Wilhelm Frick - Reich Minister

Reich Minister

When Reich President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor on 30 January 1933, Frick joined his government as Reich Minister of the Interior. Together with Reichstag Speaker Hermann Göring, he was one of only two Nazi Reich Ministers in the original Hitler Cabinet, and the only one who actually had a portfolio; Göring served as minister without portfolio until May 5. A mighty rival arose in the establishment of the Propaganda Ministry under Joseph Goebbels on March 13. Though Frick held a key position, especially in organizing the federal elections of March 1933, he initially had far less power than his counterparts in the rest of Europe, with no authority over the police as in Germany law enforcement has traditionally been a State and local matter. This changed, when he was also appointed Prussian State Minister of the Interior under Minister-President Göring in May 1934.

Frick's power increased as a result of the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act of 1933. He was responsible for drafting many of the Gleichschaltung laws that consolidated the Nazi regime. By presidential emergency decree, he had the civil and political rights guaranteed by the Weimar Constitution supressed and established the office of Reichskommissare to disempower the State's governments. Under the Law for the Reconstruction of the Reich converting Germany into a highly centralized state, the newly implemented Reichsstatthalter state governors were directly responsible to him. By 1935, he also had sole power to appoint the mayors of all municipalities with populations greater than 100,000 (except for the city states of Berlin and Hamburg, where Hitler reserved the right to appoint the mayors for himself).

Frick was instrumental in the racial policy of Nazi Germany drafting laws against Jewish citizens, like the "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service" and the notorious Nuremberg Laws in September 1935. Already in July 1933, he had implemented the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring including forced sterilizations, which later cuilminated in the killings of the Action T4 "euthansia" programme supported by his ministry. Frick also took a leading part in Germany's re-armament in violation of the 1919 Versailles Treaty. He drafted laws introducing universal military conscription and extending the Wehrmacht service law to Austria after the 1938 Anschluss, as well as to the "Sudetenland" territories of the First Czechoslovak Republic annexed according to the Munich Agreement.

In the summer 1938 Wilhelm Frick was named the patron (Schirmherr) of the Deutsches Turn- und Sportfest in Breslau, a patriotic sports festival attended by Hitler and all the Nazi top brass. In this event he presided the ceremony of "handing over" the new Nazi Reich Sports League (NSRL) standard to Reichssportführer Hans von Tschammer und Osten, marking the further nazification of sports in Germany.

From the mid-to-late 1930s Frick lost favour irreversibly within the Nazi Party after a power struggle involving attempts to resolve the lack of coordination within the Reich government. For example, in 1933 he tried to restrict the widespread use of "protective custody" orders that were used to send people to concentration camps, only to be begged off by SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler. His power was greatly reduced in 1936 when Hitler named Himmler chief of all German police forces. This effectively united the police with the SS and made it virtually independent of Frick's control, since Himmler was responsible only to Hitler. A long-running power struggle between the two culminated in Frick being replaced by Himmler as interior minister in 1943.

Frick's replacement as Reich interior minister did not reduce, however, the growing administrative chaos and infighting between party and state agencies. Frick was then appointed to the ceremonial post of Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Its capital Prague, where Frick used ruthless methods to counter dissent, was one of the last Axis-held cities to fall at the end of World War II in Europe.

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