Cinderella and Interrogation Technique

This is one of five mosaics depicting the story of Cinderella, which can be found inside Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World.

These mosaics were supervised by one of the world’s great mosaicists, Hanns Scharff.

Before moving the US and becoming a mosaicist, Hanns Scharff was considered the best interrogator in the German Luftwaffe.

Scharff was opposed to physically abusing prisoners to obtain information. Learning on the job, Scharff instead relied upon the Luftwaffe’s approved list of techniques, which mostly involved making the interrogator seem as if he is his prisoner’s greatest advocate while in captivity.

Scharff described various experiences with new POWs, outlining the procedure most of his fellow interrogators were instructed to use. Initially, the POW’s fear and sense of disorientation, combined with isolation while not in interrogation, were exploited to gain as much initial biographical information as possible. A prisoner was frequently warned that unless he could produce information beyond name, rank, and serial number, such as the name of his unit and airbase, the Luftwaffe would have no choice but to assume he was a spy and turn him over to theGestapo for questioning…

After a prisoner’s fear had been allayed, Scharff continued to act as a good friend, including sharing jokes, homemade food items, and occasionally alcoholic beverages. Scharff was fluent in English and knowledgeable about British customs and some American ones, which helped him to gain the trust and friendship of many of his prisoners. Some high profile prisoners were treated to outings to German airfields (one POW was even allowed to take a German aircraft for a trial run), tea with German fighter aces, swimming pool excursions, and luncheons, among other things.

Scharff was best known for taking his prisoners on strolls through the nearby woods, first having them swear an oath of honor that they would not attempt to escape during their walk. Scharff chose not to use these nature walks as a time to directly ask his prisoners obvious military-related questions, but instead relied on the POWs’ desire to speak to anyone outside of isolated captivity about informal, generalized topics.

Scharff began by asking a prisoner a question he already knew the answer to, informing the prisoner that he already knew everything about him, but his superiors had given instruction that the prisoner himself had to say it. Scharff continued asking questions that he would then provide the answers for, each time hoping to convince his captive that there was nothing he did not already know. When Scharff eventually got to the piece of information he did not have, prisoners would frequently give the answer, assuming Scharff already had it in his files anyway, often saying so as they provided the information. Scharff made a point of keeping the Luftwaffe’s lack of knowledge a strict secret so as to exploit the same tactic further in later conversations.

In 1948 Scharff lectured at the Pentagon on interrogation techniques.

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