18 April 2018

Hanns Scharff: The Gentle Interrogator

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Read about the life of the gentle interrogator

Hanns Scharff was not meant to be part of the German army. He lived in South Africa with his family, but was drafted when visiting Germany when the war broke out. His wife convinced a general to put him with interpreters instead of front lines, but through a series of mistakes and coincidences, he became the lead interrogator for the Allied pilots felled in France and Germany. Having seen a prisoner abused when he was an assistant, he vowed against doing the same. Instead, his technique was unique in using kindness and friendly conversation to extract information.

Scharff’s success in using kindness to get what he wanted has been recently studied and compared to other interrogation techniques. It’s been found that not only does one tend to get more information and more accurate information from the prisoner; the prisoner is often unaware of how much information they’ve given away. Imagine a movie that explored this unique approach rather than 24’s techniques.

After the war, Scharff divorced and moved to the United States, marrying an American and finding success in a new career as a mosaic artist. One of his works appears in the Magic Kingdom Castle at Disney World.