Former Mere resident Wolfe Frank – Nuremberg’s Voice of Doom – is to be honoured with a blue plaque . . . and his later role as The Undercover Nazi Hunter will be highlighted at next month’s Mere Literary Festival.
Salisbury Civic Society has confirmed that former Mere resident Wolfe Frank, whow as Chief Interpreter at the Nuremberg Trials after the the end of the Second World War, is to be honoured with a blue plaque.
This will be fixed to Wolfe’s former home, The Malt House in Castle Street, Mere. It is hoped the unveiling ceremony will take place on the 20 November 2020 which will be the 75th anniversary of the start of both the Nuremberg Trials and the introduction of simultaneous interpretation. Now routinely used all over the world, especially at institutions such as the UN and the EU, the pioneering and revolutionary technique of simultaneous translation Wolfe Frank launched that day was not only a triumph beyond all expectations but it shortened proceedings at ‘History’s Greatest Trial’ by over three years.
The Nuremberg Trials were the military tribunals that the major Allies – Britain, USA, Russia and France – put in place after the Second World War to prosecute prominent members of the political, military, judicial and economic leadership of Nazi Germany who had planned, carried out, or otherwise participated in the Holocaust and other war crimes.
The first and most high profile of the trials was held in the Palace of Justice at Nuremberg between 20 November 1945 and 1 October 1946. Twenty-four of the most important political and military leaders of the Third Reich were put on trial these included: Hermann Goering – Commander of the Luftwaffe, Hitler’s designated deputy and architect of the Holocaust; Rudolf Hess – Deputy Fuehrer until 1941 and the third most powerful man in Nazi Germany; and Joachim Von Rippentrop – Hitler’s Foreign Minister who was convicted for his role in starting the Second World War and enabling the Holocaust.
Frank, who was implicitly trusted by the judges, the prosecution, defence lawyers and prisoners alike, translated the trials’ opening remarks, which were broadcast live on world radio. Thereafter he was used more than any other interpreter, translating one third of the six million words used during the first series of trials alone.
Due to his exceptional skills he was the only interpreter who could be used in both the English and the German booths and he was the lead translator throughout the pre-trial investigations and interrogations, during which time he drew many confessions from the Nazi war criminals that were used as evidence during the proceedings. Following his announcing of the death sentences, listened to live by a radio audience of several hundred million, Frank became known as ‘The Voice of Doom’.
Prior to the war he had been a playboy turned resistance worker and he was forced to flee Germany for England in 1937 having been branded an ‘enemy of the state – to be shot on sight’. Initially interned as an ‘enemy alien’, he was later released and allowed to join the British Army – where he rose to the rank of Captain. Unable to speak English when he arrived in this country, by the time of the trials he was considered to be the finest interpreter in the world.
Frank as The Undercover Nazi Hunter
Following his hugely popular talk about the life and times of Wolfe Frank at last year’s Mere Literary Festival, at which there was standing room only, Gillingham-based historian and author Paul Hooley returns to this year’s MLF to talk about The Undercover Nazi Hunter, his second volume of edited memoirs taken from Frank’s archives. The presentation will take place at 2.00 pm in St Michael’s Church, Church Street, Mere BA12 6DS on Wednesday 9th October (Admission £7.00 – tickets available via www.mereliteraryfestival.com).
In introducing the man, his life and achievements Mr Hooley recently said: ‘Wolfe Frank was a brave, unique, complex and charismatic character, whose contributions and dedication to his adopted country and the free world have largely been forgotten or have been overlooked. Salisbury Civic Society’s decision to have a blue plaque placed on the wall of his former home in Mere is therefore wonderful news, and this will ensure that from now on the achievements of “a wrongfully forgotten hero of the 20th Century” will be more widely and appropriately recognized and appreciated’.
Frank was born on St Valentine’s Day in 1913. A strikingly handsome man, irresistible to women – he was married five times and had a multitude of affairs – and in a packed lifetime, other than being a gifted linguist, he was also at various times, a businessman, racing driver, skier, theatre impresario, actor, television and radio presenter, journalist, salesman, financier, restaurateur, and property developer.
In the months following his service at Nuremberg, Frank became increasingly alarmed at the misinformation coming out of Germany, so in 1949 backed by the New York Herald Tribune he risked his life again by returning to the country of his birth to make an ‘undercover’ survey of the main facets of post-war German life and viewpoints.
The result was an acclaimed series of articles that appeared under the generic title of ‘Hangover After Hitler’. The articles included many unexpected revelations and dramatic surprises’ including the account of how Frank single handedly tracked down, arrested and interrogated Waldemar Wappenhans. He was ranked 4th on the Allies ‘most wanted’ list of missing war criminals and was the Nazi General Heinrich Himmler had decided would head the SS in Great Britain if Germany won the war.
Subtitled ‘Exposing Subterfuge and Unmasking Evil in Post-War Germany’ The Undercover Nazi Hunter not only reproduces Frank’s published series of articles and a translation of Wappenhans’s Confession – a hugely important historical document which, until now, has never been seen in the public domain – it also reveals the fascinating behind-the-scenes story of a great American newspaper agonizing over how best to deal with this unique opportunity and these important exposés.
*Nuremberg’s Voice of Doom (£19.99) and The Undercover Nazi Hunter (£25) are published by Frontline/Pen & Sword Books and are obtainable on-line from P&S Books, Amazon, Daily Express Books and many other internet suppliers and from all leading bookshops including Waterstones, Foyles and W H Smith.