We've seen him many times shining a bright white light in the face of his battered, starved, and barely conscious prisoners, this stereotype of the wicked Nazi interrogator. But this is a fiction for propoganda purposes. Hans Scharff was the real thing, no torture, no bright lights, only treating his prisoners with the utmost respect and humanity. In fact, when he emigrated from Germany to the United States, it was his former prisoners who sponsored his entry into the U.S. and subsequent citizenship. Yet this respect for the enemy is precisely the key which also made him one of the most successful of German interrogators. He gives details of information which he got from prisoners who firmly claimed that they never told him anything. One photo in the book shows Scharff standing talking to Gen. James Doolittle, leader of the first raid on Tokyo and the Eighth Air Force's strategic bombing of Germany, and Gen. Curtis LeMay, father of the Strategic Air Command, at a reception. This photo shows the respect with which Scharff is held since the publication of the first edition of this book in the 1970s, especially when Scharff was only the equivalent of a Private First Class in the Luftwaffe! When the first edition of this book was published, it became the unofficial textbook for the Army Interrogation school at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He is arguably the brightest star in the heaven of prisoner-of-war interrogators.
This book also has a dark side, however, starkly contrasted with the shining career of Scharff. It includes a stereotype-shattering expose of how the U.S. and British Armies mistreated German prisoners after the surrender, literally allowing thousands of them to die of starvation and exposure by not declaring them to be prisoners of war and thus not subject to Geneva Convention standards of care. Because of this misuse of the Geneva Conventions, the U.S. and British Armies didn't have to feed them or give them shelter. They wouldn't even allow the disarmed Germans to go home, opting to hold them instead for months in open-air enclosures that became death camps. While Axis POWs in the U.S. were treated well, the postwar treatment of the Germans in Europe ranks with Andersonville, Georgia, and Alton, Illinois, as black stains on U.S. history. Scharff somehow survived this nightmare treatment and his story is one of the triumph of human dignity in the face of astonishing organized evil.
This book is a must for anyone interested in military intelligence or the treatment of prisoners of war in general.