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Sunday, September 17, 2006

How the Germans interrogated Allied POW's

The Luftwaffe Interrogators
Dulag Luft - Oberursel

"Durchgangslager der Luftwaffe" or "Transit Camp of the Luftwaffe" was called Dulag Luft by the POWs. It was located at Oberursel (13 km north-west of Frankfurt-am-Main with a population of about 20,000) and was recognized as the greatest interrogation center in all of Europe. Nearly all captured Allied airmen were sent there to be interrogated before being assigned to a permanent prison camp. While at Dulag Luft - Oberursel the prisoners were kept in solitary confinement. The average stay in solitary was one or two weeks. According to the Geneva convention a prisoner could not be kept in solitary confinement for interrogation purposes for more than 28 days. Of my Dad's crew, Dr. Kuptsow, Randy Anderson and Dad were all kept in excess of 25 days!! With the large Bomber crews they would typically pick a few of the crew to hold longer and press for information and rapidly process the other crew members through and on to a permanent camp. This is one of the few things we remember our Dad commenting on concerning his POW days. We can still see him shaking his head and saying how horrible solitary confinement was. He was locked all alone in a dark cell with nothing to do, see, read or listen to for 24 hours a day, day after day !!

Excerpts from the book "Kriegie" by Kenneth W. Simmons, published 1960.

"At Dulag Luft each prisoner was studied by several psychologists in order to learn his likes, dislikes, habits and powers of resistance. The method of procedure was then determined, and the machinery was set into operation to destroy his mental resistance in the shortest possible time. If the prisoner showed signs of fright or appeared nervous, he was threatened with all kinds of torture, some of which were carried out, and he was handled in a rough manner. Others were bribed by luxuries. They were traded clean clothes, good living quarters, food and cigarettes for answers to certain questions. Those who could neither be swayed nor bribed were treated with respect and handled with care in the interrogator's office, but were made to suffer long miserable hours of solitary confinement in the prison cells.

Nothing was overlooked by the German interrogators. They studied the results of each interview, and devised new methods to gain the desired information. Allied Air Corps Intelligence started a counter attack against Dulag Luft by training every flier in its command on how to act as a prisoner of war. Every method used to gain information from prisoners was illustrated with films and lectures. (see our Documents page for examples) Interviews between prisoners and their interrogators were clearly demonstrated to bring out the tactics of the German interrogators. Name, rank and serial number became the byword of the counterattack. Men were drilled and trained by Intelligence until they knew exactly what to expect and what to do. Patriotism and loyalty were stressed, and American airmen were shown the results of information the Germans had secured from prisoners at Dulag.

The camp was built on level ground. There were large white rocks that covered the length of the front lawn forming the words "Prisoner of War Camp". The same identification was painted in white letters across the roof of nearly every building. Dulag Luft was of great importance to the Germans and they knew the Allies would never bomb it as long as it could be identified from the air. The camp was estimated to cover about 500 acres, The boundaries of the camp were formed by two parallel fences ten feet apart and they stood 12 feet tall, with trenches and barbed wire entangled between them. Watch towers were spaced around the camp at one hundred yard intervals. Trained dogs prowled the outer boundaries and heavily armed pill boxes were scattered beyond the barbed wire."

Miscellaneous facts about Dulag Luft:

Official German name was "Auswertestelle West" which means Evaluation Center, West.

Number of Interrogators :

1943 - 35- 40

1944 - 60-65

Number of prisoners passing through the camp:

1942 - 3,000

1943 - 8,000

1944 - 29,000

Hanns Scharff - Master Interrogator

Hanns Scharff - Master Interrogator at German POW Camp Hanns Scharff was primarily an American 8th and 9th Air Force Fighter pilot interrogator. He was considered the best of the interrogators at Dulag Luft. He gained the reputation of magically getting all the answers he needed from the prisoners of war, often with the prisoners never realizing that their words, small talk or otherwise, were important pieces of the mosaic. It is said he always treated his prisoners with respect and dignity and by using psychic not physical techniques, he was able to make them drop their guard and converse with him even though they were conditioned to remain silent. One POW commented that "Hanns could probably get a confession of infidelity from a nun." Hanns personally stepped into search for information that saved the lives of six US POWs when the SS wanted to execute them. Many acts of kindness by Scharff to sick and dying American POWs are documented. He would regularly visit some of the more seriously ill POWs and arrange to make their accommodations more humane. At one time the Luftwaffe was investigating him. After the war, he was invited by the USAF to make speeches about his methods to military audiences in the US and he eventually moved to the United States. General Jimmy Doolittle was one of the first to extend the hand of friendship to Hanns after the war, inviting him to a luncheon where they compared notes. Later he was invited to the home of Col. Hub Zemke who thereafter would send Hanns what he called a "Red Cross Parcel" every Christmas. And 38 years after he was Hanns "guest" at Dulag Luft - Oberursel, Col. Francis "Gabby" Gabreski was a guest of honor at Hanns 75th birthday party. In the United States Scharff worked as a mosaic artist. His works are on display in Cinderella's castle at Disney World.

Of course we must remember that Hanns was the exception at Dulag Luft and there were other interrogators that were nothing at all like Hanns, whose treatment of the prisoners was more of a physical and threatening nature.

There is an excellent book written about Hanns called "The Interrogator" by Raymond F. Toliver.

Ulrich Haussmann - Interrogator at Prisoner of War camp 2nd Lt. Ulrich Haussmann - Bomber Crew Interrogator

My internet friend, Ed Kamarainen (an ex-POW from Luft IV and survivor of "The Black March" who was shot down the same day as my Dad, while bombing the same target) sent me his Seattle ex-POW chapter book in which the POWs recount their stories. In reading this I found this fascinating story concerning Lt. Haussmann written by Donald E. Hillman.

Lt. Col. Hillman was shot down in October 1944 and sent to Dulag Luft - Oberursel for interrogation. Lt. Haussmann, although normally a bomber crew interrogator, was his interrogator. Hillman spent the full 28 days there being interrogated once or twice a day by Lt. Haussmann. They became well acquainted, if not friendly during his stay. Haussmann would take Hillman to the radio communications center occasionally so he could listen to the progress of the air battles in an effort to loosen him up and also to impress him with the extent of their intelligence. Haussmann excitedly told Hillman, "We got Zemke" when the famous fighter pilot Col. Hub Zemke (and Senior Allied Officer at Stalag Luft I), was shot down and arrived at Oberursel. Hillman was later sent to Stalag Luft III in Sagan. Hillman and a fellow POW managed to escape during the "forced march" the POWs were sent on to avoid the rapidly approaching Russian front. After 5 days he and his companion who were disguised as French "displaced persons" were caught while trying to get water from a farm well. They were taken to the nearest prison camp in a small village a short distance away. As Hillman entered the interrogation, he was utterly dismayed to see Lt. Haussmann whom he had gotten to know so well in Dulag Luft - Oberursel. Haussmann immediately recognized him and said, "What are you trying to pull, Hillman?" Taking the offensive to try to recover, Hillman said, "Ulrich, you know that Germany is losing the war. You'd better look ahead to what's coming when Germany surrenders and start making your plans." Haussmann interrupted, shutting him off and shouted to the guard to throw them in solitary.

That night the cell door opened and Ulrich entered alone. "Just what did you have in mind?" Hillman replied that if he helped them make their way back to the front lines that he would help him out after the war. Haussmann said he would give it some thought, but to keep it just between them. The next day Haussmann came and took Hillman for a walk through the village so they could talk more freely. While walking around Hillman noticed barricades being constructed all about the town blocking the possible entrances. This gave Hillman the basis for an escape plan. He explained to Haussmann that if the Allies spearhead tank columns encountered resistance they would back off and shell the area until the resistance was neutralized. The Allies were not aware that US prisoners were being held there. Hillman proposed that if he could get word to the Allied forces, it would be possible to save the village and the prisoners. So Haussmann and Hillman took the idea to the prison commandant who bought it. As a cover Haussmann was given orders transferring the 2 prisoners to another camp in the west. Since there were 2 prisoners another guard, Sgt. Walt Hanneman (also a Luftwaffe interrogator), was assigned to help Haussmann. As they made their way to the Allied front lines, Haussmann would obtain food and water for them from the local villagers they encountered. When they reached the Allied front lines Haussmann and Hanneman turned over their weapons to Hillman and his companion and voluntarily became their prisoners of war!! Hillman wrote a report on the help Haussmann and Hanneman had given them. Then Haussmann and Hanneman were flown to England for interrogation. Hillman and his companion were processed back to the states and arrived back home safely.

In August 1946, Hillman received a TWX from an Air Force acquaintance who was running and Allied prison camp in Belgium, stating that one of his German prisoners had a wild story about helping Hillman escape from a German prison camp during the war. Hillman immediately replied giving the pertinent facts regarding the part that Haussmann and Hanneman had played in his escape and recommending that they be immediately released. In a few weeks Hillman received confirmation that the two had returned to their homes. Hillman later established contact with Haussmann at his home in Innsbruck, Austria and began sending him monthly CARE packages that contained food and other essentials hard to get in that occupied country. In the summer of 1949, while he was in Europe on business, Hillman drove to Haussmann's home in Austria and knocked on the door. Haussmann was quite flabbergasted when he recognized him and they spent several hours bringing each other up to date. Hillman met Haussmann's wife and young son and daughter. When the time came for Hillman to leave Haussmann insisted on driving as far as he could with Hillman and they spent the night at a hotel. During this time, Haussmann made his case that Austria was a poor place to raise his children at that time. He asked Hillman to explore the possibilities of emigrating to the United States. Hillman promised to look into the situation. Upon his return to the US, Hillman queried into the US State Department and a full investigation of Haussmann was done, including his assistance in Hillman's escape. Hillman was then told if he "vouched" for Haussmann, that he would never go on welfare, then the Haussmann family could enter the U.S. and apply for citizenship. Hillman agreed to do so and after several months of correspondence with Haussmann, he arrived in Seattle. Haussmann was an intelligent and industrious man and he soon made a career in the sportswear business. Neither Haussmann nor Hillman have heard from Hanneman since 1945.

Professor Bert Nagel - Bomber Interrogator

Was a literature professor before the war and returned to that occupation following the war. He participated on an exchange program with UC San Diego where he lectured on Medieval literature for many years. He frequently would drive up to L.A. from San Diego to meet with Hanns Scharff. He had a great sense of humor and was a thoroughly nice person. Hanns Scharff's son, Hanns-Claudius Scharff, was contacted by the grandson of a bomber pilot who was interrogated by professor Nagel. The pilots name was Lt. Philip Moscherosch and he was a copilot on a B17. Lt. Moscherosch told his grandson that his interrogator informed him that he had the same surname as a famous 17th Century writer named Johann Moscherosch. When the Lieutenant asked how the interrogator told him that he had been a professor of literature before the war.

This is from a US pamphlet on German interrogation techniques


All the powers engaged in the present war try to get as much information as possible from prisoners; they use various methods in questioning those captured, and sometimes resort to tricks and threats. Invariably, the soldier who continues to be a soldier after being captured fares better at the hands of his captors. A soldier is still a soldier for his country if he keeps his mouth shut after capture, except to give his name, rank, and serial number. Absolutely no other questions should be answered, according to the instructions given by both the Axis and United Nations—under international law, no other information is required.

British prisoners have been praised, even by their enemies, for refusing to talk after capture. The following statement about the British, made by Italian General Navarrini, was taken from a captured Order of the Day:

"When subjected to questioning by our Intelligence Branch, all enemy prisoners refused firmly and categorically to give any military information whatsoever. They confined themselves to providing personal particulars and army numbers.

"More energetic demands and indirect questions intended to obtain certain details had no better success. The prisoners remained firm in their dutiful decision to obey the order not to talk, conscious of the fact that any other line of conduct would amount to treachery.

"I wish these facts to be brought to the notice of all (Italian) units. . . . Military honor demands that the spirit of dignity and pride of race should always be alive and present in the minds of our troops."

On the other hand, German and other Axis prisoners have given the United Nations forces valuable information, as can be noted from the following captured document, signed by Field Marshal Rommel, commander of is forces in North Africa:

"From the attached translation of three enemy news sheets of the 2d South African Division, it regrettably appears that German prisoners of war have talked inexcusably.

"On receipt of these examples, the troops will be instructed in detail how a soldier who is unfortunately taken prisoner of war is to behave. When questioned, give name, date of birth, birthplace, and rank. No further information may be given. As response to further questioning, the following will be the reply: 'I cannot answer any further questions.'

"In conversation with German prisoners of war who are not known, the greatest reserve will be exercised, as the English use agents in German uniforms to listen to prisoners.

"Furthermore, under no circumstances may soldiers who are taken prisoners of war—after the usual destruction of all service papers—allow diaries and letters from home to fall into enemy hands. Conclusions could be drawn from these as to food worries, air raid damage, and the like.

"The German soldier who is taken prisoner must prove that even in this disagreeable situation he does not lose his proud, superior bearing."


Some of the tricks used by the Germans in trying to get prisoners to talk are as follows:

a. "Stool Pigeons"

In a building prepared for the occasion, prisoners are questioned in a half-hearted manner and are then transferred to another room where they find three or four other "prisoners." These "prisoners" are Italians or Germans who speak perfect English. To avoid detection, they are often dressed in a uniform of a service other than that to which the real prisoner belongs. (For example, RAF when the prisoner is in the army, American when the prisoner is English.) They are "stool pigeons," and are highly trained to get the information the questioners have failed to obtain.

b. Man-to-Man

"England and Germany should be fighting together. We don't hate one another." This is what the smiling Nazi says in an attempt to appear as a friend and make his British prisoners forget the atrocities he is committing all over the world.

c. Delayed Action

The prisoner is not questioned for several days—perhaps weeks. If he is in a hospital, they send along a "wounded" German or Italian who has been in England and speaks a bit of English. He has all the charm of a vacuum-cleaner salesman, and gradually lets it leak out that he is anti-Nazi and perhaps has had a row with a fellow Nazi. He takes his time and gradually the conversation veers around to the war.

d. "Know-All"

"We know so much there is nothing you can tell us," says the Hun. He flips over a lot of important looking papers—"See what I have?" He is rude and attempts to provoke the prisoner into proving that he is not the ignoramus the interrogator thinks he is.

e. Third Degree

The prisoner is marched into a tent lit by one flickering lantern. There is a good deal of side play. The interrogator snaps out the routine questions: "Name—rank—number?" When the next question is greeted with silence, the sentry is ordered to leave the tent. The interrogator fingers his revolver. "I don't want to resort to methods we dislike," he says, and hopes the prisoner will believe the opposite. He may be taken into a confined space, such as an armored car. The interrogator talks in a low voice. He explains that he wants some important information and that he is determined to get it. He is candid. "You are alone; you have a family. You want to live. It is nice to be a hero when someone is looking, but you are alone."

The note of death is constantly repeated in an attempt to break down morale. The interrogator, however, is not going to kill the goose which may lay the golden egg. Besides, we have thousands of enemy prisoners, and news of what happens in German prison camps travels fast.

f. Try Again

Breaking down resistance and morale is the first object of the enemy interrogation officer. To do this, physical fatigue is often provoked by forced marches, light rations, and inadequate shelter. Another trick is the spreading of fantastic tales about Russian reverses, Japanese successes, and British and American losses. Then there is the time-worn trap: "Your comrades have told us everything, so why don't you?"

g. Listening Walls

In a Nazi or Fascist state, everyone is a suspect of the secret police. They are well trained in eavesdropping. Their experience is used in war time. After failing to obtain information by other methods, prisoners are put together in the most innocent-seeming circumstances. A hidden microphone reveals to a listening enemy any matters of military interest that are talked about.

You'll note that waterboarding is not one of the techniques used here.

Bush,like a lot of bullies, thinks that force works.

Now, note, the POW's here didn't hate their interrogators, didn't habe them tried for war crimes. Yet, the President of the United States not only lives in fear of lawsuits by our apparent victims of our secret prisions, but of their interrogators being charged with war crimes.

How the hell did this happen? Luftwaffe interrogators go to Allied reunions. How did Americans fall into the trap of such bizarre and brutal treatment that Bush needs to immunize them from war crimes prosecutions and lawsuits? What the fuck happened there?

This is not what the US is supposed to be about.

posted by Steve @ 12:54:00 AM

12:54:00 AM

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