American ‘Standard Operating Procedure’

Lt. Col. Ellis and Lt Perl of the Prosectution pleaded that it was difficult to obtain competant evidence. Perl told the court, “We had a tough case to crack and we had to use persuasive methods.”

He admitted to the court that the persuasive methods included various “expedients, including some violence and mock trials.” He further told the court that the cases rested on statements obtained by such methods.

The statements which were admitted as evidence were obtained from men who had first been kept in solitary confinement for three, four, and, five months. They were confined between four walls, with no windows, and no opportunity of exercise. Two meals a day were shoved in to them through a slot in the door. They were not allowed to talk to anyone. They had no communication with their families or any minister or priest during that time.

This solitary confinement proved sufficient in itself in some cases to persuade the Germans to sign prepared statements. These statements not only involved the signer, but often would involve other defendants.

Our investigators would put a black hood over the accused’s head and then punch him in the face with brass knuckles, kick him, and beat him with rubber hose. Many of the German defendants had teeth knocked out. Some had their jaws broken. All but two of the Germans, in the 139 cases we investigated, had been kicked in the testicles beyond repair. This was Standard Operating Procedure with American investigators. Perl admitted use of mock trials and persuasive methods including violence and said the court was free to decide the weight to be attached to evidence thus received.

One 18 year old defendant, after a series of beatings. was writing a statement being dictated to him. When they reached the 16th page, the boy was locked up for the night. In the early morning, Germans in nearby cells heard him muttering. “I will not utter another lie.” When the jailer came in later to get him to finish his false statement, he found the German hanging from a cell bar, dead. However the statement that the German had hanged himself to escape signing was offered and received in evidence in the trial of the others.

Sometimes a prisoner who refused to sign was led into a dimly lit room, where a group of civilian investigators, wearing U. S. Army uniforms. were seated around a black table with a crucifix in the center and two candles burning, one on each aide. “You will now have your American trial,” the defendant was told. The sham court passed a sham sentence of death. Then the accused was told, “You will hang in a few days, as soon as the general approves this sentence: but in the meantime sign this confession and we can get you acquitted.” Some still wouldn’t sign. We were shocked by the crucifix being used so mockingly.

In another case, a bogus Catholic priest (actually an investigator) entered the cell of one of the defendants, heard his confession, gave him absolution, and then gave him a little friendly tip: “Sign whatever the investigators ask you to sign. It will get you your freedom. Even though it’s false, I can give you absolution now in advance for the lie you’d tell.”

 

Source: E. L. Van Roden, “American Atrocities in Germany”, The Progressive. February 1949, p. 21f.