Accompanied by two officers and three guards we went by train to DuLag Luft (Oberursel) interrogation camp located approximately 11 km north-west outside Frankfurt–on–Main, arriving in the after–noon of 10th April 1942.
The word DuLag is an abbreviation of the German word durchgangslager or entrance camp, or transient camp, but it became synonymous with interrogation camp before distributed of the prisoner to other POW camps.
DuLag Luft Oberursel was also known as Auswertestelle West Oberursel and as Kriegsgefangenendurchgangslager Oberursel.
In operation from as early as January 1940, DuLag Luft Oberursel was the prisoner of war camp used as a clearing station for all downed aircrew. The camp was run by Luftwaffe Air Operations Staff and the Abwehr (German Intelligence). These were highly skilled interrogators led by master German Luftwaffe interrogator Hanns-Joachim Gottlob Scharff. The camp was nominally staffed by 25-30 English-fluent Luftwaffe officers for detailed interrogations and another 15 to 18 for preliminary interrogations. Aircrew would be interrogated in what could be fairly rough methods. Any form of abuse and discomfort supposedly short of physical violence could be brought to bear to extract information.
We were each put into a separate cell, striped to the skin, and, after about half an hour had our clothes returned to us.
I was given POW #24803.
I thought of escape from the moment I surrendered in the farmhouse kitchen.
They found our special fly buttons and collar studs but I managed to conceal a compass the size of a dime which I kept in my mouth while I was searched and questioned.
We were then taken to the interrogation centre and then given a bogus Red Cross form (see image at right).
The form had nothing to do with the Red Cross, rather what the Germans wanted was the name of one's squadron and every
other piece of information they could collect. The first three questions were name, rank and service number. Then they asked for home address, type of aircraft flown, point of departure,
bomb load, name of squadron, etc etc.
I was told that completing the Red Cross Form would inform my family back home that I was alive and well. I was told that every prisoner filled out the form and that it was to my advantage to fill it out, as this would insure prompt mail delivery and receipt of Red Cross parcels. (The Germans were trying to play on the most pressing anxiety of a lot of captured POWs as to whether their families knew if they were alive or not. This worry, in concert with the difficult readjustment of POWs that they were now a captive prisoner, sometimes caused a POW to become more talkative then they should of.)
The interrogator told us that mess bills and a '1250' (ID Card) had been found in Howard's clothing, from which he had established our squadron number and our base. He appeared to be most interested in Group Captain Evans, our base commander. We maintained that we had never heard of him. During the interrogation phase at DuLag Luft, I spent close to 4 days in solitary confinement, before being released to the main POW camp.
As I would later find out the Germans at Dulag Luft did not believe in physical abuse or torture. Apparantly they thought that torture was ineffective and as a signatory to the 1929 Geneva Convention, and specifically Article 5 “Every prisoner of war is required to declare, if he is interrogated on the subject; his true name, his rank or his regimental number…. No pressure shall be exerted on prisoners to obtain information regarding the situation in their armed forces or their country. Prisoners who refuse to reply may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasantness or disadvantages of any kind whatsoever.”
Following the initial interrogation and perhaps some softening up time in solitary confinement, the Germans typically did not press prisoners who declined to talk. So many POWs passed through that it was more profitable to wait and find one who would talk than to wear down a prisoner who stubboringly only provided name, rank and serial number.
As mentioned earlier, the Germans had some highly skilled interrogators at DuLag Luft.
(Editor's Note: See
web page The Luftwaffe Interrogators at DuLag Luft - Oberursel
as well as web page
DULAG LUFT Prepared by MILITARY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE, WAR DEPARTMENT 15 July 1944
Details concerning Oberursel can also be found in British Air Ministry interrogation reports ADI(K) 475/44 (8 pages) and ADI(K) 328/45 (27 pages).)
A good description of the whole uncomfortable process of interrogating captured Allied airmen is in David Kahn’s ‘HITLER’S SPIES’. Chapter 9, ‘Questioning the Foe’.
Also "The Interrogator: The Story of Hanns Joachim Scharff: Master Interrogator of the Luftwaffe" by Raymond T. Toliver (2nd Edition ISBN: 0764302612) is a good source.
The Germans effectively leveraged the vast quantity of information that they collected about a prisoner or his squadron from a variety of direct and indirect sources (including from some prisoners who filled out the bogus Red Cross Form). With this apparently inexplicable detailed knowledge of intimate matters, the interrogator surprised some prisoners in conceding the truth of some innocuous items. Once the prisoner was talking, the interrogator got him to confirm some known information and then gradually led him to some new material. Afterwards, prisoners often rationalized their interrogation discussion as "the Germans knew everything anyways".
I guess I was one of the many hard cases, as all they got from me was; name, rank and service number.
Luftwaffe interrogation records from Oberursel apparantly did survive the war. They were scooped up by AirMin/A.I.12 advance enemy document teams and whisked away and sequestered by the Allied intelligence community. Today these records reside in London and Washington but are closed to the public.
My mother was to receive the following letter from the RCAF 419 Squadron's S/L concerning "enemy action" taken against our plane.(The letter was bcc'ed to the RAF's Casualty Section which I was to learn much more about in the future with my time with the Missing Research & Enquiry Serrvice.)
This was followed a few days later by a telegram offering some hope that I was alive and now a PoW.
Some photos from DuLag Luft (Oberusel) as it was at that time courtesy of the RAF's Nick Fenton.
Stalag Luft GUARD TOWER
Stalag Luft Prisoner Barracks
Stalag Luft GUARD POST
Stalag Luft Prisoner Mess Hall
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The Life and Times of Hubert Brooks M.C. C.D.