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
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.