T Nation

Nazis Never Tortured


Defending Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

By Scott Horton

Before there were â??enhanced interrogation techniques,â?? there was verschärfte Vernehmung, (which means â??enhanced interrogation techniquesâ??) developed by the Gestapo and the Sicherheitsdienst in 1937 and subject to a series of stringent rules. Now, as we have seen previously, there were extremely important differences between the Gestapoâ??s interrogation rules and those approved by the Bush Administration. Thatâ??s rightâ??the Bush Administration rules are generally more severe, and include a number of practices that the Gestapo expressly forbade. But today Andrew Sullivan takes a look at the criminal prosecutions that followed the war in which Gestapo officers who used enhanced interrogation techniques were prosecuted for war crimes as a result. What arguments did they advance? Well, Dick Cheney and Rudy Giuliani will be pleased to know that they havenâ??t missed any major points.

The ticking time-bomb exception, and the need for better intelligence about an insurgencyâ??the same defense as the GOP establishment has used for exactly the same techniquesâ??hypothermia, stress positions, sensory deprivation, etc.â??in the US and Iraq. The terms and specific methods used are the same for the Gestapoâ??s â??verschärfte Vernehmung,â?? â??Third Degree,â?? and Bushâ??s â??enhanced interrogation.â??

HEYDRICH told him that he reserved for himself the final approval of such measures in Germany and he would see to it that they were applied only in the most urgent cases. BEST was shown Document PS-1531, US-248 which enumerated the severities of verschärfte Vernehmung interrogations. He remarked that the specified punishments in this document went further than the measures permitted by the German police. His office took disciplinary action against members of the GESTAPO and criminal police who committed excesses. He was, therefore, able to check whether the methods of interrogation employed were kept within reasonable limits. Offenses were punished by normal disciplinary measures and through the ordinary courts.

In cross-examination BEST was shown a document which stated that the commander of the security police and SD was authorized to use verschärfte Vernehmung in Kracow. He said it was his impression that this type of interrogation was adopted in order to discover the underground movements in Poland, which had come into being at that time. Describing the use of verschärfte Vernehmung in Denmark, the witness HOFFMANN reiterated that third degree methods were based on a legal decree which authorized them. Disciplinary action was always taken against those concerned with excesses. In general, third degree was applied only when the saving of German lives required it. In this connection he instanced the use of such methods in order to find the whereabouts of arms and explosives belonging to the underground movement. The GESTAPO in general believed that other methods of interrogation, such as playing off political factions against each other, were much more effective than third degree methods. Verschärfte Vernehmung had to be approved by his head office and approximately 20 were allowed for Copenhagen (see reference to the case of Colonel TIMROTH).

The defense failed, and the accused were convicted. Note that the Germans were able to demonstrate a process of maintaining discipline and punishing officers who disobeyed the rules of verschärfte Vernehmung. By contrast, the Bush Administration has arguably brought a single case of prosecution, against hundreds of documented cases of extreme abuseâ??including a great number documented by the FBI. So while there are distinctions to be drawn between the German practice of verschärfte Vernehmung and the Bush Administrationâ??s â??enhanced interrogation techniques,â?? a good many of these distinctions cut in favor of the Germans.

And letâ??s recall: what was the sentence the Norwegian war crimes court deemed appropriate for those convicted of the use of verschärfte Vernehmung? Death.



Well done! I like (some) or the libertarian posters on this site because at least you consistently defend freedom.


What's your point? I am sure the Germans did many things that would be considered standard and acceptable military practices. Are they now the water mark for all military tactics? Should we not do anything if it is deemed more harsh than the germans? I wonder if they had bunker busters?


Freedom from what?


Actually they were a brutal organization that thrived on violence of action against the weak including torture. They most certainly used it to coerce confessions and to gain information. Survivors rarely made it to the court to testify.

Thankfully they were poor fighters and were not ably lead. Otherwise it would have been a longer war.

Ignorance is a terrible thing. Educate yourself.


But this is not about what happens on a battlefield. This is about the legal framework of torture.


From armed men having their way with you.

Because this is what it always comes down to.


Incredibly dense.



Because I know that there was the GeStaPo, that Heydrich SS and you come up with the Wehrmacht.

That was not the same though because that article is about occupied territories.


But were these individuals convicted for their "torture activities" alone? Did they not commit other crimes for which they were judged? As in the case of Japanese war criminals, the crimes for which they were executed were far more heinous than the torture of individuals, however horrifying one finds it.

If so, the article doesn't lie, but it doesn't tell the truth either, and serves only poorly to chastise to US military's EITs.


That, I do not know. In the case of Heydrich they had plenty to chose from.

But then, nobody demands that you execute the torturers.

I´d say of weed is worth 1 year a pound they could be jailed until 2150 or so.

Joachim von Rippentrop though was executed mainly for one thing, planning an offensive war. In the words of the German prosecutor that is the ultimate war crime for all others flow from it.

So maybe you´ll need firing squads after all.


Orion are you out of your mind? Do you seriously believe that you could come here with this bullshit and none of us would know who Heydrich was? Obviously you follow the addage that if you are going to tell a lie tell the biggest one you can think of because people are more likely to believe the lie if it is over the top.

But this is just outrageous! This article trying to suggest that Cheney is some kind of monster while presenting Heydrich as some champion of human rights and the rule of law sets a new standard for visciousness.

Heydrich may not be all that well known here in the US but his crimes are. So I am going to give the board some idea of who Heydrich was. The reason why he is not so well known as other top Nazis is probably because the British assasinated him in 1942. The reason why he was assasinated is because he was considered to be the most dangerous of all the Nazi leaders. Heydrich was Heinrich Himmlers top deputy, he was the second in command of the SS.

What Heydrich is most infamously known for, is a meeting of various government officials he organised and ran in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee, which is now known as the Wannsee conference which perhaps some of you have heard of. The Wannsee conference is where the policy known as "the final solution of the Jewish question" was explained by Heydrich and set in motion.

Heydrich's right hand man who did his best to carry out Heydrich's plan after his death was Adolf Eichmann who some of you probably have heard of.

After the war a copy of the minutes of the Wannsee conference was discovered so we have a record of exactly what was said in that hour and a half. In 2001 Keneth Branaugh made the film conspiracy which is based upon those minutes. Here are some clips from it.

That anyone would compare Cheney to Heydrich and have Heydrich come out as the good guy shows just how insane and twisted the left has become. They are living in an alternate reality of their own making.


I did not compare Cheney to Heydrich.

Nice strawman though.

I did compare the legal rules regarding torture the Nazis had and their attempts to justify them with US rules and justifications.


If that article is not trying to make a comparison why does it refer to Bush and Cheney? You are playing loose and fast with the facts. You are trying to be disingenuous and doing a very poor job. Heydrich and the nazis were responsible for the torture of millions of people. For your arugment to hold water one has to be very selective in what they choose to call torture and ignore a lot.


Well, there were of course camps were those rules did not apply.

I am very much against camps were the rule of law does not apply.


Sifu, firstly, awesome and very powerful movie. Secondly, I actually think that it makes what is happening in the US more scary in some ways.

Heydrich was clearly evil by most people's definition however, he saw that torture was not that effective and needed to be controlled in it's application to a greater degree than the modern US government.


really? with the hundreds of lawyers and thousands of govt employees pouring hundreds of hours into thousands of pages of rules, regulations and procedures containing myriad limitations and strictures - not to mention the huge amount of laws and treaties and agreements - the modern US govt has less of an idea of the need for controlling the application of effective torture methods than the Nazi's . . . and your source of factual support for this is what exactly?


If you really want to get a perspective on Heydrich's concern for legalities you should watch Conspiracy, because there is an interesting exchange between him and the legal people regarding the final solution.

Heuydrich and the other Nazi's were not the least bit concerned about legal limitations on their power.

Also there is a world of difference between what would be done to prisoners of the GESTAPO and the three US prisoners who were water boarded. The op is simutaneously overstating what is torture in the case of the Bush administraion while severely understating it in the case of the Nazi's. I am sure that if people had a choice between Auschwitz or Guantanamo the latter would seem like a Cuban vacation.

We are not comparing apples and oranges here, even though the OP is trying to play it off as if we are.