During lunch today I read an article in the June 20th 1949 edition of Life Magazine called Why They Confess.  The Remarkable Case of Hans
Fritzsche – who lived through the terror of a Russian prison – shows how the communists can break a man’s spirit without laying a hand on him.”

Hans_FritzscheHans Fritzsche was one of the few Nuremberg defendants found not guilty.  He was a popular radio personality during the war, and worked in the Propaganda Ministry.

He was arrested by the Russians and later turned over for the Nuremberg trials.  Before being turned over he spent his time in the infamous Lubyanka prison where he signed a false confession without having been beaten or his family threatened.

Some interesting quotes from the article:

 “The superiority of everything Russian was the rock on which their mental world was built”

“He could count on his fingers with one hand the soviet guards who ever overstepped their limits; and on the fingers of the other hand the Western guard in the Nuremberg jail who did not”

“He became a victim of the Lubyanka psychology, furiously trying to guess what kind of answer would satisfy the commissar.

……and  comment I am not sure what to make of but is interesting nonetheless:

“Western prisons are filled with people who feel innocent, Russian prisons with people who feel guilty”

After months of wearing Fritzche down he ultimately signed a false confession because:

“Hope is stronger than fear, therefore hope is more willing to make concessions”

and the Russians gave him hope at the end.Lubyanka Prison

In the end, the Russians got what they wanted, but it had no value as it was essentially false information and did not, therefore, lead to his conviction at Nuremberg as they had hoped.

This raises the question of what exactly we are/were doing in Guantanamo.

The takeaway from the Senate torture report released in December is best summed up by Kevin Drum:

” In plain English: The torture was far more brutal than we thought, and the CIA lied about that. It didn’t work, and they lied about that too. It produced so much bad Intel that it most likely impaired our national security, and of course they lied about that as well. They lied to Congress, they lied to the president, and they lied to the media. Despite this, they are still defending their actions.”

That torture produces bad intel has been well known for some time.

Napoleon said:

a.. The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know.
a.. On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128

We know from the Fritzsche case that even just being broken down leaves a man ” furiously trying to guess what kind of answer would satisfy the commissar. ”

If we know from the Frtizsche example that you can get said bad information or a conguantanamo torturefession from hope rather than fear, what have we been doing torturing people?

If you can break a man’s spirit without laying hands on him then why have we been laying hands on them?

What kind of people can sit around an orchestrate such acts knowing full well they won’t even work?

I’ll let the answer to these questions dangle out there for readers to contemplate.  I myself am not sure, but I bet this quote is a large part of the answer:

“The superiority of everything Russian was the rock on which their mental world was built”.

Just replace “Russian” with “American”.