When the Germans capture a hostile soldier, their
primary interest is in documents or personal papers
that he may be carrying. Experience has taught the
Germans that United Nations prisoners are security-conscious, and
that interrogators approaching them to
gain information must implement the questioning with
as much background knowledge as possible about the
prisoner and his previous activities. In this connection
the value, to the German interrogator, of all documents
and personal papers—even those which are seemingly
trivial and of no military importance—must not be
underestimated. Although the intelligent soldier avoids
carrying into battle areas any document which, to however
slight a degree, might help an enemy interrogator
in his job, German staff officers wait hopefully for the
capture of that soldier who will prove an exception.
Even then, the German enlisted man's fondness for
acquiring souvenirs may upset the established procedure
of German intelligence officers.
2. ENEMY USE OF CAPTURED PAPERS
It is important to remember that not even the smallest
scrap of information—whether written or oral—should
be allowed to reach the enemy. A special order
issued in November 1943 by the operations officer of a
Panzer Grenadier division illustrates the enemy's
recognition of the possible importance of every source of
information, however slight:
In the past few days there have been numerous instances of
forward troops delivering United Nations prisoners to the
POW collecting point minus all documents and personal
belongings. According to the statements of the prisoners, the
forward troops took all these things from them immediately
after their capture.
Apart from the fact that plundering of prisoners is unworthy
of a German soldier, such conduct greatly increases the
difficulties of interrogation and, with it, the procuring of
important data for our own command and troops.
Because of the extreme stubbornness of British and American
soldiers in divulging information, the papers and other
articles that a prisoner carries on his person often provides
the only background for an interrogator to open up a conversation
with the prisoner. Moreover, almost all letters and
papers can provide information which, when pieced together
will furnish details about a prisoner's unit. They also constitute
an effective means, during interrogation, of verifying a
prisoner's statements and sometimes of surprising him by
catching him in a lie.
Troops are therefore definitely instructed that under no
circumstances are any articles or papers to be removed from
Strict surveillance is maintained, however, as a
precaution against any attempt by prisoners to destroy
items in their possession.
3. PROBLEM OF GERMAN INTERROGATION
In a special order, Major General von Ziehlberg, formerly
commanding the German 65th Infantry Division,
commented on some of the difficulties experienced by
German interrogators. He said in part:
I myself have witnessed the interrogation of British soldiers
who have received excellent training in security. Although
threatened with the death penalty, they gave nothing away
under interrogation. To all questions they replied simply, "My
orders are to give only my name, rank, and number," and
often added, "A German soldier in my position would not
answer these questions either."
Thorough training must be given to our own soldiers to insure
the same attitude on their part.