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Gestapo Interrogation Transcripts

But what about the Gestapo interrogation transcripts? How can you trust anything in them? Are they really reliable?

Frequently, the people who belittle the Gestapo interrogation transcripts are the same people who are embarrassed by what's in them. Does that mean that every word in them is gospel-truth? Of course not.
    Here's a basic run-down of the primary transcripts and how I evaluated them for my White Rose histories, in strictly alphabetical order:

Lilo Berndl nee Ramdohr: Her interrogation was mercifully short and sweet. She was in Gestapo custody for a while, but not interviewed often. Alex Schmorell had kept her out of the main loop, and the Gestapo never asked her about the things she'd actually done, so she was able to tell the truth without incriminating Alex, Falk Harnack, or others (or herself).
    Her interrogation transcripts track well with her postwar memoirs, always a good sign.

Wilhelm Geyer: The man's age and experience stood him well while dealing with his interrogators. He was able to convincingly deny involvement with the White Rose while at the same time confirm what the Gestapo already knew about him, namely that he was enthusiastically anti-Nazi. He spared no words describing why he hated National Socialism, but - due to a Gestapo error in handling evidence against him - he could refute their charges of treason.
    Though one wishes Geyer had talked more after the war so we could know what he really did, his transcripts are nevertheless important for their unparalleled insights into Hans and Sophie Scholl's lives and how he directly affected their thinking.
    One must stand in awe of Wilhelm Geyer and the backbone he exhibited.

Willi Graf: Willi Graf's transcripts leave you in awe. Initially, he denied everything. When the Gestapo put him and Alex in the same room, expecting them to point fingers at one another, Willi changed course.
    From then on, he "told the truth," giving details about the operation. But taking blame for everything, along with the already-executed Hans and Sophie Scholl. He shielded all of his friends in the most astounding manner.
    As with the Scholls' transcripts, the WHAT is almost always accurate, but it's necessary to compare Willi's words to other transcripts (especially Gisela Schertling's) to know WHO did what.
    Willi's interrogations also demolish Gestapo agent Robert Mohr's postwar whitewash, namely his claim that after meeting Sophie, he got out of the Gestapo. Mohr became Willi's interrogator (and Susanne Hirzel's), signing all interrogations with his new title of KriminalOBERsekretär.
    Click here to order. Click here to read excerpt on Google Books.

Eugen Grimminger: Like Wilhelm Geyer, Grimminger excelled at obfuscating the truth during his interrogations. He was not easily fooled or frightened by Gestapo tactics. Grimminger's transcripts give us a grain of truth in an ocean of deception. We're quite lucky, because after the war - without benefit of ever seeing his Gestapo interrogation transcripts - Grimminger recorded the process of each and every interview.
    As with Lilo Berndl nee Ramdohr, the fact that his war-time and postwar words mesh so well is substantiation of the veracity of his testimony. He detailed what he was thinking after each question, why he answered the way he did, how the Gestapo agent reacted. Most important of all, he documented the off-the-record interrogations that went on. And on.
    Click here to order. Click here to read excerpts on Google Books.

Falk Harnack: Falk was an actor by training, and that is clear from his transcripts. Like Grimminger, he gave the Gestapo grains of truth mixed with lots of lies.
    The difference? The Gestapo knew that Harnack was lying because his brother Arvid had been executed in December 1942 for treason. Falk's transcripts make for interesting reading, and provide unusual insight into the February 9 rift. But most of it has to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt, if not bushels thereof.
    Click here to order. Click here to read excerpts on Google Books.

Hans Hirzel: Both Hans Hirzel and his sister Susanne said that he told the truth during his interrogations (except for his February 17 interview ~ before the arrests). In fact, sometimes he went into so much detail that it's clear he wore out his interrogator.
    Hans Hirzel's interrogations are crucial to White Rose research. In his eagerness to tell the truth, he left out few details. His words fill in many, many gaps.

Susanne Hirzel: Hard to tell. She knew very little about White Rose operations. In her postwar memoirs, she said she lied (while her brother told the truth). Therefore her descriptions of the leaflet mailing in Stuttgart that she carried out along with her brother directly contradict her postwar accounts.
    My point of view: The truth is likely somewhere between her postwar 'I fearfully and enthusiastically did my part' and 1943 'I didn't even read the leaflets' statements.
    Where Susanne Hirzel's transcripts are most valuable to us (and least valuable to the Gestapo in 1943)? In her vivid, expansive descriptions of the Scholls, especially Inge and Sophie.
    NOTE: Hirzels' transcripts are "gesperrt" ... We are working on the legalities of publishing in English translation. Contact us if you'd like to assist in this project. Oddly, the Hirzels' transcripts do not make them look bad. Reasons for blocking access to their transcripts is unclear.

Professor Kurt Huber: Reading Professor Huber's interrogation transcripts is a depressing matter, especially if one's only contact with this man is through White Rose literature (including the text of the sixth leaflet). Like Gisela Schertling, Kurt Huber resolved to tell the truth, the whole truth. But not for leniency's sake. He knew that his honesty would bring him a death sentence.
    His "honesty" is not what you'd expect, however. It quickly becomes clear that Kurt Huber was a diehard National Socialist. It's only White Rose legend that has his wife surreptitiously joining the NSDAP on his behalf. In reality, Kurt Huber was an early fan of the Party, signing its petition against the Dawes Plan in 1923.
    Kurt Huber was an enthusiastic Nazi, but one who disliked Hitler. He believed that Hitler had taken Germany too far left, that the NSDAP needed to return to its more rightwing roots.
    Huber repeatedly said that he fully subscribed to the Party platform and wished Hitler would go back to it. That platform included the anti-Semitic laws that resulted in the Shoah.
    Yes, Huber believed in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, all that. For Germans. The honesty of his transcripts will drive you nuts.
    Click here to order. Click here to read excerpts on Google Books.

Traute Lafrenz: During our 1996 conversation, she said that she told the truth as much as she possibly could, because that way, it was easier to remember what she had said. She specifically stated that her improbable accounts of reading to a blind artist (among other things) were absolutely true.
    Everything else - her political viewpoints, her relationship to Hans and Sophie, why she got the leaflet from Kaethe Schueddekopf in November or December 1942 - was a slick mixture of fact and fiction. To sort one from the other, it's necessary to compare Traute's interrogations to other transcripts and to her postwar account, written in 1946. And largely ignored by Inge Scholl.
    As an aside: I sat in the old Berlin archives in 1995 laughing my head off as I read Traute's transcripts. Those archives made you feel like the Stasi was looking over your shoulder.
    And here I was laughing!
    Because Traute played on Nazi chauvinism and horrid attitudes towards smart women, her "who, little ol' me?" shtick pervasive throughout the interviews. She stayed one step ahead of her interrogator, intuiting his next question and preempting his accusations by laying an impeccable groundwork of alibis. That agent wrote a memo to her files to the effect that LAFRENZ IS A LIAR LIAR LIAR! You go grrrrrrrl...

Franz Josef Müller: Who knows? His Gestapo interrogation transcripts have mysteriously gone missing from the archives. Watch for an update here soon! We have them! Debunks his claims to have been part of White Rose resistance.
    Essentially, Müller believed that he should do whatever the Pope said. And since the Pope had signed the Concordat with Hitler, it was his responsibility as a good Catholic to obey the government. Müller was an enthusiastic member of Hitler Youth, and because of that was left out of the intrigues by more responsible high school students like Heinz Brenner.
    His arrest and imprisonment by the Gestapo does not prove his legitimacy as a "freedom fighter", no matter how often he makes that claim. Rather, it demonstrates that National Socialism would not tolerate any infractions of the rules, no matter how small.
    Both Müller and Schertling felt the wrath of the Gestapo because they were good Nazis and knew better.
    If you are an intellectual property lawyer with expertise in international copyright law, please contact us. We need your help in publishing these transcripts so the truth can be known. (Müller has blocked official access to his transcripts.)

Gisela Schertling: Except for her first interrogation on February 18, 1943, Gisela's words are essentially true. She attempted to gain leniency from her interrogators - and in 1943, she was a good Nazi - so she spilled her guts.
    Main errors come when she got confused, which happened when her interrogator put her under too much pressure. (Gisela is the source for most of the mix-ups regarding the February 9 meeting.) But overall, she detailed the White Rose operations, providing an almost hour-by-hour description of the two weeks preceding the arrests on February 18.
    Click here to order. Click here to read excerpt on Google Books.

Alexander Schmorell: It is possible from a statement Alex made to Eugen Grimminger that Alex alone was physically tortured during his interrogations. As a half-Russian, he would have been subject to different rules. (Think PATRIOT act and how American prosecutors treat Arab-Americans post-9/11.)
    According to Alex's parents, he was unaware of the executions of Hans and Sophie when he was arrested. Alex therefore (very ironically) spent the first part of his interrogations trying to cover for the Scholl siblings.
    After the confrontation with Willi Graf when it became evident that the Gestapo knew quite a bit already, and after the Gestapo obviously showed Alex Kurt Huber's bitter denunciations (Huber's testimony by itself was enough to ensure the death penalty), Alex seemed to have given up.
    Click here to order. Click here to read excerpt on Google Books.

Hans and Sophie Scholl: As with Traute's transcripts, you have to compare Hans and Sophie's statements to those made by others, specifically to Gisela Schertling's. The siblings took almost everything on themselves, emphasis on "almost."
    Hans inexplicably betrayed Christoph Probst, not just by having Christl's leaflet in his pocket, but by giving the Gestapo Christl's name and address after they had concluded that the leaflet draft was Hans' (HS and CP's handwriting was very similar).
    Sophie gave up Traute Lafrenz, again for no apparent reason. (She was trying to establish that she had seen "others" with the leaflets when they entered the university building, but instead of pinning that accusation on people she recognized and knew to be good Nazis, she twice stated that Traute had the leaflet - and that alone was a punishable offense.)
    Both siblings damned Alex Schmorell to death by telling the Gestapo that he was an integral part of the operations, again, after they had already convinced their interrogators they had worked alone. Perhaps they believed Alex had accomplished his plan to leave Munich for Russia that very day. If so, it was a costly lapse of judgment.
    A great deal of their interrogations is true, except for the fact that 'they did everything themselves.' To correctly interpret their words, it's critical to know WHAT was done, and then to piece together from subsequent interrogations of other people WHO did those things. Most of the distortions in White Rose "scholarship" stem from writers who buy the "Scholl-Kreis" or "Scholl-Bund" theory that originated from these transcripts. A pity.
    Click here to order.

Katharina Schüddekopf: Much as Traute Lafrenz, Käthe played on Nazi chauvinism to deflect accusations of treason. Even more pointedly than Traute, she wrote for her Gestapo-ordered C.V. that she was just a woman, so why should she bother her head with politics?
    She and Traute had clearly discussed strategy before either was arrested, because they answered their interrogators nearly identically. Käthe slipped up once, inadvertently admitting she had given Traute a copy of a leaflet. Otherwise, excellent cover that requires comparison to Gisela Schertling's story to know what is true and what is false.
    Click here to order. Click here to read excerpt on Google Books.

NOTE: The Excel workbooks I created to help me organize primary source information - including but not limited to the Gestapo interrogation transcripts - are now available to White Rose scholars. (A coupon for a free copy of these Excel workbooks ships with every order of the academic version of White Rose History Volume II purchased by an individual.)
  • The first workbook provides a sortable record of the people who turned in copies of Leaflets 1 - 4.
  • The second is as complete a listing as possible of everyone involved with the White Rose, plus birthdays, birth place, death date, and connection to White Rose.
  • The third consists of several worksheets: Which Gestapo agent interviewed or searched whom, who denounced/betrayed whom and how severe the betrayal was, and prison transfers.
The Excel workbooks may only be purchased by individuals and require a statement promising that they will be used for personal scholarly research and will not be duplicated or reproduced in any form.
    To order without purchasing White Rose History Volume II, click here.

For more about the importance of primary source materials in general, click here.

Analysis of transcripts (c) 2005 Ruth Hanna Sachs. All rights reserved. Please contact us for permission to quote.
Excerpt from Willi Graf's Gestapo interrogation transcripts:

March 23, 1943
Continuation of the Interrogation of Wilhelm Graf.

I have known Karl Heinz Scheer – member of the armed forces, formerly residing in Saarbrücken, Gustav Bruch Street 40 – since 1928. He also attended the Gymnasium in Saarbrücken and was my classmate till 1937, or rather till the last of my senior year.
    After finishing school, we both volunteered for the Labor Service. From April to September 1937, we were both inducted as members of the same Labor Service division – 5/323 – in Dillingen/Saar.
    In the years that followed, I only saw Scheer occasionally during vacations in Saarbrücken, and in any event, we only spoke briefly. During my last vacation to Saarbrücken, from December 22, 1942 to January 6, 1943, Scheer visited me at my residence. He also had vacation at the same time. It had to have been early January, and late one afternoon.
    He visited me for [illegible] hours. At first, I was talking with Scheer privately. After about an hour, by chance Dr. Bollinger joined us. Bollinger and Scheer likewise knew one another from school days and saw each other again for the first time in a while there at my house.
    On this occasion, we also discussed the militaristic, political, and economic situation. I expressed the opinion that our military situation (and therefore the political) was not particularly favorable at the time, especially considering the events in Africa and the setback in Russia.
    Scheer championed the point of view that the things happening at the front were only temporary and that the military command was certainly working on reparations to shore up our front lines in order to renew the offensive.
    Bollinger said he thought the military situation was not transparent enough to have a good view of what our situation was on the front. This is possibly due to the fact that Bollinger has never been a soldier and was less capable of drawing conclusions from the events.
    As far as I can recall this conversation, Scheer would not entertain any doubts to the effect that our military situation should be viewed as muddled or bad.
    I decidedly dispute any notion that I said even one word – not even hinting – during this conversation between Scheer, Bollinger, and me about the movements I was aware of, or about the intention of distributing leaflets that opposed the current regime. I refrained from so doing, ie, I did not even entertain the thought of so doing, because Scheer has assumed such an absolutely positive attitude. Besides, I had far too little contact with Scheer.
    Additionally, I was of the opinion that a soldier of the army should not concern himself with such dubious thoughts and considerations, so that he may better fulfill his duties.
    If I am asked in the context of this question how it is possible to have this attitude towards soldierly duties while participating in treasonous endeavors, especially since I am a soldier and had sworn the oath of loyalty to the Führer, I can only say that I see a difference here. Scheer is on active duty, while I have been furloughed to continue my studies as a member of a so-called Student Company. I have assumed a role that is intermediary in nature, half civilian, and half soldier.
    I agree, however, that this position changes nothing in my soldierly duties.
    I would like to add that Scheer – similar to Bollinger and me – belonged to a Catholic youth organization [illegible]. But later, as far as I know, he joined Hitler Youth.

Recorded by: /Signature: Mohr/ Chief Crim. Secr.

Read, approved, and signed by[1]:

[1] Willi Graf did not sign this document.

Translation (c) 2003, Ruth Hanna Sachs. Please contact us for permission to quote.
Excerpt from Gestapo interrogation transcripts for Professor Kurt Huber:

Attorney-at-Law [Illegible] AUG. DEPPISCH
Admitted before the Higher Regional Court and the Regional Courts of Munich I and II
Tel: 30331 
Munich, April 15, 1943
Leopold Str. (Across from the [Illegible])

To the Office of the 1st Senate of the People’s Court, Berlin, Bellevue Str. 15

/Stamp: People’s Court[1]]
Received: April 17, 1943/  
/Handwritten: Very urgent!/
Regarding: Criminal case against Schmorell Alexander and 10 [sic] others for preparation for high treason.

Here: Dr. Kurt Huber and Helmut Bauer.
6J 24/43; 1H 101/43

Enclosed please find the requested receipts.[2]
    Today I met with both of the accused (Dr. Huber at Neudeck Prison and Helmut Bauer at Cornelius Prison) for the purpose of imparting information.
1) Dr. Huber does not wish to protest the continuation of his investigative custody because he assumes that the trial will take place very soon.
    Regarding the indictment: Dr. Huber noted that except for a few points, it states the facts correctly.
    Simultaneously he requested permission to call Karl Alexander von Müller (President of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Munich, Keppler Str. 1) as   PROOF that he [Huber] is not an opponent of National Socialism, but rather that he only championed the point of view that the old and positive members of the NSDAP must bring about a return to a constitutional state from [this] authoritarian state[3], and that he feared that the NSDAP had made a sharp left turn.     He wishes for von Müller to be called as a witness on his behalf.
    I have known von Müller for years. Therefore I would be able to get a reliable evaluation of Huber from him.   Dr. Huber additionally stated that he had asked Dr. Roder (Privy Counsel [Justizrat], Munich, Kreuz Str. 20) to serve as his defense counsel. When I called [to follow up], Justizrat Roder confirmed this statement.
    He simultaneously noted that due to the presumptive date of the trial, he was not sure he was at all able to really mount a defense. He had therefore turned to the People’s Court, but still had not received a decision [from them]. Therefore I am likely bound to continue the duties of court-appointed defense counsel until further notice.

2) Similar to Dr. Huber, Helmut Bauer does not wish to protest the continuation of investigative custody, likewise in the belief that the trial is coming up soon.
    He cannot make a statement with regards to the indictment, because he has not seen it yet.
    Additionally, he pointed out that he had asked Dr. Warmuth (Justizrat, Munich, Brienner Str. [Illegible]/III) to serve as his defense counsel. He had already contacted him in that regards. When I called, Dr. Warmuth’s office confirmed this statement, adding that they had already applied to the People’s Court for permission to speak with their client.
    Therefore I may view my appointment as court-appointed defense counsel for Bauer as terminated.
    As a precaution, I herewith request a brief confirmation [of same].

/Signed: A. Deppisch/ Attorney-at-Law
1 Enclosure

/Handwritten note (not Deppisch’s) at bottom of page is illegible. Very faint./

[1] Not Chief Prosecutor’s Office, just People’s Court
[2] Receipts in the sense of proof of receipt.
[3] He used the redundant term of autoritärer Machtstaat.

Translation (c) 2003, Ruth Hanna Sachs. Please contact us for permission to quote.
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