PRISONERS OF WAR IN
Prepared by MILITARY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE, WAR DEPARTMENT 1 November 1945
Luft, through which practically all Air Force personnel captured in German
West (evaluation Center West) was situated 300 yards north of the main
Frankfurt‑Homburg road and near the trolley stop of Kupforhammer. (this was) the third‑ stop after Oberusal (50‑12 N – 8-34E). Oberursel is thirteen
kilometers northwest of
The number of PW’s rose from 1000 per month, in late 1943, to an average monthly intake of 2000 in 1944. The peak month was July 1944, when over 3000 Allied airmen and paratroopers passed through Auswertestelle West. Since solitary confinement was the rule, the capacity of the camp was supposedly limited to 200 men; although in rush periods five PWs were placed in one cell. Strength on any given, day averaged 250.
The main part of the camp consisted of four large wooden barracks, two of which were connected by a passage and known to PWs as the “cooler”. These contained some 200 cells. These cells, eight feet high, feet wide and twelve feet long, held a cot, a table, a chair and an electric bell for PWs to call the guard. The third barrack contained administrative headquarters. The fourth building, a large L-shaped structure, housed the interrogating offices, files and records. Senior officers lived on the post; junior officers outside in a hotel. The commandant lived on nearby farm. The entire camp was surrounded by a barbed‑wire fence, but was equipped with neither perimeter floodlights nor watchtowers.
were held in solitary confinement, and only for limited periods of time, no
German personnel, all Luftwaffe, were divided into two main branches: Administrative and Intelligence. Under Intelligence came officers and interpreter NCOs actually taking part in the interrogations and other intelligence work of the unit. The total strength of this branch was 50 officers and 100 enlisted men. Administrative personnel consisted of: one guard company and one Luftwaffe construction company, each consisting of 120 men. Some members of the staff were:
Oberstleutnant Erich Killinger: Commandant
Major Junge Chief of Interrogation
Major Boehringer Political Interrogator
Captain Schneidewindt Record section Chief
Leutnant Boninghaus Political interrogator
there were attached to the staff, representatives of the General
Luftzeugmeister's department, the General der Kampfflieger's section, The Navy
and the SS. Occasionally members of the Gestapo at
The interrogation of Allied PWs at the hands of Auswertestelle West personnel was "korrect" (as far as physical violence was concerned). An occasional interrogator, exasperated by polite refusals to give more than name, rank, and serial number- or, more occasionally, perhaps by an exceptionally "fresh" PW, may have lost his temper and struck a PW. It is not believed that this ever went beyond a slap on the face, dealt in the heat of anger ‑ certainly physical violence was not employed as a policy.
On the other hand, no amount of calculated mental depression, privation and psychological blackmail was considered excessive. Upon arrival, PW were stripped, searched and sometimes issued German coveralls. At other times, they retained the clothing in which they were shot down. All were shut up in solitary confinement cells and denied cigarettes, toilet articles and Red Cross food. Usually the period of confinement lasted four or five days but, occasionally, a surly PW would be held in the "cooler" for the full 30 days permitted by the Geneva Convention, as a punitive measure. Captain William N. Schwartz was imprisoned 45 days.
Interrogators often used threats and violent language, calling PWs “murderers of children" and threatening them with indefinitely prolonged solitary confinement or starvation rations- unless they would talk. PWs were threatened with death as spies unless they identified themselves as airmen, by revealing technical information on some such subject as radar or air combat tactics. Confinement in unbearably overheated cell and pretended shootings of "buddies” was resorted to in the early days. Intimidation yielded inferior results and the “friendly approach” was considered best by the Germans.
Rations were two slices of black bread and jam, with ersatz coffee in the morning, watery soup at midday, and two slices of bread at night. No Red Cross parcels were issued. PWs could obtain drinking water from the guards.
As a rule, men seriously needing medical treatment were sent to Hohemark hospital. Those suffering from the shock of being shot down and captured, received no medical attention; nor did the 50% suffering from minor wounds. Some PW arrived at permanent camps still wearing dirty bandages which had not been changed at Oberursel, even though their stay had been of two weeks duration.
"SOURCE MATERIAL FOR THIS REPORT CONSISTED OF INTERROGATIONS OF FORMER PRISONERS OF WAR MADE BY CPM BRANCH, MILITARY INTELLEGENCE SERVICE AND REPORTS OF THE PROTECTING POWER AND INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS RECEIVED BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT (Special War Problems Division)."
Excerpts from the trial of Major Junge by the Canadian War Crimes Tribunal:
At Obrerusal, near Frankfurt, was established in 1941, a central German Air Force Interrogation Centre, officially termed “Auswertestelle West”, meaning Evaluation centre West which was the principle Air Force Intellegence center for the whole of the Western Theater of Operations. Its chief function was to obtain information of an operational character relating to Allied Air Forces through the interrogati0on of captured crews of Allied planes. Information thus acquired was of course supplemented by the evaluation of documents sometimes recovered from crashed aircraft. The only information, which a prisoner is required to give…, consists of his true names and rank or regimental number. If he refuses such information he need not be accorded any privileges. There is nothing in international law which… prohibits the interrogation of prisoners, provided no pressure of any sort is employed to extract (it)..
It was the invariable practice that captured aircrew personnel passed first through this intelligence center for interrogation before being sent via a transit camp to an established prisoner of war camp. It became generally known as Dulag Luft, and is so termed throughout this trial.
Upon arrival at Dulag Luft, prisoners were undressed and their clothes searched. They were then put into cells described in solitary confinement. They were there visited by a reception officer, such as the accused Eberhardt, and sometimes by an interpreter as well if the reception officer was not fluent in the language of the prisoner. The reception officer would endeavor to persuade the prisoner to answer all the questions on the form…. And would transmit this form together with his assessment of the character of the prisoner to Major Junge, the second accused who in turn would detail the most suitable member of his staff top conduct the questioning. These interrogations were sometimes held in the cells, but more often in the rooms of the officer detailed. Usually such interrogations were quite short, as, for instance in the case of an air gunner, who would have little information; but sometimes in the case of a pilot or prisoners who were particularly security minded, the interrogations might continue for three or four days, often twice per day.
The interrogation officers would compile in the form of statements, the information which they had gleaned as a result of their oral examination of the prisoners, and these statements would then be forwarded to the German Air force Operations staff.
Number of prisoners Staff
1943: 8000 35-40 interrogation officers
1944: 29,000 60-65 interrogation officers; 550 total in all depts.