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Karl Hanke (b. August 24, 1903 in Lauban, d. June 8, 1945 in Neudorf), Gauleiter and Reichsfuehrer-SS.

By profession a teacher, Hanke joined the Nazi party in 1928. In 1931 he was discharged from his teaching position because of his political activities. From the beginning of his party membership he cultivated a friendship with Göbbels who saw to his advancement through the party ranks. Hanke was elected to the Reichstag in 1932. After the Nazis came to power he was rapidly promoted in the Propaganda Ministry and the Education Department, but his ascendancy came to an end in 1939 because of a personal conflict with Göbbels. In the summer of the same year Hanke volunteered for combat service.

After being released from the army with the rank of Officer, he was appointed by Hitler as Gauleiter of Lower Silesia and stationed in Breslau. In this capacity, he initiated the expulsion of the Jews under his jurisdiction well before the Wansee conference, establishing camps in Riebnig, Gruessau and Tormersdorf. Later on, NSDAP officials under his command assisted the Gestapo in the deportation of the Jewish population of Lower Silesia to the Theresienstadt Ghetto and to the extermination camps in the East.

During his term of office he was known for his cruelty to opponents of the Nazi regime and for his tenacious defense of Breslau in the face of the Red Army's advance in 1945. The city, declared a fortress of the Reich, was completely destroyed in the battle and the population was inflicted with egregious and needless suffering.

Hanke's zealous devotion to the Nazi party and to the Führer impressed Hitler who appointed him Supreme Commander of the SS in Himmler's stead. Shortly before the capitulation of Breslau he succeeded in escaping from the city. It appears that Hanke was subsequently captured and shot to death by Czech guards in an attempt to flee.

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