Recordings from trial with “chief symbol” of Nazi occupation K. H. Frank being restored

Archivists at Czech Radio have discovered 1,300 discs of recordings from the 1946 trial with Karl Hermann Frank, who was in charge of the Nazi security forces during the wartime occupation of Bohemia and Moravia. The discs are currently in the process of digitisation, making it possible to play the sounds for the first time in more than 70 years.

Karl Hermann Frank | Photo: public domain

Karl Hermann Frank was one of the highest ranking Nazis within the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia during the occupation of the Czech lands from March 1939 to May 1945. He was responsible for handling much of the Protectorate’s internal security and played an instrumental role in events such as the wiping out of the Lidice a Ležáky villages in 1942. Frank was arrested by US troops a day after the official end of the war in Europe and extradited to Czech authorities who subsequently tried and executed him by hanging a year later.

Historian Michal Pehr told Czech Radio that the trial had a symbolic meaning for Czech society at the time as it was a way through which people could come to terms with six years of Nazi occupation.

Michal Pehr | Photo: Ben Skála,  CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

“Karl Hermann Frank was the chief symbol of this occupation and the trial was therefore the subject of what we would call ‘great media attention’ in today’s terms.

“The execution was attended by around 5,000 people. Tickets to the hanging were in such high demand that they even became a part of the black market. It may seem hard to imagine for today’s society, but, back then, it was a sort of process of coming to terms with the past."

Miloslav Turek, who is tasked with digitising the material found in the archives of Czech Radio, says that there are 1,300 discs of recordings. With each disc containing about 3 minutes and 50 seconds of sound, he estimates that there is a total of 80 hours of material from the trial.

Czech Radio sound engineer Miloslav Turek | Photo: Kateryna Dedukh

“The whole trial was being recorded continuously with each respective magnetic tape having a runtime of around 20 minutes. In the evening they would make a half-hour programme out of these recordings, which would summarise the day’s events. Then, after several days, specific segments from the magnetic tape recordings would get selected and archived in the form of these disc recordings.”

The discs feature many of the testimonies that were provided during the trial. Some were given by those Czech students who were arrested and later sent to concentration camps following the Nazi crackdown on academic dissent in November 1939. Others by men such as Bernhard Voss, who set up the SS squad that executed nine selected leaders of the student movement.

Execution of Karl Hermann Frank | Photo: YouTube

While much of the history of Karl Hermann Frank’s trial and execution is already known, Michal Pehr says that the recordings are able to shed new light on specific details of the hearings.

“In this regard I would highlight how Kamil Resler, a very interesting figure on the Czech legal scene who was the designated as Frank’s lawyer, tried to fulfil his role professionally. Resler did so even though he was among those persecuted during the Nazi occupation.”

Recordings of the trial with Karl Hermann Frank are among many materials that archivists from Czech Radio have been digitising in recent years. Past projects have included the full digitisation of the show trial against Communist leader Rudolf Slanský, which began exactly 70 years ago. More details about the archive can be found here: