Karl Hanke (August 24, 1903May, 1945) was a Nazi Party official who served as Gauleiter of Lower Silesia from 1940 to 1945 and was also a key member of Joseph Goebbels's Propagandaministerium throughout the years of the Third Reich. He was a Reserve Wehrmacht officer, serving in the German Army from 1940 to 1944 and was also a member of the Allgemeine-SS (General SS).
Hanke was instrumental in shaping Albert Speer's early career in the Nazi Party and both remained close friends. So much so in fact that in 1944 (according to Albert Speer's book Inside the Third Reich), Hanke strongly advised Speer never to visit Auschwitz for any reason as he had “seen something that he was not allowed to describe and indeed could not describe.”
According to Speer in Inside the Third Reich, Hanke also had a love affair with Magda Goebbels after her husband, Joseph Goebbels, had an affair with a film star. However, Speer describes their relationship as more of a “revenge affair” on Magda's part after learning of her husband's infidelity.
Karl Hanke is best known as the last Reichsführer-SS, replacing Heinrich Himmler on April 20, 1945. Just eight days before, he had been honored with Nazi Germany's highest decoration, the German Order. Hanke's assumption to the rank of Reichsführer-SS was as a result of Adolf Hitler proclaiming Himmler as a traitor and stripping Himmler of all his offices and ranks and ordering his arrest.
Karl Hanke was never to receive word of his promotion to the highest possible SS rank, as he was captured by either Czech or Polish partisans and executed sometime in May of 1945.