The Scharff Technique: “could get a confession of infidelity from a Nun.”

Discussion in 'Top Secret' started by davidbfpo, Apr 9, 2022.

  1. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    This week I was lucky to attend a conference on the theme of elicitation of information. Hanns Scharff has been highly praised for the success of his techniques, in particular because he never used physical means to obtain the required information. See: Hanns Scharff - Wikipedia and the "nun saying" is from: The Nazi Interrogator Who Revealed the Value of Kindness

    I cite a short summary:
    I had heard of this method before, although now a few years ago and there is a thread on the camp where he worked, which mentions him: The Interrogaters-Dulag Luft

    The expert is Simon Oleszkiewicz, a Swede who teaches at Vrije University Amsterdam; he is an experimental psychologist and is not a historian. His slim bio: Simon Oleszkiewicz and his articles are listed on: Simon Oleszkiewicz | Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam -

    There are a good number of articles on Scarff and this one by Simon and others (one a USAF interrogator), has an extensive bibliography: (PDF) The Scharff Technique: On How to Effectively Elicit Intelligence from Human Sources

    Note Scarff was deployed to a camp on the Western Front, primarily interrogating downed pilots and sometimes others. After WW2 Scarff emigrated to the USA, where he taught his technique before the Korean War and presumably afterwards.

    Several WW2 questions come to mind, kept for a later post.
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  2. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    My WW2 questions:

    1) Did any RAF pilot POWs encounter Scarff and talk? All the literature found refers to Americans talking.

    2) What level of interrogation did senior UK Army officers have from the Germans? I assume most would have been captured (if any) in Norway and France in 1940. Until Italy's exit from WW2 in 1943 POWs from North Africa were held by Italy.

    3) Same question for the few RAF senior officers captured (assuming that happened).
  3. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

  4. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron


    Thanks for that pointer, I'd never heard of that episode or the man himself. Now for a digression from the theme! Yes, there is a slim 2010 thread on this, so later this will copied over. See: Air Vice Marshal OWEN TUDOR BOYD C B, O B E, M C, A F C and on the aircraft: Re: P/O C.Watson, RAF, POW info needed..

    The RAF case I am aware of comes from reading a book long ago (not my book so my memory was my guide). A senior RAF officer was selected to become the AOC in the Middle East, he was briefed on Enigma / Ultra and his plane from Gibraltar to Malta according to the author landed by mistake on an Italian airfield on Sicily.

    In an exchange with a long retired RAF officer eight years ago his version was quite different. The plane was forced down in 1940 by Italian fighters and the officer taken prisoner was Air Marshal Owen Tudor Boy.

    I found an obituary of an army officer who escaped from Italian custody and returned to get three senior officers out namely:
    From behind a pay wall: Lieutenant-Colonel Pat Spooner - obituary and an article based on Mark Felton's work:

    There is some ambiguity about his capture: Owen Tudor Boyd - Wikipedia plus Senior RAF officer captured in Sicily, 1940? and a 1940 Time article: SOUTHERN THEATRE: Prize Catch

    Just found a 2017 book review of 'Air Power in War' by Lord Tedder (who took Boyd's command instead) and in a footnote states:

    Perhaps our Italian experts can cast light on whether Owen-Boyd was held in a VIP camp? Felton's article says it was. Wiki states:
    The Castle Vincigliata has an extensive Wiki on its wartime role, including a list of the senior officers who passed through or escaped and it was designated P.G. 12 or PG12. See: Vincigliata - Wikipedia
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2022
  5. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    If Watson is of interest, he was John Cherry Watson, a postwar novelist.

    It's too bad these two threads can't (and shouldn't) be merged. Dulags in Italy? Wouldn't work. Anyway, I would think that Mrs Gladys Leeming, the wife of F/Lt John Fishwick Leeming, also an author, in the Watson thread would know where her husband's plane went down. He told her in a letter. She had a tough war as will be explained in the newspaper article below
  6. Trackfrower

    Trackfrower Member

    I have a book by Boyd's ADC. F/L Leeming
    I will post details when I find it
  7. GeoffMNZ

    GeoffMNZ Well-Known Member

    Leeming was repatriated to UK with my father and wrote a book on his experience which I have read to compare his experience to my fathers'. His book is:
    Amazon - ALWAYS TOMMOROW -Simple little book of a POW who successfully faked insanity to secure his release
    Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 4, 2019
    Verified Purchase
    A pleasant day read, this book, titled after the Italian POW guards answer to every question posed by a prisoner, 'domani' or tomorrow, was an amusing tale of one privileged officer's time spent in a number of Italian POW camps.
    This RAF officer spend almost 2 years as an ADC to an Air Marshall in the senior officer camps in Sulmona and Florence. He eventually managed to secure his release on the medical grounds of mental instability, and returned to the UK in mid 43, immediately before Italy fell out of the war and all his former inmates made good their escape at the Armistice.

    The book was a quite amusing account of the funny (and privileged) side of POW life, with little bitterness. Boredom seemed to be his biggest challenge, as the very senior officers never really encountered the challenges most other lower ranks saw. It's the one example of faking insanity that I know was successful, and for a while his dedication to the cause did give concern to his colleagues, but after succeeding to convince the medical board in Apr 42, the story taper off significantly.

    I note that he wrote another book on his war experiences, but so not sure on what more he could cover( out of print and unavailable), so I am going to pick up his story in the modern composite account written by Mark Felton - Castle of the Eagles.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2022

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