WWII interrogator uses kindness over violence

Ever wanted your free trip to the zoo? How about enjoying a flight in a German fighter plane? Well to start, this one specific WWII interrogator uses kindness over violence to get what they want. He has taken many prisoners to the zoo and even arranged for one prisoner to enjoy a flight in a German fighter plane.

WWII interrogator uses kindness over violence
Hanns Scharff (left) always made sure he knew about the personal circumstances of prisoners of war before interrogating them.

About the WWII interrogator uses kindness over violence

During World War 2, A lot of the surviving prisoners who got shot down from their planes have been gathered up and were dispatched to Luftwaffe’s interrogation unit at Dulag Luft POW (Prisoner of War) Camp, near Oberursel. When most if not all would suspect pain and torture, such as having their fingernails torn off, they would be surprised and shocked to learn that Hanns Scharff would prefer to become friends with the POW rather than to torture them.

Hans Scharff was a self-taught interrogator who had acquired fluent English when working as a businessman in pre-war South Africa. He used persuasion rather than punishment as a strategy for getting Allied POW to give up more than enough information to Scharff and his superiors. Such as the customary name, rank and number, permitted by the Geneva Convention.

Before doing any interrogation, Scharff would always do his homework thoroughly. Scharff would check all available data he could get his hands on in order to learn everything he could about the pilot’s service and personal circumstances. This would be used later to act like he had already known more than enough information he was trying to get.

This method relied heavily on the initial principle that it was better for a flier to co-operate with the Luftwaffe, instead of being regarded as a spy and handed over to the Gestapo. Scharff resolutely refused to descend to using physical violence. Instead of using pliers to squeeze information out of prisoners, Scharff got what he and his superiors wanted by playing on a prisoner’s sense of isolation and psychological insecurity.

As such, Scarff would appear to be a POW’s best bud, taking them to the local zoo, enjoyable meals with German fliers, and visits to the Oberursel forest. After which Scarff would get the information he was looking for, he would not try to leave the POW at the first chance he got. Instead he would get them to sign his interrogator’s guest book. Most POW never generally recalled discussing anything of any military significance but all the time Scharff was actually conducting a casual interrogation, harvesting useful intelligence information.

After the war ended, in the early 1950’s he was feted in newspaper and magazine articles as the “master interrogator”. His former enemies became his friends and wartime POWs welcomed him at their reunions.


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