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"Instructions in Case of Capture" from Intelligence Bulletin, September 1942

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following translated instructions to German soldiers in case of capture were originally printed in the Intelligence Bulletin, September 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



At least some of you will have occasion, before the war is over, to capture a German prisoner. Therefore, the instructions the German High Command gives to all soldiers to follow in case they are captured should be of definite interest.

British forces in Libya captured a German manual which gives these instructions. The instructions are very thorough and show the great care the Germans take to warn their soldiers against giving military information to the opposing forces. The British Intelligence Service has italicized certain parts of the text with a warning that these passages may indicate Germany's own methods of treating prisoners. United Nations troops should read the manual with this in mind.



Subject: Behavior of German Soldiers Who May Be Captured by the British.

Recent reports from reliable sources indicate how the British treat and question German soldiers who are taken prisoner on the battlefield.

These reports give all ranks of the army a chance to study the correct attitude to adopt in the event of capture.

Every soldier who is unfortunate enough to be taken prisoner, must consciously, and from the first moment of his capture, behave in such a way that no military information is given.

German prisoners who show a military bearing are usually very well treated by the British. The prisoner is first of all hurriedly searched at the place of capture, and all papers, money, rings, his watch--in fact, everything he has on him--is taken away. On reaching England, he is taken to the first police station and put in a cell by himself. A few hours later an officer of the Intelligence Service who speaks fluent German appears for the first questioning. Under the pretext of wishing to inform his relatives as soon as possible, the prisoner is required to fill in an extensive questionnaire. This contains mostly military questions--especially the field post number, which is of great interest to the British.

The inquiring British officers have a great deal of material for the questioning of prisoners of war. This includes, among other things, the putting together of other prisoners' statements. The information they have deals with field post numbers, organization, orders of battle, also peacetime establishments.

From captured British material it has been established that German soldiers who were taken prisoners in North Africa talked freely of military matters, thereby giving the British much information for the questioning of other prisoners.

At questioning, such material is used to convince the prisoner that any refusal to give information is useless, as the enemy already has exact knowledge of German military matters. If the prisoner refuses, his attitude is respected--even if a few threats are made in the first place.

A few days later the prisoners are moved from the first place to a transit camp, where a political questioning takes place. The questions here deal with the relations between the Army and the Party, with the prisoner's own feeling towards National Socialism, and with the military and economic situation. As the Englishman in this case wants to get an idea of the political attitude of the armed forces, purely military secrets are not mentioned. This questioning is carried out by an officer in civilian dress, who frequently speaks German less well than the officer who asked the first questions.

Some hours later the prisoners are taken in special transport to the real "questioning camp." There a medical inspection takes place to establish the general state of the prisoners' health as regards feeding, etc., then two to three weeks confinement, either alone or with one other prisoner.

During this time the prisoner is questioned several times a day by Intelligence Corps officers on purely military matters; the statements of the various prisoners are played off against each other. Questions are asked about peacetime garrisons, military developments, the use of units in previous campaigns, and so on. Listening apparatus is installed in rooms in which two prisoners are put together. Germans in uniform, who have migrated to England, are also used as spies.

On one occasion a former Austrian in the uniform of an Air Force officer introduced himself to a newly-arrived prisoner. He spoke German with a Viennese accent and claimed to be a reserve officer in a certain unit. He lived in a two-man cell with the prisoner and in the course of conversations tried to gain information on military and technical points of the prisoner's arm of the service.

The strict isolation in the "questioning" is supposed to induce a feeling of loneliness and helplessness in the prisoner, in order to break down his resistance. When the Intelligence Corps officer considers any further questioning useless, the prisoners are sent to officers' or other ranks' prison camps, as the case may be.

Recent reports show that similar procedures are carried out in other theaters of war besides Great Britain.

On the basis of this, the Germans issued the following instructions:

A. Behavior at the Questioning.

1. Be strictly military, at the same time polite. Threats of punishment or ill treatment must not influence the prisoner's duty to keep his mouth shut, any more than genial treatment, drinks, etc.

2. Never speak in the enemy's language; through interpreters at a questioning, gain time to think over the answer.

3. Don't let yourself be led to give any statements or to adopt any particular attitude through the chance remark of a comrade. Also, seemingly unimportant statements of single prisoners often give useful points to the enemy's Intelligence Service, when pieced together. Therefore, at the questioning, only name, rank, birthday, and home address are to be given, and these points are to be dealt with only in questionnaires.

Any other information--for example, to what unit prisoner belongs, depot, role of unit, strength, and so on--is to be refused on the grounds that the answering of these questions is against the international law dealing with the treatment of prisoners of war.

4. No reaction to technical questions is to be shown, not even when the questioner tries to provoke an argument by belittling German weapons.

5. Don't try to deceive by false answers.

6. The prisoner must not let himself be fooled by an assumed knowledge, on the questioner's part, of the subject under discussion. This is only meant to convince the prisoner that he is giving away no secrets.

B. In the Prisoner of War Camp.

1. The questioning is not ended with your individual interview. Therefore be careful when talking:

(a) To other comrades in the camp, barracks, etc., because listening apparatus is installed.

(b) To strangers, who, sometimes in German uniforms, try to win the prisoner's confidence. Spies.

2. Don't speak over the radio or on a phonograph record.

3. No writing of war experiences, either before or during the period of captivity.

4. Every prisoner must exert himself to get back home as soon as possible.

Every prisoner remains a German soldier. He must realize that after his return he will, if necessary, be called upon to answer for his behavior during his time of captivity.


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