WASHINGTON (CN) – In a complaint of crimes against humanity, documentary filmmaker Mark Gould claims he befriended “the last senior member of Himmler’s personal staff within the Nazi regime openly living in Germany today,” and recorded more than 100 hours of interviews, in which Bernhard Frank “willingly describes his role and deeds in the SS and his involvement in perpetrating the destruction of European Jewry.”
Gould, of Newport Beach, Calif., and co-plaintiff Burton Bernstein, a former staff writer for The New Yorker and Gould’s cousin, both lost ancestors and family members in the Holocaust. They demand punitive damages from 97-year-old Frank, of Schmitten, Germany, for genocide, war crimes, torture, crimes against humanity and the extrajudicial killings of their families.
According to their 34-page federal complaint, Frank was a senior officer in Hitler’s SS, and served as a central administrator for the Nazi effort to exterminate European Jews; he reported directly to Heinrich Himmler and Hitler, and gave orders to have Jews “annihilated ruthlessly.” Among Frank’s victims, they say, were dozens of Gould’s and Bernstein’s ancestors.
Despite the fact that Frank managed Heinrich Himmler’s war diary, Gould says, Frank is “the last senior member of Himmler’s personal staff within the Nazi regime openly living in Germany today,” yet has managed to evade criminal prosecution.
Gould says he recorded his 100 hours of interviews with Frank over the course of four years. New York Times reporter Michael Slackman reported this week that Gould posed as a neo-Nazi to befriend Frank and record their conversations.
According to Gould and Bernstein’s complaint, Frank joined the SS (schutzstaffe) in 1933 and was selected by Himmler to teach SS soldiers Nazi ideology, then was assigned to plan SS operations, reporting “directly to Himmler and later to Hitler.”
“The defendant’s official duties within Himmler’s personal field staff included: troop leadership (operation order and special directives), organization (without rear services), ideological training, engineering matters, transports, aerial defense, gas defense, situation maps, and recording entries in the war diary, war files and map center,” according to the complaint.
“In his senior position, the defendant signed some of the most historic Nazi documents recording the commencement of the genocide program against the Jewish population and also putting these murderous campaigns into action.”
The men say Frank also helped cover up the genocide, referring to Jews in the war diary as an “opposing political system,” and refusing to record cases in which hundreds of innocent and unarmed Jewish men, women and children were slaughtered.
The complaint details a particularly brutal order Frank signed, involving a “mopping up exercise” of the Jewish population of the Prypiat Marshes region in Southern Belarus, where by Frank’s own record more than 30,000 people were killed by the SS.
In the war diary, Frank referred to these Jews as “plunderers” and “partisans.”
In another instance, Gould and Bernstein claim Frank told SS forces that Jews were the “best transmitters of messages” to partisans and that “if there is the slightest suspicion about this, the Jews of the villages in question have to be annihilated ruthlessly.”
“The 100-plus hours of interviews conducted by the plaintiff Mark B. Gould reveal the defendant to be an unrepentant and unremorseful true believer in the Nazi ideology and the righteousness of the past involvement in the genocide program,” the men say in their complaint.
Gould and Bernstein say Frank issued orders on July 28, 1941 that resulted in SS forces murdering their ancestors in Korets, Ukraine.
According to the New York Times, Frank has never been accused of war crimes and is not regarded as a war criminal by German authorities.
Gould and Bernstein seeks compensatory and punitive damages for genocide, war crimes, torture, crimes against humanity and the extrajudicial killing of their family.
They are represented by Robert Tolchin with Berkman Law in Brooklyn.