After years of deep research and undercover work in Germany, a private American citizen posing as a neo-Nazi sympathizer has implicated Bernhard Frank, alleged to be the high-ranking Nazi officer who signed the “start order” that commenced the genocide of Europe’s Jewish population.
Having met Frank and gained his trust over four years, Holocaust scholar Mark Gould confronted the SS Colonel last Thursday during a videotaped meeting in Frankfurt, Germany, listing his alleged crimes against humanity and presenting a copy of a lawsuit newly filed in U.S. Federal Court in the District of Columbia.
“It’s been over six decades since Bernhard Frank took a pivotal role in the Nazis’ extermination program, but given the cover-up of his identity and the lack of criminal remedies, this led to the decision to file a civil suit and to publish his crimes — at the very least, allowing the civilized world to recognize and condemn his deeds,” said Gould, whose Jewish relatives were among those murdered as a result of the orders signed by Frank.
The civil action charges Frank with genocide, torture, kidnapping, and crimes against humanity. The suit was brought by Gould along with Burton Bernstein, the brother of composer Leonard Bernstein, both of whose relatives were murdered during the Holocaust.
“We believe that this case is unprecedented and historic in that it represents the first time that heirs of those murdered by Nazi atrocities have brought civil suit against one of the perpetrators of the Holocaust,” stated Gould’s lead attorney, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. “There have been criminal prosecutions, but no one has ever located a Nazi war criminal and brought a civil suit. For those long frustrated by the criminal justice system, this provides a bold new approach for survivors to take action, hunt war criminals themselves and prosecute them in civil court.”
Co-counsel Robert Tolchin agrees that, “in the history of Holocaust cases, institutions have been sued, but never a victim suing an individual perpetrator.”
Gould, with the consensus of international academics, asserts that now-97-year-old Frank was a senior official of the Nazi elite Schutzstaffe (SS) who rose to the rank of Obersturmbannfuhrer (Lieutenant Colonel), reporting directly to Himmler and later to Hitler. In videotaped interviews, Frank himself confirms that, on July 28, 1941, he personally signed the “start order” allowing the first mass execution of Jews in the Pripjet Swamps near the Polish, Belarussian/Ukrainian border. This effectively served as the flashpoint of the Holocaust.