayors).
Frick was instrumental in passing laws against Jewish people, like the notorious Nuremberg Laws, in September 1935. Frick took a leading part in Germany's re-armament in violation of the Versailles Treaty. He drafted laws introducing universal military conscription and extending the military service law to Austria after the Anschluss, as well as to the annexed regions of Czechoslovakia. In the summer 1938 Wilhelm Frick was named the patron (Schirmherr) of the Deutsches Turn- und Sportfest in Breslau, a patriotic sports festival attended by Hitler and all the Nazi top brass. In this event he presided the ceremony of "handing over" the new Nazi Sports Office standard (Banner berf hrung) to Hans von Tschammer und Osten, marking the further nazification of sports in Germany.
From the mid-to-late 1930s Frick lost favour irreversibly within the Nazi Party after a power struggle involving attempts to resolve the lack of coordination within the Reich government. For example, in 1933 he tried to restrict the widespread use of "protective custody" orders that were used to send people to concentration camps, only to be begged off by SS chief Heinrich Himmler. His power was greatly reduced in 1936 when Hitler named Himmler chief of all German police forces. This effectively united the police with the SS and made it virtually independent of Frick's control, since Himmler was responsible only to Hitler. A long-running power struggle between the two culminated in Frick being replaced by Himmler as interior minister in 1943.
Frick's replacement as Reich interior minister did not reduce, however, the growing administrative chaos and infighting between party and state agencies. Frick was then appointed to the ceremonial post of Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Prague, the capital of the protectorate, where Frick used ruthless methods to counter dissent, was one of the last Axis-held cities to fall at the end of World War II in Europe.
Trial and execution
Body of Wilhelm Frick after his execution Frick was arrested and trialed before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, where he was the only defendant besides Rudolf Hess who refused to testify on his own behalf. For his role in formulating the Enabling Act as Minister of the Interior, the later Nuremberg Laws (as co-author with Wilhelm Stuckart), that led to people under those laws being sent to German concentration camps, Frick was convicted of planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Frick was also accused of being one of the highest persons responsible for the existence of the concentration camps. Wilhelm Frick was sentenced to death on 1 October 1946, and was hanged about two weeks later on 16 October. Of his execution, journalist Joseph Kingsbury-Smith wrote:
Notes and references
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