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British operated WW2 torture centre


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Any moral dilemnas here? Thoughts?   Please post - thanks.

Revealed: UK Wartime Torture Camp

Ian Cobain
Saturday November 12, 2005
The Guardian

(Original source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/secondworldwar/story/0,14058,1640957,00.html)

"The British government operated a secret torture centre during the second world war to extract information and confessions from German prisoners, according to official papers which have been unearthed by the Guardian.
More than 3,000 prisoners passed through the centre, where many were systematically beaten, deprived of sleep, forced to stand still for more than 24 hours at a time and threatened with execution or unnecessary surgery.

Some are also alleged to have been starved and subjected to extremes of temperature in specially built showers, while others later complained that they had been threatened with electric shock torture or menaced by interrogators brandishing red-hot pokers.

The centre, which was housed in a row of mansions in one of London's most affluent neighbourhoods, was carefully concealed from the Red Cross, the papers show. It continued to operate for three years after the war, during which time a number of German civilians were also tortured.
A subsequent assessment by MI5, the Security Service, concluded that the commanding officer had been guilty of "clear breaches" of the Geneva convention and that some interrogation methods "completely contradicted" international law.

On at least one occasion, an MI5 officer noted in a newly declassified report, a German prisoner was convicted of war crimes and hanged on the basis of a confession which he had signed after he was, at the very least, "worked on psychologically". A number of people who appeared as prosecution witnesses at war crimes trials are also alleged to have been tortured.

The official papers, discovered in the National Archives, depict the centre as a dark, brutal place which caused great unease among senior British officers. They appear to have turned a blind eye partly because of the usefulness of the information extracted, and partly because the detainees were thought to deserve ill treatment.

Not all the torture centre's secrets have yet emerged, however: the Ministry of Defence is continuing to withhold some of the papers almost 60 years after it was closed down."

Interesting. I wonder if it's true. It is interesting to hear stories about ww2 torture other than 'Germans are evil'.
I don't see any moral questions about this . I would point out that "the other guys" were certainly not restrained in THEIR treatment of OUR guys. Any one who has read any WW2 accounts will know that being captured by the SS or the Gestapo was not a walk in the park, and using the same tactics agaisnt them is part of what Churchill called "Total War".

I was surprised to learn that the location was in London. I would have thought that a secluded place in the far north of Scotland would have been selected, if only for the ability to keep the nosy neighbours away.

Jim B Toronto.
Hello folks,

I initially scoped this site out because I am trying to evaluate some militaria I want to dispose of. For a fee, of course. :)

While pouring through some ancient letters from my Mom's estate, I just happened across an envelope containing a British newspaper clipping from Jan 1949.  There are also several unrelated letters from soldiers which, given the hindsight of history,  make for fascinating reading.  I'll share some of these with the group when I get them scanned.

I disagree with torturing an opposing army's "boys".  What are the odds that the individuals we torture are the very same ones who tortured ours?  Pretty unlikely in ' most cases'.  As a non-military person, I am alaways cognisant that many of these soldiers are no more than children.  I keep hearing that the quality of information from "extracted" confessions is suspect at best.  That being said, if I were there seeing and feeling what these soldiers did, perhaps I would have a different opinion.

It is interesting timing that this post is here just as I found this clipping.  Apparently, this latest revelation would come a serious shock to the author. Here is the text from that article:

Americans torture Germans to extort "confessions"
By Fred Redman - Jan 23, 1949 (Unknown British paper)

TODAY I am able to tell the full story, revealed in Washing ­ton, of the American war trials scandal.  It is an ugly story of barbarous tortures inflicted in the name of Allied justice.  It is time that the British people knew all the facts. Little has appeared In our Press until today.

The charge is that American soldiers, building evidence against Germans accused of war crimes, have behaved with the same sadistic cruelty as the beasts who terrorised Europe when it was under Nazi domination.  The truth has come out through the persistence of an American lawyer and the frank horror of an American judge who refuses to be muzzled.

Judge Edward Van Roden, member of a U.S. Army Commission of Inquiry, tells how burning mat ­ches were forced under the fingernails of a pri ­soner by American inves ­tigators to extort a con ­fession. For months, he says, men were kept In solitary confinement on near-starvation rations.  And they were beaten up and savagely kicked till strong men were reduced to -broken wrecks ready to mumble any admission demanded by their prose ­cutors.

The War Department have shown the judge's per ­sonal report only to General Lucius Clay, their military comman ­der in Germany. Wash ­ington suspects the rea ­son was that it was too shocking for public dis ­closure.

But Judge Van Roden Is not so squeamish. The grim truth, he declares, must be told.

There has been one inquiry already. The Army Com ­mission of which Judge Van Roden was a mem ­ber found that methods used to get evidence from Germans accused of war crimes were " highly questionable."  Because of this they have asked clemency for twenty - nine Germans under sentence of death.

Some Germans who are to be spared the execution squad were S.S. men accused of machine-gunning eighty - three American prisoners In the horrifying Malmedy (Belgium) massacre of December. 1944.  In 1946, at Dachau, seventy-three Germans, many youngsters in their teens and early twenties, were brought to trial for this evil slaughter. All were found guilty. Forty-three were sentenced to death.  Few who read accounts of the trials pitied them.

But Willis Everett, the lawyer given the task of defending them, heard tales which made him wonder what new forces of horror, masquerading as justice, were loose in Europe's American Zone.

For two years he cam ­paigned, at his own expense, so that right might be done.  His stories were repeated to the Simpson Commission, appointed by Mr. Royall. Secretary to the Army. And the Commission's report, while upholding that generally the Dachau official trials themselves were fair, did not dispute that cruel "mock trials" had beer held to trap prisoners into confessing.

Judge Van Boden, one of the three members of the Commission sent to Ger ­many to investigate, was even more candid.

" All but two of the Ger ­mans, in the 139 cases we investigated, had been kicked in the testicles be ­yond repair," he charged. " This was standard oper ­ating procedure with our American Investigators.  " They would put a black hood over the accused's head and then -punch him in the face with brass knuckles."

U.S. Army prosecution teams bad, he said, posed as priests to bear confes ­sions and give absolution.

At mock trials men who re ­fused to confess were con-fronted by a crucifix and burning candles. Those sham courts, attended by men in U.S. Army uni ­form, passed sham death sentences. Then the ac ­cused were told: " Sign this confession and we will get you acquitted."

Army witnesses explained that they had "a tough case to crack," and that "persuasive methods" were necessary.

Is it possible that the tragic farce of the Dachau trials could have happened also in the British Zone ?
"No," say the War Office. " Germans on trial have been treated with the same fairness as British soldiers."

Britain has tried 937 Ger ­mans for war crimes. Of these, 230 have been sen ­tenced to death; 260 acquitted. Like the Americans, we have held investigation sections to collect evidence. But our men have been brought up to believe that a policeman, civil or mili ­tary, gives a square deal.
JeffG said:
And they were beaten up and savagely kicked till strong men were reduced to -broken wrecks ready to mumble any admission demanded by their prose ­cutors.
Exactly. And what's the value in that kind of confession? Seems a rather pointless exercise in brutality.
What is it all for?