Joachim Peiper

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Joachim Peiper
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R65485, Joachim Peiper.jpg
Peiper in 1942
Born(1915-01-30)30 January 1915
Died14 July 1976(1976-07-14) (aged 61)
Resting placeSchondorf, Bavaria, Germany
Known forMalmedy massacre
Boves massacre
Political partyNazi Party
Criminal chargeWar crimes
TrialMalmedy massacre trial
PenaltyDeath penalty (commuted)
SS career
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Service/branchFlag Schutzstaffel.svg SS-Verfügungstruppe
Years of service1934–1945
UnitPersonal Staff Reichsführer-SS (as adjutant to Heinrich Himmler)
1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
Other workManager at Porsche; sales trainer at Volkswagen

Joachim Peiper (30 January 1915 – 14 July 1976) was a German SS officer and a Nazi war criminal convicted for the Malmedy massacre of American prisoners of war. During the Second World War in Europe Peiper served as personal adjutant to Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, and as a tank commander in the Waffen-SS.

During his career with Himmler, Peiper witnessed the implementation of the Holocaust with the SS policies of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Eastern Europe; facts he obfuscated and denied in the post–War period. As a tank commander, Peiper served in the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) in the Eastern Front and in the Western Front, first as a battalion commander and then as a regimental commander. Peiper fought in the Third Battle of Kharkov and in the Battle of the Bulge, from which actions his eponymous battle group — the Kampfgruppe Peiper — were notorious for committing war crimes against POWs and civilians.

In the Malmedy massacre trial, a U.S. military tribunal convicted Peiper of having committed the Malmedy massacre (1944) war crime and sentenced him to death; later commuted to twelve years of imprisonment. In Italy, Peiper was accused of having committed the Boves massacre (1943); that war crime investigation ended for lack of evidence that Peiper ordered the summary killing of civilians. Upon release from prison, Peiper worked for the Porsche and the Volkswagen automobile companies; and later moved to France, where he worked as a freelance translator. Throughout his post-war life, Peiper was a member of the social network of ex–SS men, including the right-wing political group HIAG (Mutual Aid Association of Former Members of the Waffen-SS). In 1976, Peiper was murdered in France when his house was set afire after the publication of his identity as a Waffen-SS war criminal.

Despite having been a minor combat leader in a large army, Peiper's idolization by WWII aficionados who romanticize the Waffen-SS in popular culture created a cult of personality that misrepresents the Nazi war criminal SS-Obersturmbannführer Joachim Peiper as a war hero of Germany.[1] That SS idolatry continues in the U.S. military; in 2019, the Facebook account of the U.S. Department of Defense featured a glamorous, colourised photograph of the Waffen-SS officer Joachim Peiper included to the 75th-anniversary commemoration of the U.S. Army’s having fought the Battle of the Bulge against Nazi Germany.[2][3][4] Despite his romanticized military persona, the egocentric Peiper personified Nazi ideology as a ruthless field commander who was indifferent to the combat casualties of the Kampfgruppe Peiper and tolerated, encouraged, and expected war crimes from the soldiers of his command.[5]

Early life[edit]

Family background[edit]

Joachim Peiper was born on 30 January 1915, the third son of a middle-class family from Silesia, in the German Empire. His father, Waldemar Peiper, soldiered in the Imperial German Army and fought in the colonial campaigns in German East Africa.[6] After soldiering in the First World War (1914–1918) poor health retired the soldier Peiper from active duty in 1915; later, Waldemar joined the paramilitary Freikorps and participated in repressing the Polish separatist Silesian Uprisings to annex German Silesia to the Polish Republic.[7] In 1920s Weimar Germany, the antisemitism of Nazi ideology (e.g. Stab-in-the-back myth) appealed to political conservatives and to reactionaries, such as the Freikorps soldier Waldemar Peiper, hence, his son Joachim followed the same path of ideology and military service to Germany.[8]

German Youth[edit]

In 1926, the eleven-year-old Peiper followed his elder brother Horst (b. 1912) to become a boy scout; eventually, Joachim became interested in becoming a military officer.[9] Peiper's middle-brother, Horst, joined the Schutzstaffel (SS) and served in the SS-Totenkopfverbände as a guard in a concentration camp. Transferred to active-duty as a soldier, Horst fought in the Battle of France (1940) as part of the 3rd SS Panzer Division, and was killed in Poland in June 1941, in an accident never fully explained by the investigating authority; rumour had it that Horst was homosexual, and thus was compelled to suicide by other soldiers of his unit.[10] Moreover, Peiper's eldest brother, Hans Hasso (b.1910) was mentally ill and had unsuccessfully attempted suicide in adolescence; consequent to his persistent vegetative state, Hans was interned to a hospital in 1931, and died in 1942.[11]

Pre–War career[edit]

Fascist politics[edit]

Joachim Peiper was eighteen years old when he joined the Hitler Youth in the company of Horst, his middle brother.[12] In October 1933, Peiper volunteered for the SS and joined the Cavalry SS, where his first superior officer was Gustav Lombard, a zealous Nazi, and later a regimental commander in the SS Cavalry Brigade, who were notoriously efficient at the mass murder of Jews in the lands of the occupied Soviet Union,[13] notably in punitive operations such as the Pripyat March (July–August 1941) in Byelorussia.[14]

On 23 January 1934, he was promoted to SS-Mann (SS Identity Card Nr. 132.496), which made Peiper an “SS Man” before the Shutzstaffell was independent of the Sturmabteilung (SA) within the Nazi Party. Later that year, Peiper was promoted to SS-Sturmmann at the 1934 Nuremberg Rally, where his reputation attracted the notice of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler,[15] for whom Peiper personified Aryanism, the master-race concept promoted by the Nazism taught at the SS officer school; despite not being as tall, blond, and muscular as the Nordic recruits to the SS, Peiper compensated by being a handsome, personable, and self-confident SS officer.[16]

The Shutzstaffel formally employed Peiper in January 1935, and later sent him to a military leadership course at a school of the LSSAH tank division.[17] At school, the SS leadership-student Peiper received favourable and approving reviews from the SS instructors, yet received only conditional approval from the military psychologists who noted officer-candidate Peiper's egocentricity, negative attitude, and continual attempts to socially impress them with his personal connection to Reichsführer-SS Himmler. The military psychologists concluded that SS officer candidate Peiper might become either a "difficult subordinate" or an "arrogant superior" in the course of his career in the Shutzstaffel.[18]

SS man & Party member[edit]

In the April 1935–March 1936 period, Peiper trained as a military officer in the SS-Junker School, from which institution the director, Paul Hausser, graduated politically correct Nazi leaders for the Waffen-SS.[19] Besides military fieldcraft, the SS-Junker School taught the National Socialist (Nazi) worldview that centred upon anti–Semitism; upon graduation, SS officer Peiper was posted to a unit of the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) tank division. The paedagogic qualification and competence of the instructors at the SS-Junker School was questionable; thus Peiper was educated by the likes of Matthias Kleinheisterkamp (an alcoholic army has-been), and (future war criminal) Franz Magill from the SS Cavalry Brigade.[20] Two years after becoming an SS man, on 1 March 1938, the Nazi Party issued to Joachim Peiper the NSDAP Identity Card Nr. 5.508.134; in the post–War period, Peiper continually denied having been a smarty who joined the Nazi Party, because that fact contradicted his self-promoted image of a common man who was "merely a soldier" in the Second World War.[21]

Staff officer[edit]

In June 1938, Peiper completed his tour of duty with the LSSAH tank division,[6] for staff-officer duty as an adjutant to Reichsführer-SS Himmler, which tour of duty Himmler considered necessary administrative training for a promotable SS leader. In that time, the Personal Staff Reichsführer-SS were under the command of SS functionary Karl Wolff.[22] As a staff officer, Peiper worked in the anteroom of the SS Main Office in Berlin; and became a favourite adjutant of Himmler, and Peiper requited the admiration; by 1939, Peiper always was the adjutant of the Reichsführer-SS at every official function.[23] In the post–War period, U.S. Army interrogators learned that the inner-circle of the Reichsführer-SS — such as the SS functionary Karl Wolff — misrepresented the true nature of the administrative command responsibility of adjutant officers in realising superior orders; long service to Himmler granted personal connections and consequent political influence.[24]

Private life[edit]

In 1938, Peiper met and courted Sigurd Hinrichsen, a secretary who was a friend of Lina Heydrich (Mrs Reinhard Heydrich) and a friend of Hedwig Potthast, secretary and mistress to Himmler.[25] On 26 June 1939, Peiper married Sigurd in an SS ceremony; Himmler was the guest of honour.[26] The Peipers lived in Berlin until the first Bombing of Berlin in World War II in 1940; Sigurd Peiper then went to live in Rottach-Egern, Upper Bavaria, near Himmler's second residence;[27] they had three children.[28]

Adjutant to Himmler[edit]

Mechanics of the Holocaust[edit]

On 1 September 1939, Nazi Germany’s Invasion of Poland launched the Second World War in Europe. Adjutant Peiper travelled in the personal train of Reichsführer-SS Himmler, and occasionally was the liaison officer to Hitler, when the Führer travelled by train with Erwin Rommel, and when the Führer met with Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS generals near the front lines of the war in the East.[29] On 20 September, in the north Polish city of Bydgoszcz, Himmler and Peiper witnessed the public executions of 20 Polish social leaders who might lead partisan resistance to Nazi occupation. That demonstration of the mechanics of the Holocaust — of ethnic cleansing — was realised by the paramilitary Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz an ethnic-German, self-defence militia commanded by Ludolf von Alvensleben, the local SS and Police leader.[30][31] In later conversation with the explorer Ernst Schäfer, Peiper rationalised the actions of the SS hunt and kill the Polish intelligentsia by ascribing sole command responsibility to Hitler and his superior orders to Himmler.[32]

The senior officers of the SS inspecting Nazi-occupied France: (left-right) SS General Sepp Dietrich, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, and his adjutant, Joachim Peiper, at Metz, in September 1940.

As a participant in the Nazi conquest of Poland for German Lebensraum, Peiper witnessed the administrative refinement of SS policies for more technically effective methods of killing with which to realise the ethnic cleansing to depopulate Polish lands for German colonists.[33] On 13 December 1939, in west central Poland, at the village of Owińska, near Poznań, Himmler and Peiper witnessed the poison-gas mass killing of a group of mentally defective patients in a psychiatric hospital. In post-war interrogations by U.S. Army JAG and military intelligence interrogators, Peiper was factual and emotionally detached in describing his eye-witness experience of mass murder:

The [gassing] action was done before a circle of invited guests. . . . The insane were led into a prepared casemate, the door of which had a Plexiglas window. After the door was closed, one could see how, in the beginning, the insane still laughed and talked to each other. But, soon they sat down on the straw, obviously under the influence of the gas. . . . Very soon, they no longer moved.[34]

Throughout 1940, Himmler and Peiper realised an inspection tour of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, including the Neuengamme concentration camp in the north, and the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in the north-east of the country. In Occupied Poland, Himmler met with Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger, the Higher SS and Police Leader, and his subordinate, Odilo Globocnik, the SS bureaucrat responsible for deporting the Jews from the cities of Warsaw and of Lublin, and from the Polish territories already annexed as Lebensraum for Germany.[34]

In April 1940, Himmler and Peiper continued their camp-inspection tour at the Buchenwald concentration camp and of the Flossenbürg concentration camp. The SS and Police Leader Wilhelm Rediess and the SS official Otto Rasch strove to develop quicker methods for killing civilians in order to depopulate Poland for German colonisation. In May 1940, Globocnik demonstrated for Himmler and Peiper the efficacy of the Aktion T4 programme for the involuntary euthanasia of disabled and crippled people; and also discussed Globocnik's work in the Lublin Reservation programme for the control and confinement of the Jewish populations of the Greater Germanic Reich.[35]

The Spanish Head of State, Generalíssimo Francisco Franco, is host to the Third Reich officials Karl Wolff (lt.), Joachim Peiper (ctr.), and Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler (rt.) in October 1940.

Combat decorations[edit]

In May 1940, Himmler and Peiper followed the Waffen-SS throughout the Battle of France. On 18 May, Peiper became a platoon leader in a unit of the LSSAH tank division. For audacious soldiering in his platoon's capturing a French artillery battery atop the hills of Wattenberg[disambiguation needed], south of Valenciennes, Peiper was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd class, and promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain).[36] On 19 June 1940, for audacious soldiering Peiper was awarded the Iron Cross 1st class.[37] As further reward and remuneration, Peiper took back to Germany a French sports car for his personal use; Himmler ordered Peiper's sports car be included to the motor-pool inventory of his personal staff.[38] On 21 June 1940, Peiper again was personal adjutant to Himmler.[39]

On 7 September 1940, Himmler thanked the commanders of the LSSAH tank division for expelling the Jewish populations from Alsace, in eastern France: "We had to have the toughness — this should be said and soon forgotten — to shoot thousands of leading Poles", and stressed the psychological problems suffered by Waffen-SS soldiers when they are "carrying out executions", "hauling away people", and "evicting crying and hysterical women" in order to clear the lands of Poland for German colonisation.[40] After an official visit to Francoist Spain to meet Generalíssimo Francisco Franco in October 1940, Peiper was promoted to First Adjutant on 1 November 1940.[41]

Invasion of Russia[edit]

In February 1941, Reichsführer-SS Himmler informed adjutant Peiper about Operation Barbarossa (22 June – 5 December 1941), for the invasion, conquest, and German colonisation of the U.S.S.R.; Peiper had four months to prepare the Waffen-SS soldiers of Kampfgruppe Peiper to battle the Red Army. Moreover, Himmler and his staff travelled to occupied Poland, to occupied Norway, to Nazi Austria, and to occupied Greece to see the progress of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS depopulations of those countries for German colonisation. About his visit to the Łódź ghetto, Peiper wrote that “it was a macabre image: we saw how the Jewish Ghetto police, who wore hats without rims, and were armed with wooden clubs, inconsiderately made room for us.” The episode in the Łódź ghetto indicates Peiper's awareness of the criminality of the Nazi occupations, yet wrote anecdotes — about the Jewish Ghetto Police abusing the Jews — which were meant to lessen the degree of his complicity in the war crimes of the Waffen-SS and of the Wehrmacht.[42]

In the 11–15 June 1941 period, adjutant Peiper participated in the SS conference wherein Himmler presented plans for killing of 30 million Slavs in eastern Europe, especially Russia; present were Kurt Wolff; Kurt Daluege (head of the Order Police), Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski (SS and Police Leader in Byelorussia); and Reinhard Heydrich (head of the Reich Security Main Office).[43] When Nazi Germany invaded the U.S.S.R., on 22 June 1941, Himmler used a headquarters-train to tour the conquered Russian lands; Himmler and Peiper inspected the work of the Einsatzkommando units who were depopulating the conquered lands. In Augustów, Poland, the Einsatzkommando Tilsit killed approximately 200 people; and in Grodno, Byelorussia, before Himmler and Peiper, Heydrich berated the leader of the local death squad for having shot only 96 Jews in a day.[44] 

In July 1941, Himmler and Peiper were in Białystok to witness the progress of the depopulation of that city and of Poland by the Order Police battalions, and met with Bach-Zalewski to discuss the deployment of units of the Kommandostab Reichsführer-SS (“Command Staff Reichsführer-SS”),[45] which comprised 25,000 Waffen-SS soldiers tasked to execute racial and ideological war against the peoples of Russia.[46] The Kommandostab units were under authority of the local Higher SS and Police Leaders, who identified the local populations of Jews and “undesirables” to be killed.[47] 

As the first adjutant, Peiper delivered the Kommandostab’s daily body-count reports to Himmler;[46] the 30 July 1941 report from Gustav Lombard's SS cavalry indicated that they had shot 800 Jews; the 11 August 1941 report from Lombard indicated that they had shot 6,526 looters (Jews). Peiper likewise delivered to Himmler the daily Einsatzgruppen murder-statistics that compared the numbers of people killed against the pre-war projections of the timetable for depopulating the U.S.S.R.[48] As the first and second adjutants, Peiper and Werner Grothmann were aware of and handled all of Himmler's orders and communications;[49] in the event, the adjutancy to Himmler ended in summer of 1941, and Peiper was reassigned to the LSSAH tank division in October 1941.[50]

At the Eastern Front[edit]

Peiper rejoined the Adolf Hitler Bodyguard (LSSAH) tank division whilst they fought in the Eastern Front, in the vicinity of the Black Sea. As the replacement of an injured company commander, Peiper assumed command of the 11th Company,[51] and fought the Red Army at Mariupol and Rostov-on-Don. Noted for his fighting spirit and aggressive leadership in battle, tank commander Peiper's victories cost many casualties in tanks and Waffen-SS infantry.[52]

The Adolf Hitler Bodyguard tank division were followed by Einsatzgruppe D who were responsible for killing the local Jews, Commissars, Red Army soldiers, partisans, and the civilian populace. To assist and facilitate the depopulation of the lands of Russia, SS-General Sepp Dietrich, commander of the Adolf Hitler Bodyguard tank division volunteered his Waffen-SS infantry to assist the Einsatzgruppe in the massacre at the Gully of Petrushino of 1,800 people.[53] In May 1942, the Adolf Hitler Bodyguard tank division was sent to Vichy France for rest, recuperation, and refitting,[54] and the LSSAH tank division subsequently was reorganized into a Panzergrenadier division of mechanized infantry, and Peiper was promoted to commander of the 3rd Battalion.[55]

Blowtorch Battalion[edit]

Meanwhile, on the Eastern Front, the Nazis invaders began to lose the initiative, especially in the Battle of Stalingrad. Peiper's battalion left France in January 1943 for the Eastern Front.[56] During the Third Battle of Kharkov, the battalion became known for an audacious rescue of the encircled 320th Infantry Division.[57] In a letter home, Peiper described hand-to-hand fighting with a Soviet ski battalion in an effort to lead the division, including its sick and wounded, to safety.[58] The rescue culminated with a fierce battle with the Soviet forces at the village of Krasnaya Polyana. Upon entering the village, Peiper's troops made a terrible discovery. All the men in his small rearguard medical detachment who had been left there had been killed and then mutilated. An SS sergeant in Peiper's ration supply company later stated that Peiper responded in kind: "In the village, the two petrol trucks were burnt and 25 Germans killed by partisans and Soviet soldiers. As a revenge, Peiper ordered the burning down of the whole village and the shooting of its inhabitants".[57] (The testimony was obtained in November 1944 by the Western Allies.)[59]

On 6 May 1943, Peiper was awarded the German Cross in Gold for his achievements in February 1943 around Kharkov, where his unit gained the nickname the "Blowtorch Battalion". Reportedly, the nickname derived from the torching and slaughter of two Soviet villages where their inhabitants were either shot or burned.[60] Ukrainian sources, including surviving witness Ivan Kiselev, who was 14 at the time of the massacre, described the killings at the villages of Yefremovka and Semyonovka on 17 February 1943. On 12 February troops of the LSSAH occupied the two villages, where retreating Soviet forces had wounded two SS officers. In retaliation, five days later, LSSAH troops killed 872 men, women and children. Some 240 of these were burned alive in the church of Yefremovka.[61] In August 1944, when an SS commander, formerly of LSSAH, was captured south of Falaise in France and interrogated by the Allies, he stated that Peiper was "particularly eager to execute the order to burn villages".[62] Peiper wrote to Potthast in March 1943: "Our reputation precedes us as a wave of terror and is one of our best weapons. Even old Genghis Khan would gladly have hired us as assistants."[63]

Propaganda hero[edit]

On 9 March 1943, Peiper was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, the most prestigious military decoration of the Third Reich, for which Reichsführer-SS Himmler congratulated him in a live radio broadcast: "Heartfelt congratulations for the Knight’s Cross, my dear Jochen! I am proud of you!"[64] In that stage of the Second World War, Nazi propaganda portrayed tank commander Peiper as an exemplary military leader. The official SS newspaper, Das Schwarze Korps (The Black Corps) reported that Peiper's actions in Kharkov demonstrated that he is a Waffen-SS tank commander who always is "the master of the situation, in all its phases". That Peiper's "quick decision-making" assured victory in the field through his "bold and unorthodox orders". That tank commander Peiper is "a born leader, one filled with the highest sense of responsibility for the life of every one of his men, but who [was] also able to be hard, if necessary" to complete the mission.[65]

In the post–War period, such hyperbolic descriptions of the tactical prowess of the tank commander Peiper glamourised the Waffen-SS man into a war hero of Germany.[66] In the SS hierarchy, Peiper was an SS man and military officer who received, obeyed, and executed orders with minimal discussion, and expected that his soldiers receive, obey, and execute his orders without question.[67] In July 1943, the LSSAH tank division participated in Operation Citadel in the area of Kursk, in which Kampfgruppe Peiper fought well against the Red Army.[68] After Operation Citadel failed, the LSSAH tank division was redeployed from the Eastern Front in Russia to the north of Fascist Italy.[69]

In Italy[edit]

German occupation of Italy[edit]

On 8 September 1943, Fascist Italy (1922–1943) ceased being a belligerent power of the Rome–Berlin Axis upon the signing of the Armistice of Cassibile (3 September 1943), between the Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) and the Allied Powers, in order to withdraw from fighting the Second World War in Italy proper. Consequently, Nazi Germany responded with Operation Achse (1943), wherein Wehrmacht forces, including the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) tank division, invaded and occupied the north of Italy, in order to forcibly disarm of the Italian army in situ; in August 1943, Kampfgruppe Peiper was stationed at the city of Cuneo, 6.0 km. north of the village of Boves, in the commune of Boves.[70]

Massacre at Boves[edit]

On 19 September 1943, in a firefight with the Waffen-SS occupiers, partisan guerrillas of the Italian Resistance Movement killed one soldier and captured two other soldiers in the vicinity of Boves, in the Piedmont region of north-west Italy.[71] In a later firefight with the partisans, a Waffen-SS infantry company failed to rescue their POW comrades from the partisans. After that failed rescue by the infantry, the armoured units of Kampfgruppe Peiper assumed strategic control of the streets and the roads into and out of the village of Boves, and Peiper then threatened to destroy the village of Boves if the partisans did not release their Waffen-SS POWs.[72]

In effort to avoid the Nazis’ destruction of the Boves village, the local spokesmen of the Boves commune, the parish priest Giuseppe Bernardi and the businessman Alessandro Vasallo, successfully negotiated the partisans’ release of their Waffen-SS POWs and of the corpse of the SS soldier killed in the firefight earlier that day of 19 September.[73] Despite the successfully negotiated release of the SS corpse and the Waffen-SS POWs, commander Peiper ordered the soldiers of Kampfgruppe Peiper to summarily kill 24 men of the Boves village in retaliation for the anti-Nazi resistance of the villagers. The Waffen-SS also killed a woman when they looted and burned her house.

In the after action report to the LSSAH headquarters, Kampfgruppe Peiper described the Boves massacre as Peiper's heroic defence against anti-German attacks by Communist partisans in which Waffen-SS soldiers battled, defeated, and killed 17 bandits and partisans, and that “during the fights [with partisans] the villages of Boves and Costellar were burned down. [That] in nearly all [the] burning houses [stores of] ammunition exploded. Some bandits were shot.”[74]

Return to the Eastern Front[edit]

In November 1943, the Adolf Hitler Bodyguard (LSSAH) tank division fought in battles at Zhytomyr, in the Ukraine. In the course of battle, the inexperienced Peiper replaced the regiment's dead commander and so assumed command of the 1st SS Panzer Regiment.[75] In early December, regimental commander Peiper was nominated for a medal for the successes of the 1st Regiment; the destruction of some Red Army artillery batteries and a division headquarters; having killed 2,280 Red Army soldiers; and for delivering three Red Army PoWs for military intelligence. The recommendation for awarding the medal to Peiper described the scorched-earth attacks of the 1st SS Panzer Regiment, wherein tank commander Peiper "attacked with all weapons and flame-throwers from his SPW" armoured fighting vehicle to defeat the Red Army defenders, and then "completely destroyed" the village of Pekartchina.[76]

The over-aggressive style of leadership showed that tank commander Peiper disregarded tactical common sense in deploying the tanks and infantry forces of the 1st SS Panzer Regiment in battle against the Red Army. As a daring regimental commander, Peiper's battlefield victories cost more Waffen-SS casualties — soldiers killed and soldiers wounded — than would have been killed with textbook tactics to achieve the same victory. Therefore, without the benefit of prior reconnaissance by the scout units, Peiper's tank-and-infantry frontal assaults against entrenched Red Army units killed too many infantry and cost too much lost matériel for an essentially Pyrrhic victory;[77] thus, after a month of Peiper's command, the 1st SS Panzer Regiment had only twelve working tanks.[78]

In December 1943, because of his destructive leadership of the 1st SS Panzer Regiment in Russia, the division command of the Adolf Hitler Bodyguard tank division relieved Peiper of combat duty at the Eastern Front and transferred him to staff-officer duty at the division headquarters. Nonetheless, despite his uneven battlefield performance in Russia, his political value as a propaganda hero to the Third Reich was greater than his shortcomings as a military officer; thus, on 20 January 1944, Hitler presented to Peiper the Oak Leaves heraldic device for his medal of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.[79]

At the Western front[edit]

Battle of Normandy[edit]

In March 1944, the Adolf Hitler Bodyguard (LSSAH) tank division was withdrawn from the Eastern Front and sent to be reformed in Nazi-occupied Belgium. In the course of resting, recuperating, and re-kitting the units of Kampfgruppe Peiper, new and replacement Waffen-SS soldiers were integrated to their ranks; most of the new Waffen-SS soldiers were adolescent boys much unlike Nazi ideologues of the earlier generations of fanatical Waffen-SS soldiers from the 1930s. The difficult training and the brutal hazing-and-initiation rituals to which the new soldiers were subjected resulted in five Waffen-SS soldiers being put to death for not meeting the standards of Kampfgruppe Peiper; upon realising their executions, SS-Obersturmbannführer Peiper then ordered the new soldiers to look at and to observe the corpses of the failed Waffen-SS soldiers. In 1956, the judicial authorities of the Federal Republic of Germany opened a war-crime case to investigate the accusation that the SS-man Joachim Peiper deliberately killed some of his own Waffen-SS soldiers as a point of unit discipline. A decade later, in 1966, Peiper claimed he knew nothing of summarily-executed Waffen-SS soldiers, and the lack of contradictory evidence and witnesses closed that war-crime case.[80]

As the Allied Operation Overlord (6 June 1944) began, the LSSAH tank division were deployed to the coast of the English Channel to confront the expected Allied invasion at Pas de Calais, in northern France; transport to the frontlines was limited, and the Allied air forces controlled the skies.[81] From 18 July 1944, the Kampfgruppe Peiper regiment saw action, but tank commander Peiper rarely was at the frontlines, because of the uneven terrain and the requisite radio silence.[82] As with the other Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht units in the area, Kampfgruppe Peiper fought defensively until Operation Cobra (25–31 July 1944) collapsed the German front when the U.S. Army destroyed every tank of the LSSAH and killed 25 per cent of their force of 19,618 soldiers.[83]

Moreover, Peiper was not in command of the 1st SS Panzer Regiment during Operation Luttich (7–13 August 1944), the series of failed counter-attacks at Avranches. Consequent to suffering a nervous breakdown, SS-Obersturmbannführer Peiper was relieved of command on 2 August 1944; and in the September–October period of 1944, Peiper was in hospital to treat his nervous collapse.[84]

Battle of the Bulge[edit]

In autumn of 1944, the Wehrmacht continually repelled Allied assaults to breach, penetrate, and cross the Westwall, whilst Hitler sought opportunity to seize the initiative on the Western Front.[85] The result was Nazi Germany’s Ardennes Offensive, a desperate, strategic gambit whereby the German armies would break through the U.S. lines in the Ardennes forest, cross the River Meuse, and then seize the city of Antwerp in order to break and divide the Allied front.[86]

The 6th SS Panzer Army was to penetrate the American lines between Aachen and the Schnee Eifel, in order to seize the bridges over the Meuse, on both sides of the city of Liège. The 6th Panzer Army designated the Adolf Hitler Body Guard (LSSAH) tank division as the mobile-strike force, under the command of SS-Oberführer Wilhelm Mohnke. Four combined-arms battle groups composed the 6th Panzer Division; Peiper commanded Kampfgruppe Peiper, the best-equipped battle group, which included the 501st Heavy Panzer Battalion equipped with seventy-ton King Tiger tanks. Kampfgruppe Peiper was to seize the bridges on the Meuse river between the cities of Liège and Huy. To address the perpetual shortages of fuel common to an army at war, headquarters provided tank commander Peiper with a map indicating the locations of U.S. Army fuel depots, where he could seize the fuel stores from the few U.S. Army soldiers manning those fuel dumps.[87]


The route of Kampfgruppe Peiper: The black circle indicates the Baugnez crossroads where the Waffen-SS committed the Malmedy massacre on 17 December 1944.

The 6th Panzer Army assigned to Kampfgruppe Peiper routes that included narrow and single-lane roads, which compelled the infantry, the armoured vehicles, and the tanks to travel as a convoy approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) long. Tank commander Peiper complained that the roads assigned to his Kampfgruppe were suitable for bicycles, but not for tanks; [88] yet the chief of staff Fritz Krämer told Peiper: “I don’t care how and what you do. Just make it to the Meuse. Even if you've only one tank left when you get there.”[89]

Peiper's vehicles reached the point of departure at midnight, which delayed the attack of the Kampfgruppe Peiper by almost twenty-four hours.[90] The plan was to advance through Losheimergraben, but the two infantry divisions tasked to open the route for Kampfgruppe Peiper had failed to open the route on the first day of battle. In the morning of 17 December, Kampfgruppe Peiper captured Honsfeld and the U.S. Army's stores of fuel. Peiper continued west until the road became impassable, a short distance from the town of Ligneuville; that detour compelled Peiper's units towards the Baugnez crossroads, near the city of Malmedy, Belgium.[91]

Malmedy and other atrocities[edit]

U.S. soldiers remove the corpse of a G.I. killed by the Waffen-SS in the Malmedy massacre (17 December 1944).
The war correspondent Jean Marin observes the corpses of Belgian civilians killed by the Waffen-SS at the Legaye, at Stavelot.

During Peiper's advance on 17 December 1944, his armoured units and half-tracks confronted a lightly armed convoy of about thirty American vehicles at the Baugnez crossroads near Malmedy. The troops, mainly elements of the American 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, were quickly overcome and captured.[92] Along with other American prisoners of war captured earlier, they were ordered to stand in a meadow before the Germans opened fire on them with machine guns, killing 84 soldiers, and leaving the bodies in the snow. The survivors were able to reach American lines later that day, and their story spread rapidly throughout the American front lines.[citation needed]

The atrocities continued. In Honsfeld, Peiper's men murdered several American prisoners.[93][94] Other murders of POWs and civilians were reported in Büllingen,[93] Ligneuville and Stavelot,[95] Cheneux, La Gleize, and Stoumont on 17, 18, 19 and 20 December.[citation needed] On 19 December 1944, in the area between Stavelot and Trois-Ponts, while the Germans were trying to regain control of the bridge over the Amblève River (crucial for allowing reinforcements and supplies to reach them), men from Kampfgruppe Peiper killed a number of Belgian civilians. The battle group was eventually declared responsible for the deaths of 362 prisoners of war and 111 civilians.[93]

Stall and retreat[edit]

Moving ahead, Peiper crossed Ligneuville and reached the heights of Stavelot on the left bank of the Amblève River at nightfall of the second day of the operation. The battle group paused for the night, allowing Americans to reorganize. After heavy fighting, Peiper's armour crossed the bridge on the Amblève. The spearhead continued on, without having fully secured Stavelot. By then, the surprise factor had been lost. The U.S. forces regrouped and blew up several bridges ahead of Peiper's advance, trapping the battle group in the deep valley of the Amblève, downstream from Trois-Ponts. The weather also improved, permitting the Allied air forces to operate. Airstrikes destroyed or heavily damaged numerous German vehicles. Peiper's command was in disarray: some units had lost their way among difficult terrain or in the dark, while company commanders preferred to stay with Peiper at the head of the column and thus were unable to provide guidance to their own units.[96]

Peiper attacked Stoumont on 19 December and took the town amid heavy fighting. He was unable to protect his rear, which enabled American troops to cut him off from the only possible supply road for ammunition and fuel at Stavelot.[97] Without supplies, and with no contact with other German units behind him, Peiper could advance no further. American attacks on Stoumont forced the remnants of the battle group to retreat to La Gleize. On 24 December, Peiper abandoned his vehicles and retreated with the remaining men. German wounded and American prisoners were also left behind.[98] According to Peiper, 717 men returned to the German lines out of 3,000 at the beginning of the operation.[99]

Despite the failure of Peiper's battle group and the loss of all tanks, Mohnke recommended Peiper for a further award. The events at the Baugnez crossroads were described in glowing terms: "Without regard for threats from the flanks and only inspired by the thought of a deep breakthrough, the Kampfgruppe proceeded ... to Ligneuville and destroyed at Baugnez an enemy supply column and after annihilation of the units blocking their advance, succeeded in causing the staff of the 49th Anti-Aircraft Brigade to flee.[100] Rather than a stain on Peiper's honour, the killing of POWs was celebrated in official records.[101] In January 1945, the Swords were added to his Knight's Cross. The great fame of Peiper as a Waffen-SS commander during the Battle of the Bulge was born.[102]

War’s end[edit]

In early 1945, the Kampfgruppe Peiper fought in Operation Southwind (17–24 February 1945) and in Operation Spring Awakening (6–15 March 1945) in the battles of which, despite killing many enemy soldiers, Peiper's aggressive style of command cost many more wounded and dead Waffen-SS soldiers than were necessary to win the battle.[103] On 1 May 1945, as the Adolf Hitler Bodyguard (LSSAH) tank division was forced into Austria, Peiper's men learned of the death of the Führer, occurred on 30 April 1945. On 8 May, the units of the LSSAH were ordered to surrender to the U.S. Army that was across the River Enns.[104] Flouting the high command's order to surrender, Peiper trekked home to Germany, but G.I.s sighted, hunted, and captured Waffen-SS Lt. Col. Joachim Peiper on 22 May 1945.[105]

In late June 1945, U.S. Army war-crime investigators began the forensic investigation of the Malmedy massacre that the Waffen-SS committed on 17 December 1944.[106] The Nazi war crimes committed during the Battle of the Bulge were attributed to Battle Group Peiper, for which reason the U.S. Army searched PoW camps for the Waffen-SS soldiers assigned to Peiper's command.[93] Moreover, the battle group commander, Peiper headed the list of war criminals sought by the U.S. Army from among four million prisoners of war.[107] In the event, on 21 August 1945, Waffen-SS Lt. Col. Joachim Peiper was found and identified as the suspected author of the war-crime massacre of 84 U.S. soldiers in a farmer's field near the city of Malmédy, Belgium.[108]

In July 1945, during his interrogations by military intelligence officers, Peiper revealed his true-believer commitment to Nazism when the Army interrogators asked his opinion about the plight of the Poles and the Jews; and the SS-man Peiper agitatedly replied that: "All the Jews are bad and all Poles are bad. We have just cleansed our society and moved these people into camps, and you let them loose!" Moreover, as a Waffen-SS officer, Peiper also lamented to the Army interrogators that the U.S. government was wrong in having refused to incorporate the Waffen-SS into the U.S. Army to "prepare to fight the Russians" in defence of Western civilisation.[109]

War criminal[edit]


In Upper Bavaria, at the U.S. military jail in Freising, the judicial and military intelligence interrogators soon learned that, although SS Lt. Col. Peiper and his Waffen-SS troops were hardened soldiers, they had not been trained to withstand interrogation as prisoners of war.[110] Being psychologically unsophisticated men, some SS PoWs readily answered the questions asked of them by the interrogators, yet some of the SS PoWs spoke to the interrogators only after claiming to have perdured tortures, such as threats, beatings, and mock trials.[110] In the course of his interrogations, Col. Peiper assumed command responsibility for the actions of his Waffen-SS soldiers. In December 1945, the Army transferred him to the prison at Schwäbisch Hall, and there integrated Peiper to a group of approximately 1,000 Waffen-SS soldiers and officers of the Adolf Hitler Bodyguard (LSSAH) tank division who also awaited judicial processing for their war crimes.[110] On 16 April 1946, the prison transferred 300 Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS PoWs to the Dachau Concentration Camp, where a military tribunal would hear their war-crime cases.[110]

At trial[edit]

In the 16 May–16 July 1946 period, at the Dachau Concentration Camp, a military tribunal heard the Malmedy Massacre Trial of 74 defendants, which featured Waffen-SS Lt. Col. Joachim Peiper (Cmdr. 1st SS Panzer Regiment) who committed the war crimes; Sepp Dietrich (Cmdr. 6th SS Panzer Army); Fritz Krämer (Dietrich's chief of staff); and Hermann Prieß (Cmdr. I SS Panzer Corps).[111] The U.S. Army's war-crime bill of charges is based upon the facts reported in the sworn statements given by the Party, Wehrmacht, and Waffen-SS PoWs in the Schwäbisch Hall prison.

To counter the evidence in the sworn statements of the Nazi defendants and the prosecution witnesses, the lead defence attorney, Lt. Col. Willis M. Everett, tried to show that the sworn statements had been obtained by inappropriate interrogation.[112] Defence counsel Everett then called Lt. Col. Hal D. McCown, commander 2nd Battalion, 119th Infantry Regiment, to give witness testimony about his captivity — as a prisoner of war — of the Waffen-SS who captured him and his unit on 21 December 1944, whereabouts La Gleize, Belgium. In his trial testimony, Lt. Col. McCown said that he had not witnessed Col. Peiper's Waffen-SS soldiers mistreating their American prisoners of war.[113]

Waffen-SS Lt. Col. Joachim Peiper in the Malmedy massacre trial (16 May–16 July 1946) held at the Dachau Concentration Camp.

The prosecutor countered that, by the time Lt. Col. McCown and his G.I.s had been captured on 21 December, battle group commander Peiper already was aware that the tactical situation of being out-numbered, out-gunned, and out-manoeuvred placed Kampfgruppe Peiper in danger of imminent capture by the U.S. Army. That on 17 December 1944, at Malmédy, Belgium, the units of the Battle Group Peiper were advancing to their objectives; whereas, by 21 December 1944, continual firefights with the U.S. Army had divided and dispersed scattered Battle Group Peiper, and thus almost trapped Peiper's unit, and himself, at La Gleize; and the vehicles had little fuel; and the companies of soldiers had suffered 80 per cent casualty rates.

Defence counsel Everett called only Peiper to testify; but in his testimony, Peiper communicated only calculation about the usefulness of his American prisoners of war; when the Peiper Battle Group fled afoot from the town of La Gleize, Col. Peiper made hostages of Lt. Col. McCown and some of his G.I.s in order to protect his Waffen-SS soldiers from capture by the U.S. Army.[114]

Despite the damning and incriminating facts that Peiper testified to the military tribunal, the other defendant SS-men, supported by their German lawyers, unwisely asked for the opportunity to testify. The prosecutor's cross-examinations compelled the SS men to behave like "a bunch of drowning rats . . . turning on each other" to survive; thus did the Nazi PoW testimonies — of soldiers and officers — about the Malmedy war crimes provide the military tribunal with reasons to condemn to death several of the Waffen-SS defendants.[112]

The military tribunal were unconvinced by his testimony that, as the commanding officer of the Battle Group Peiper, he, Col. Peiper, had no command responsibility for the summary execution of American PoWs by his Waffen-SS soldiers.[112] When asked about having ordered his soldiers to summarily murder Belgian civilians, Peiper said that the dead people were partisan guerrillas — not civilians.[115] Two witnesses testified to having heard Peieper on two occasions order the summary execution of U.S. PoWs;[116] yet, when the prosecutor asked whether or not he gave the orders for the summary executions, Peiper denied the veracity of the eye-witness testimony, claiming that the testimony had been coerced from men under mental duress and physical torture.[117]

Death sentence[edit]

On 16 July 1946, the military tribunal for the Malmedy Massacre Trial convicted Obersturmbannführer Joachim Peiper of the war crimes of which he was accused, and sentenced him to be hanged ’til dead. In the judicial system of the U.S. Army, a sentence of death is automatically reviewed by the U.S. Army Review Board, and, in October 1947, death-sentence reviewers commuted some verdicts into long imprisonment for the Nazi war criminals.[118] In March 1948, Gen. Lucius D. Clay, the U.S. boss of Occupied Germany (1945–1949), reviewed 43 death sentences, and confirmed the legality of only 12 death sentences, including the death sentence of Waffen-SS Col. Peiper.[119]

Release from prison[edit]

In 1951, about politicking for the political rehabilitation of Waffen-SS Colonel Joachim Peiper, ex-general Heinz Guderian said to a correspndent:

At the moment, I'm negotiating with General Handy [in Heidelberg], because [he] wants to hang the unfortunate Peiper. McCloy is powerless, because the Malmedy trial is being handled by Eucom, and is not subordinate to McCloy. As a result, I have decided to cable President Truman and ask him if he is familiar with this idiocy.[120]

In 1948, the judicial reviewers of the trial verdicts of the military tribunal commuted the war-crime death sentences of some Waffen-SS defendants in the Malmedy massacre trial to life imprisonment. By 1954, Peiper's death sentence first was commuted to 35 years of imprisonment, and then was commuted into the time he already had spent in prison, and was released in December 1956.[121] The political lobbying of the network of SS men arranged and realised Peiper's early release from prison and his finding employment; the Mutual Aid Community of Former Members of the Waffen SS (HIAG) already had found employment for Frau Peiper near the Landsberg Prison wherein her husband resided. The political influence of Albert Prinzing, an ex-functionary in the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) security service, Peiper was employed in the Porsche automobile company.[122]

Post–War life[edit]

On liberation from Landsberg Prison, Joachim Peiper acted discreetly and did not associate with known Nazis in public, especially with ex-Waffen-SS soldiers and the Mutual Aid Association of Former Waffen-SS Members (HIAG); privately, Peiper remained a true-believer Nazi and member of the secret community of Waffen-SS in the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1959, Peiper attended the national meeting of the Association of Knight's Cross Recipients. He travelled with Walter Harzer, the HIAG historian, and reunited with Sepp Dietrich and Heinz Lammerding who, in the post-war period, also had been formally identified as Nazi war criminals.[123] His active social life in the Waffen-SS community included Peiper's public participation in the funerals of dead Nazis, such as those of Kurt Meyer, Paul Hausser, and Dietrich.[124] Collaborating with the HIAG, Peiper secretly worked for the political rehabilitation of Waffen-SS soldiers and officers, by suppressing their war-crime records and misrepresenting them as war veterans of the Wehrmacht. Nevertheless, self-awareness of his legalistic chicanery allowed Peiper to tell a friend: “I, personally, think that every attempt at rehabilitation during our lifetime is unrealistic, but one can still collect material.”[124]

On 17 January 1957, the Porsche automobile company employed Peiper in Stuttgart.[125] In the course of his employment, Italian trade union workers formally complained that Peiper was unacceptable as a co-worker because he remained a Nazi and because of the wartime Boves massacre committed by his command, the Kampfgruppe Peiper, in Italy. An owner of the car company, Ferry Porsche, personally intervened to promote Peiper into a management job, but the trade unions legally refused to work with Peiper; despite the friendship with Porsche, and because of lost sales of cars in the U.S. — for employing a Nazi war criminal — the Porsche automobile company dismissed Peiper from his employment.[126]

On 30 December 1960, Peiper filed a lawsuit against the Porsche car company,[126] wherein the attorney claimed that Joachim Peiper was not a Nazi war criminal, because the Allies had used the Malmedy massacre trial (1946) as propaganda to defame the German people; likewise the Nuremberg trials (20 November 1945 – 1 October 1946) and the Malmedy massacre trial were anti-German propaganda. Peiper's attorney cited documents by Freda Utley, a Holocaust denier academic, which said that the U.S. Army had tortured the Waffen-SS defendants in the Malmedy massacre trial. In the event, the court resolved Peiper's lawsuit and ordered that Mr Porsche void the employment contract and indemnify Peiper for the dismissal. Morever, that lost job allowed Der Freiwillige, the official newspaper of the HIAG, to misrepresent Peiper as having been "unfairly sentenced" for war crimes committed by other Nazis.[127] The HIAG then found Peiper employment as a trainer of car salesmen at the Volkswagen automobile company.[128]

War-crime trials[edit]

In the early 1960s, Cold War geopolitics in western Europe required transforming Germany from enemy (Nazi Germany) to ally (Federal Republic of Germany) for consequent integration to NATO, the strategic, military counterpart of the Warsaw Pact. Consequent to the relative de-Nazification of German society, the economy of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) disallowed ex-Nazis to hide among the educated staff of a business company in post–War Germany; a Nazi diploma was unacceptable for employment.[129] The Adolf Eichmann trial (1961) and the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials (1963–1965) informed the world of the true, racist nature of Nazi Germany and their white supremacy politics of official Anti–Semitism and the Final Solution in order to realise the Holocaust — the purpose of National Socialism.[129]

Unlike in the aftermath of the Second World War (1939–1945) in Europe, when the Allies prosecuted war crimes under a limited remit, the Federal Republic of Germany extended the statute of limitations for the prosecution of war crimes in order to successfully hunt, capture, and prosecute the war criminals of the Nazi party, the Werhrmacht, the Waffen-SS, and the Gestapo.[129] In their testimonies at the war-crime trials in the FRG, the Nazi war criminals repeatedly named SS-Obersturmbannführer Joachim Peiper as an active participant in the massacres of civilians and PoWs at the Eastern front and at the Western front of the War. Among the fellow Nazis who betrayed Peiper in court were Karl Wolff (senior adjutant to Himmler) and Werner Grothmann (Peiper's successor as adjutant to Himmler). At trial the court heard Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski (ex-Bandenbekämpfung chief for occupied Europe) speak of Himmler's plans to "rid Russia of thirty million Slavic people" and Himmler's pronouncements, at Minsk, that he was "determined to eliminate the Jews".[130]

In 1964, the village of Boves, Italy, erected a monument commemorating the victims of the Boves Massacre committed by the Kampfgruppe Peiper on 13 September 1943; offended by that explicit, public identification as a war criminal, Peiper asked the Mutual Aid Association of Former Members of the Waffen-SS (HIAG) to legally defend him against that war-criminal label. Peiper's defence attorney said that Italian Communists had fabricated evidence to substantiate false Nazi war-crime accusations; Peiper again repeated that Kampfgruppe Peiper had to destroy the village of Boves in the course of the Waffen-SS defence against Communist partisans.[131] On 23 June 1964, the Central Office of the State Justice Administration for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes, formally accused Peiper of perpetrating the Boves Massacre in 1943.[129] The formal accusation was based upon statements of two ex-partisans who recognized SS-Obersturmbannführer Joachim Peiper from two published photographs; (i) in a picture-book about the Battle of the Bulge, and (ii) from a photograph of SS-Obersturmbannführer Peiper observing the incineration of the village of Boves.[132] In 1968, the German District Court in Stuttgart determined that Kampfgruppe Peiper had set houses afire and that "a portion of the victims killed was from rioting that was committed by [the Waffen-SS soldiers]".[133] Nevertheless, despite the unit's collective culpability for the war-crime at Boves, there was no evidence of the individual command responsibility that SS-Obersturmbannführer Joachim Peiper, himself, had directly ordered the massacre of villagers at Boves, Italy.[129]

Nazi idolatry[edit]

In the United States, Obersturmbannführer Joachim Peiper is an idol of right-wing Americans who romanticize the Waffen-SS as German war heroes, rather than as Nazi war criminals.[1] In the post–War period of the late 1940s and early 1950s, the cultural context — xenophobic Russo-American Cold War and reactionary McCarthyism — allowed historical, factual, and personal misrepresentations of Peiper to coalesce into the cult of personality (idolatry) practised by right-wing organisations, such as the HIAG (Mutual Aid Association of Former Members of the Waffen-SS) who sought his early release from war-crime imprisonment in West Germany. In American popular culture, Peiper's military bearing, good looks, commanding presence, and chestful of Nazi medals earned him many right-wing admirers in civilian society and in military society.[134]

In the U.S. military, the idolatry of Obersturmbannführer Peiper penetrated the official publications of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). In 2019, the DoD Facebook account included a colourised military photograph of Peiper in Waffen-SS uniform into an audiovisual commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Army fighting Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge — which included the Malmedy Massacre (1944) committed by Kampfgruppe Peiper. Peiper's Waffen-SS photograph provoked "widespread backlash on social media" because the DoD publication appeared to celebrate a Nazi war criminal as a German war hero; the DoD apologised and deleted the photograph. Despite that political mis-step, the Pentagon used Peiper's Waffen-SS photograph to represent the German enemy fighting the U.S. Army airborne corps in the Battle of the Bulge.[2] Moreover, the Facebook page of the Army's 10th Mountain Division also featured Peiper's colourised Waffen-SS military photograph to represent the German enemy they fought in the Second World War.[2][3][4]

The Washington Post and The New York Times newspapers quoted Facebook commentators who said that the DoD's positive military biography of the war criminal Joachim Peiper was a "vile and disturbing" exercise in historical negationism, which had the tone of “a ‘fanboy-flavoured’ piece” of right-wing propaganda.[3][2] Moreover, the researchers of The Washington Post traced the source of Peiper's colourised photograph to the Twitter account of a pro–Nazi artist who publishes photographs of Nazis, with captions of supportive praise for Nazism and Hitler, and concluded that:

It remains unclear how Pentagon and Army officials cleared an image, apparently created by an artist who celebrates Nazi propaganda online, to be published alongside a tribute to the American soldiers who fought and died to defeat a fascist regime 75 years ago. But the mis-step is just the latest in a month of embarrassing incidents for the U.S. Army, which has been recently slammed with multiple allegations of white supremacist activity.[3]

Later life and death[edit]

In 1972, Joachim Peiper and Frau Peiper moved to Traves, Haute-Saône, in eastern France, where he owned a house. Under the pseudonym “Rainer Buschmann”, Peiper worked as a self-employed English-to-German translator for the German publisher Stuttgarter MotorBuch Verlag, translating books of military history.[28] Despite his biography and working pseudonymously, Mr and Mrs Peiper unwisely lived under his true, German name, “Joachim Peiper”, and soon attracted the notice of anti-fascists.[28]

In 1974, a member of the French Resistance recognised the Waffen-SS war criminal Joachim Peiper and reported his presence in metropolitan France to the French Communist Party. In 1976, the historian of the French Communist Party searched the Gestapo files for the personnel file of SS-Oberststurmbannführer Joachim Peiper to determine his whereabouts.[135] On 21 June 1976, anti-Nazi political activists distributed informational flyers to the Traves community informing them that Peiper was a Nazi war criminal residing in the village of Traves. On 22 June 1976, an article in the L'Humanité newspaper confirmed that Peiper was a villager in Traves.[135] The confirmation of Peiper's Nazi identity and presence in France attracted journalists to whom Peiper readily gave interviews, wherein he claimed that he was a victim of Communist harassment over the past War. In the interview titled J’ai payé (“I Already Have Paid”), Peiper defended himself as an innocent man who had paid for his war crime, the Malmedy massacre (1944), with twelve years of imprisonment, and that, likewise, he was innocent of the earlier Boves massacre (1943) war crime in Italy. In response to the death threats, Mr and Mrs Pieper emigrated from France and repatriated to the German Federal Republic.[136]

In the morning of 14 July 1976, French anti-Nazis attacked and set afire Peiper's house in Traves, Haute-Saône; after extinguishing the fire, in the burnt remains the firemen found a charred corpse holding a pistol and a .22-calibre rifle, as if defending himself;[128] yet the arson investigators determined that the smoke had suffocated and killed Peiper.[137] In the event, the anti-Nazi political group The Avengers claimed responsibility for the arson that killed the Nazi war criminal Peiper; nonetheless, because of the completeness of the arson of the house, the French police authorities remained unconvinced that Joachim Peiper was dead.[80]



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