Gestapo Interrogation Methods: Their Terrifying Tactics

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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What were the popular Gestapo interrogation methods? How did the Nazi police get the answer they were looking for?

Corrie ten Boom experienced several Gestapo interrogation methods. Knowing the risks she was taking, she had trained for Gestapo interrogation methods. Read what happened to her and the other ten Booms.

The ten Booms and Gestapo Interrogation Methods

Corrie herself needed to prepare for harsh Gestapo interrogation methods. Her nephew Kik arranged drills for her, in which he and Rolf would burst into Corrie’s room while she was still sleeping and bark questions at her, just as would happen if she were to find herself face-to-face with the German police. “How many Jews are you hiding?” they would scream at her. But Corrie, who had been raised to believe that lying was a sin, was honest to a fault in these mock interrogations, often giving the literal answer, “Six.” Or sometimes, the mock interrogators would trick her with a question like, “Where are you hiding your nine Jews?” to which Corrie would respond, “We have only six Jews here.”

Allies told Corrie that she needed to give the correct answers to these questions, not the true ones, lest she inadvertently betray herself and everyone else at the Beje. She must deny that there were any Jews there. Her honesty, while genuinely motivated by her unshakeable Christian faith, was a serious hazard. With time, however, she learned how to calmly and coolly give the correct answer to these questions: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. There are no Jews here.”

A New Interrogation Method

The weeks in solitary confinement continued, with no clear end in sight for Corrie’s suffering and loneliness. This was part of the Gestapo interrogation methods to break her. In late May 1944, after three months in Scheveningen, she was finally called for her hearing. She feared what would happen to her as the guards escorted her to the infamous interrogation huts.

When Corrie arrived, her interrogator was nothing like what she’d imagined. Lieutenant Rahms was different than the other Nazi officials she had encountered. Where they had been harsh, violent, and outwardly cruel, Rahms was gentle, disarming, and even seemed to express concern for Corrie. His first act, upon seeing that she was shivering, was to light a fire in the hut’s stove to help her warm up and get comfortable.

But, by this point, Corrie was enough of a veteran of Nazi persecution to see through his ruse. She knew this was part of the Gestapo interrogation methods. Rahms’s disarming nature was merely a ploy, a tactic he was using to attempt to coax information out of her. He was trying to get Corrie to confess and betray the accomplices who hadn’t yet been apprehended by the Gestapo, reassuring her that he would help her if she agreed to cooperate and told him everything she knew. Corrie prayed that her gullibility would not put the lives of others at risk.

In the course of the hour-long interrogation, it became clear to Corrie that the Gestapo had been mistaken about the true nature of the workings at the Beje. They seemed to think that it was the headquarters of a food ration card fraud and theft scheme, as Rahms’s questions mostly seemed to focus on this topic. Corrie genuinely had little knowledge of this, and she had little information to share with Rahms.

Despite his disarming style of questioning, Rahms’s cruel Nazi ideology did express itself during his Gestapo interrogation methods. When he asked Corrie about the good works she did in accordance with her faith, she talked about her work with mentally handicapped children. Rahms scoffed at this work, claiming that God would surely value an able-minded convert over a “half-wit.” Corrie rebutted his ideas about the uselessness (from the perspective of fascist society) of disabled people, claiming that they, too, were creatures of God and no different in His eyes than anyone else. 

The interrogation resumed the next day. This time, Rahms attempted to appeal to Corrie by asking her about her family and her faith. Rahms spoke about his distaste for the grim work he was engaged in at Scheveningen and his fears for what might happen to his family at home in Germany. Corrie told him that Jesus Christ could be his light and salvation, even in a dark and cruel world.

Over the next two days’ interrogations, Corrie sensed that Rahms was genuinely enjoying their conversations, as he no longer asked her any questions about her underground activities. Rahms struggled to understand why a supposedly loving and benevolent God put a devout Christian like Corrie in a filthy solitary confinement cell. Or why He would allow such a good and pious man like Casper ten Boom to die alone in prison, separated from his family and everyone he knew. 

Corrie, of course, knew that these were the workings of God, not for humans to question or try to understand. Like her father’s metaphor about the bag at the train station being too heavy for her to bear, she knew that there was some knowledge that mankind could not bear—so God would bear it for us.

Gestapo Interrogation Methods: Their Terrifying Tactics

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Corrie ten Boom's "The Hiding Place" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full The Hiding Place summary :

  • Why devout Christian Corrie ten Boom decided to stand up to the Nazi occupation
  • How ten Boom and the Jewish neighbors she was hiding were caught
  • How ten Boom survived the concentration camp and left with even stronger faith

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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