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Education

How Germany's 'Master Interrogator' relied on kindness and empathy during WWII

Hanns Scharff's methods were so effective they were adopted by the FBI.

ww2 history, kindness, history
Credit: Sony

Flattery really will get you everywhere.

Imagine it’s WWII. You’re an American fighter pilot (thank you for your service) and a prisoner of war (eek).

Your interrogator walks in, and instantly your mind begins to prepare you for the torture that lies ahead. Will you be kicked, whipped and beaten? Forced to stand for hours on end until you give the enemy crucial intel? The anticipation alone is excruciating.

Suddenly, your interrogator says, “What would you like for lunch?”

This would be your treatment if questioned under Hanns-Joachim Gottlob Scharff, “Master Interrogator” of Germany’s Luftwaffe branch, who’s unconventional techniques surprisingly reveal the power of kindness.

Scharff never sought out a military career, but a series of seemingly fated events led him to one nonetheless.

A businessman at the time, Scharff had been vacationing in Germany in 1939 when the war broke out and he was forcibly drafted into the army. His wife would help him avoid fighting on the front lines by vying for him to work as an interpreter.

It wouldn’t be long before Scharff would unintentionally move up the ranks. After two of his superiors died in a plane crash, he landed the position of lead interrogator.

Unlike his peers and predecessors, Scharff was opposed to obtaining information through physical or psychological abuse. Instead, he relied upon friendliness and empathy. He regularly took prisoners out to lunch and on luxurious nature walks, and he even offered them baked goods made by his wife. It was essentially more of a wooing than an interrogation.

In addition to the friendly approach, Scharff would also never press for information and perpetuated an illusion of knowing all the information already (which included acting unsurprised whenever a prisoner might reveal new intel). The last component of his strategy involved casually presenting a claim to see if the prisoner would confirm or deny it, otherwise known as the confirmation/disconfirmation tactic.

All these tricks proved incredibly effective. Not only was Scharrf highly successful at getting information (one prisoner famously remarked that he "could get a confession of infidelity from a nun”) he also managed to save the lives of multiple American pilots in the process. He even remained friends with one after the war.

His methods were so successful that following WWII, he was invited to give lectures in America, and he became a major influence on U.S. interrogation techniques.

One last fun fact: America is where Scharff would end up retiring, where he would take up creating mosaics—a passion he once had as a young boy. If you ever find yourself at Cinderella's Castle in Walt Disney World, you might find one of his works.

Cinderella, Disney World

Scharff clearly had many talents.

cdn1.parksmedia.wdprapps.disney.com

Not in Florida anytime soon? You can also find some of his work at the California State Capitol building, Los Angeles City Hall, and several American universities like Dixie College in Utah and the University of Southern California campus.

You know what they say—you catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. Getting the desired result from another person is often more easily achieved by being kind and understanding, both in times of war and in everyday life.

Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

True

Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


Health

Over or under? Surprisingly, there actually is a 'correct' way to hang a toilet paper roll.

Let's settle this silly-but-surprisingly-heated debate once and for all.

Elya/Wikimedia Commons

Should you hang the toilet paper roll over or under?



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Humans have debated things large and small over the millennia, from the democracy to breastfeeding in public to how often people ought to wash their sheets.

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The "over or under" question has plagued marriages and casual acquaintances alike for over 100 years, with both sides convinced they have the soundest reasoning for putting their toilet paper loose end out or loose end under. Some people feel so strongly about right vs. wrong TP hanging that they will even flip the roll over when they go to the bathroom in the homes of strangers.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not merely an inconsequential preference. There is actually a "correct" way to hang toilet paper, according to health experts as well as the man who invented the toilet paper roll in the first place.

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