Wilhelm Frick was a senior Nazi Party official who served in Adolf Hitler’s cabinet as Minister of the Interior. Frick held the position until the collapse of the Third Reich in May 1945. Frick was arrested after the end of World War Two and tried at Nuremberg.
Wilhelm Frick was born on March 12th 1877 in Alsenz, Bavaria. After finishing school he studied law at Berlin, Munich and Gőttingen universities and was awarded a doctorate in law at Heidelberg University in 1901. Following this, Frick worked for the Bavarian Civil Service as a lawyer. He did not fight in World War One because of a medical condition.
After the war, Frick was director of the Munich criminal police force. This brought him into contact with Adolf Hitler as Hitler needed police permission to hold public political meetings. In view of the chaos that had existed in Bavaria in the immediate aftermath of World War One, such people were vetted for their beliefs in an effort to hunt out ‘Bolsheviks’. Frick found that he was drawn to Hitler’s beliefs and effectively became Hitler’s contact within the city’s police force. He joined the Nazi Party in September 1923 and claimed to be one of the original Nazis.
Frick took part in the November 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. He was assigned the task of taking over police headquarters during the putsch but during the actual march Frick was arrested at Hitler’s side. He was held for four months before being put on trial for treason. Frick was found guilty and given a suspended sentence of 15 months in prison. Hitler wrote about Frick in ‘Mein Kampf’ when he stated that Frick was one of the few men he knew who “had the courage to be German first and then officials”.
After the trial, Frick went into politics and was elected to the Reichstag in May 1924. Here he formed a friendship with fellow Nazi Gregor Strasser. By 1928, Frick was the Nazi Party’s parliamentary leader within the Reichstag.
Frick was the first Nazi to gain real political power. In 1930 he was appointed Minister of the Interior for the state of Thuringia after the Nazi Party won six delegates to the Thuringia Diet. In this position he removed from the Thuringia police force anyone he suspected of being a republican and replaced them with men who were favourable towards the Nazi Party. He also ensured that whenever an important position came up within Thuringia, he used his power to ensure that a Nazi was given that post. Frick was barely subtle in his approach and the blatant placement of Nazis into senior posts in Thuringia outraged Weimar’s Minister of the Interior, Carl Severing. He threatened to withdraw all the funding that the Thuringia police force got from Berlin unless Frick stopped his activities. Frick responded by threatening to disband the complete state police force and replace it with the SA. A court decision went in Frick’s favour and Severing had to climb down with regards to his threat of withdrawing funds.
As Minister of the Interior he banned Erich von Remarque’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ as Frick believed that it portrayed Germans as cowards. He also introduced highly nationalistic prayers into schools in Thuringia. For example:
“Father in Heaven,
I believe in thy almightiness, justice and love.
I believe in my beloved German people and Fatherland.
I know that godlessness and treason to the Fatherland have torn and destroyed our people.
I know that in spite of this the desire and power for liberty dwells in the spirit of the good.
I believe that this liberty will come, through the love of our Father in heaven, if we believe in our own power.”
When Hitler gained power in January 1933, he appointed Frick as Reich Minister of the Interior. Initially the title was grander than anything else as a lot of power within Germany was embedded at state level and not in Berlin.
This all changed with the passing of the Enabling Act in March 1933. This act resulted in a huge shift of power away from the states to central government in Berlin and in this case, effectively Hitler himself. The act also meant that Frick’s power also greatly increased and he was at the forefront of Hitler’s desire for “co-ordination” - Gleichschaltung. On March 31st 1933 all state diets were dissolved and forcibly reconstructed so that no communists were in any. On April 7th 1933, Frick enacted the ‘Law for the Restoration of the Civil Service’, which placed Nazis in all the senior positions. On June 19th 1933, Frick dissolved the Social Democratic Party for being “subversive”. He said that his task was to “put an end once and for all to the spirit of subversion that has gnawed long enough at Germany’s heart”. Frick summarised his beliefs very simply:
“Right is what benefits the German people; wrong is what harms them.”
After the Enabling Act, all state officials were responsible to Frick. In 1935 Frick was given the authority to appoint all mayors to cities/towns with a population of 100,000 or more. The only cities excluded were Berlin and Hamburg that were the preserve of Hitler. Frick played a key part in the passage of the Nuremberg Laws and other anti-Semite legislation. He also was involved in the rearmament campaign in Nazi Germany in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Frick extended universal military conscription to Austria after the 1938 Anschluss and then the occupied Czechoslovakia in March 1939.
However, so much power within Nazi Germany brought its own problems as Frick had to endure a power struggle with Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS. Himmler wanted to control Germany’s police force whereas Frick’s position gave him this authority. The problem was resolved by Hitler in 1936 when he handed control of the police to Himmler. This greatly reduced Frick’s position within Germany and he was eventually removed from the Ministry of the Interior when Himmler was appointed to this position in 1943.
Frick became Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Based in Prague, Frick ruthlessly hunted down those he believed were fighting against the Nazis.
After the end of World War Two, Frick was arrested and charged with planning wars of aggression, crimes against humanity and war crimes. He was accused of having full knowledge of the concentration camps. It is thought that Frick ordered around 100,000 people to be sent to one of them. During the trial in Nuremberg, before the International Military Tribunal, Frick refused to testify on his own behalf. He was found guilty on October 1st 1946 and executed on October 16th 1946.