Joachim Peiper and the Malmedy massacres again

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed. Hosted by David Thompson.
User avatar
John W
Financial supporter
Posts: 9088
Joined: 03 Jan 2003 07:12
Location: United States of America

Post by John W » 26 Sep 2003 02:05

David Thompson wrote:If American troops in my time (1970-78) were given a command like the one in your example, they would ask the officer directly something like "Are you saying to take no prisoners?" (emphasis in original).
Thanks for the clarrification. Languages can very much be a barrier at times :|

Yes, the idea behind the sentiment is the same, especially "untill they are in the bag - bodybag or otherwise (i.e. prisoner)". And this is also what I meant.

Thanks very much for the clarrification on Peiper's statemtn with respect to it's context. It made a lot more sense then :)


John

tonyh
Member
Posts: 2911
Joined: 19 Mar 2002 12:59
Location: Dublin, Ireland

Post by tonyh » 26 Sep 2003 10:35

David Thompson wrote:tonyh -- I think the situation could be more accurately summarized this way:

(1) There was an order for the Ardennes offensive. The command units involved issued orders to their subordinate units. In accordance with this practice, the SS 6th Panzer Army issued orders to its subordinate units, including the SS Ist Panzer Corps, the SS 1st Panzer Division LAH, and Kampfgruppe Peiper. After the war, no copy of the written order from the SS 6th Panzer Army, could be found. (Your statement, "assuming that it existed," suggests that a veteran commander of an Army-sized unit of the Waffen-SS might not have committed the Ardennes offensive plan to writing when he instructed his subordinates how to carry out the attack. Can you think of a single example of a commander over the last 150 years who directed a major offensive operation solely on the basis of easily misunderstood verbal orders?)

(2) Dietrich, commander of the SS 6th Panzer Army, Fritz Kraemer, chief of staff of the SS 6th Panzer Army, Priess, commander of the SS Ist Panzer Corps, Peiper, commander of the 1st SS Panzer Regiment and Kampfgruppe Peiper, and Peiper's former adjutant, Gruhle, each independently and at different times gave affidavits describing the contents of the lost order. They agreed that the order stated
"that a wave of fright and terror should precede the attack, and that the enemy's resistance was to be broken by terror."
Peiper stated:
"Also, I am nearly certain that in this order was expressly stated that prisoners of war must be shot where local conditions should so require it."


(3) Peiper, and four members of Peiper's command, testified that Peiper passed this order on to his subordinates. Four non-defendant witnesses -- mebers of Peiper's command -- testified that Peiper verbally added
"Drive on recklessly, give no quarter, and take no prisoners."


(4) Other witnesses said that Peiper was present immediately before the murder of US POWs at Baugnez crossroads, and had personally ordered the shootings of American POWs on two other occasions. On both occasions Peiper's order was carried out.

(5) Later, when they were charged with war crimes and put on trial by an American military tribunal at Dachau (not the IMT, as your synopsis has it), Dietrich and Peiper retracted their statements as they pertained to the question of responsibility for the cluster of murders of POWs and civilians which occurred over a 6-day period in and around Malmedy.

(6) Dietrich was sentenced to life imprisonment, while Peiper and others were sentenced to death in Jul 1946 for their involvement in the murders of American POWs and Belgian civilians. A year or more later, after the verdicts and the death penalties were confirmed, some of the prisoners raised questions about their confessions and their treatment by the US Army.

(7) The US Senate (not the US Army, as your synopsis had it), held a series of hearings on this topic. Both US personnel and German POWs had their statements and claims reviewed by the US Senate subcommittee investigating the issue. The US Senate subcommittee found that the prisoners had not been tortured into making their confessions, but that the US Army interrogators had used dubious methods such as falsely informing defendants that they had been implicated by others, and "mock trials" to induce some of the confessions. (Note that these allegations do not pertain to the 4 non-defendant witnesses against Peiper, nor do they necessarily establish that the factual claims in the other statements given by the defendants were "false.").

(8) As it became apparent that the "cold war" was going to be a long running show, the co-operation of West Germany became more important to the western allies in presenting a united front against communism in Europe. Beginning in late 1950, the US began to commute the sentences of many German war crimes defendants, including those in the Malmedy massacres trial.

(9) You said:
I still see no real concrete evidence against Piper for such a sentence. Just hearsay and some very dubious "statements", extracted under very dubious circumstances.
The expression "hearsay" means an unsworn or out-of-court statement of someone who cannot be cross-examined (because they aren't available as witnesses), made to show the truth of a matter. The statements in this case were made under oath, and most of them were made in court, so they cannot fairly be characterized as hearsay.

The purpose of this section of the forum is to present facts and reasoned discussion on issues of WWII history. The goal is to present the readers with the best information on which to come to a conclusion. Having made that point, I think that the questions of whether Peiper ordered the killings of POWs and Belgian civilians by his unit around Malmedy, whether he subsequently changed his mind about continuing this course of conduct when it became clear to him that the offensive would fail, whether Peiper did anything to punish the men in his unit who committed the war crimes, and whether he is probably guilty or innocent of the charges against him, can now be left to the readers to decide


I'm sorry David, but the above relies on the "statements" and "Eyewitness testimony" that was extracted at the Dachau trial. But as has been stated, this "evidence" is under serious question and I cannot ignore that. Only yesterday while looking for books on the Sherman tank, I came accross the same sentiments in a book about Peiper and Skorzeny. Because this is in such question by so many, I simply cannot take the testimony that was given post war at face value like you do. It boils down to what we are willing to believe. You believe the "testimony" that Peiper gave at the trial, but disbelieve his retraction because he stated that it was given "under duress" perhaps. I, on the other hand am just not willing to take the "statements" at face value, because, as has been said, the method of extracting the "statements" is far from clear to so many people, which has to make me think again. Its strange that the defendants mentioned "mock trials" and violence before the proceedings even though all of the defendants were segregated before the trial and had no contact. Again, as I have said, hundreds of prisoners were taken in the first days of the Ardennes offensive and they were not harmed in any way, so why did Phelps and Co. kill the POW's at Malmedy, but other units did not, if indeed Deitrich/Peiper gave a general order to "take no prisoners"? Theres something thats "just not right". Whats more probable, is the account that the POW's who were taken at the crossroads in a very confused action, seemed to the German captors to try an "make a break for it" and Phelps or someone else fired into the crowd, thereby prompting the others to open fire. More terrible accident than premeditated warcrime. The coups de grace given to some US army personnel after the firing stopped is the most criminal aspect of the events.

The trial was little more than revenge for these events and an extreme double standard as there are no equivilent trials for the Allied commanders under whose command the shooting of POW's occured. In fact during the trial it came out that a number of US army sections did in fact have writen orders to "take no prisoners". Also, IIRC, Col Maxwell Taylor gave an order to the 101st A Div not to "burden themselves with prisoners" during the Normandy drop. So where is theie trial? the whole episode stinks.

Also why Deitrich recieved a life sentence and Peiper got death, when the supposed "order" came from Deitrich is beyond me.

Tony

Timo
Member
Posts: 3869
Joined: 09 Mar 2002 22:09
Location: Europe

Post by Timo » 15 Oct 2003 19:46

TH Albright wrote:The murder of civilians in the Stavelot area also must be laid at the feet of the KG Peiper/Knittel command staff, for they encouraged their men to look at Belgian civilians as potential terrorists and maquisairds; the cultural origins of Reich German hostility to the "border" region Belgians is a whole story in itself.

...Perhaps you can offer this forum some info that backs up your statements about Knittel and his staff, instead of throwing mud at an officer who actually saved the lives of Belgian civilians during his week in the Stavelot area.

Also, why do people keep repeating that there was an order to make no prisoners? The alleged order was made up by US prosecutioners during the Schwäbisch Hall interrogations to enable a speedy trial as demanded by the home front. Had they taken the time to actually search for those who actually committed the Baugnez murders instead of randomly convicting everybody they could lay their hand on, they would no doubt have prevented all the frustrations about this case on both sides, Americans and Germans.

Just my 2 cents,
Timo

Timo
Member
Posts: 3869
Joined: 09 Mar 2002 22:09
Location: Europe

Post by Timo » 15 Oct 2003 20:13

I don't know if he said such a thing or not, but that's not the point because it proves nothing regarding the alleged order to make no prisoners.

If such an order was issued, we can even debate that Peiper was responsible for saving lives. Keep in mind that approx. 450 American prisoners of war were send to the rear into captivity with no harm done.

But Peiper is no issue for me. I am most curious what evidence can be provided for Knittel's personal involvement in murders in the Stavelot area. I fully agree that he lacked control over his men and was responsible for their behaviour due to his position as Abteilungskommandeur, but Knittel as a human being didn't commit any killings, didn't order any killings and didn't provoke any killings.
His problem was that he commanded a unit he could not control due to personell changes shortly prior to the offensive (he took command of the Abteilung in the night before December 16), serious changes in the order of battle carried while he was away (he complained to Wawrzinek that he had made a mess of his Abteilung. Knittel had no clue about the composition of his forces), having to deal with large numbers of green replacements who didn't know him and, when they were in the Stavelot area, a force shattered all over the wooded hills and hamlets in the area, without proper communications. Still he personally prevented the murder of 13 civilians in the night of December 24/25. I talked to one of these civilans.

Regards,
Timo

Timo
Member
Posts: 3869
Joined: 09 Mar 2002 22:09
Location: Europe

Post by Timo » 15 Oct 2003 20:42

Eidesstattlichen Erklärung (statement under oath) dated 01.05.1949 by Gustav Knittel about his imprisonment in Schwäbisch Hall. He writes:
"(...) Am nächsten Tage wurde ich durch Herrn Thon in eine andere leere Vernehmungszelle geführt. Er gab mir eine Karte, einen Bogen Papier und Bleistift und diktierte mir eine kurze Eidesformel. Anschliessend sollte ich eine Erklärung über die Befehlsgebung schreiben. Ich schrieb die Wahrheit: direkte Unterstellungsverhältnis unter Division, keine illegale Befehle erhalten und auch nicht weitergegeben zu haben. Herr Thon beschipfte mich, dass ich ein Lügner war und er mit dieser erste Erklärung nichts anfangen könnte. Er stiess mich in die Todeszelle zurück.
Am folgenden Tag brachte Herr Pearl und Herr Thon verschiedene eidesstattliche Erklärungen von General Dietrich, Oberst Peiper und Hauptmann Grühle, die diese in Hall geschrieben haben sollen. Am Nachmittag kam ich in eine Zelle mit Tisch, in der ich eine ähnliche Erklärung schreiben sollte, wie die Vorlagen besagten. Da Herr Thon diese Erklärungen bald wieder abholen wollte, versuchte ich schnell aus diesen Erklärungen Auszüge zu machen, um eine Gedächtnisstütze zu haben, und kleidete diese in die Form, wie sie Herr Thon verlangte. Da ich nur mit Bleistift schrieb, keinen Eid und zunächst keine Unterschrift leistete, betrachtete ich die Erklärung als Notiz. Sie entsprach nicht der Wahrheit, was ich Herrn Thon wiederholt erklärte. Herr Thon zwang mich später diese Erklärung noch zu unterschreiben. Drie Tage lang wurde ich von Herrn Thon bearbeitet, um mich zu bewegen, diese zweite Erklärung zu beeiden. 'Sie sind ein Feigling, wenn Sie Ihrer Führer und Männer, nicht durch diese Befehlsgebung decken und kein Offizier. Sie können spazieren gehen mit Peiper, wenn Sie desselbe beeiden.' 'Coblenz belastet Sie'. Ich bat um eine Klärung durch eine Gegenüberstellung. Sie wurde verweigert. Zahlreiche Foto's von Toten von der Straßenkreuzung südlich Malmédy, die mir Oberst Ellis zeigte, sollten mich seelisch erschüttern. Ich betonte immer wieder, dass diese konstruierte illegale Befehlsgebung wie ein Kartenhaus spätestens im Prozess zusammenbrechen würde, weil sie nicht der Wahrheit entsprach."(...)

Add to this about a dozen official statements under oath from non-defendant members of SS AA 1 that no such order was issued.
Last edited by Timo on 16 Oct 2003 10:55, edited 1 time in total.

Timo
Member
Posts: 3869
Joined: 09 Mar 2002 22:09
Location: Europe

Post by Timo » 16 Oct 2003 10:46

Official English translation of his statement:
(...) On the next day I was taken by Mr. Thon to another examination cell. He gave me a map, a sheet of paper and a pencil and dictated to me a short form of oath. I was expected to write below a statement concerning the issue of orders. I wrote according to the truth about my status of direct subordination under the division and that I had neither received nor passed on any orders of an illegal nature. Mr. Thon insulted me, calling me a liar and saying that this statement is no use to him. He threw me back into the death cell.
(...) On the next day Mr. Thon and Mr. Pearl appeared again with several statements which general Dietrich, colonel Peiper and captain Gruhle were alleged to have written in this prison. On the afternoon I was conducted to another cell with a table, where I was asked to write a similar statement. As Mr. Thon told me of his intention to come back for the papers in a short time I sat down and tried to make exerpts from these papers for my own use, as help for my memory, following the pattern indicated by Mr. Thon, intermixed with some remarks of my own. As I was using a pencil, as no oath was taken from me and as, at first, I had not signed this paper, I considered this statement only as a memory note. It did not represent the truth, as I told Mr. Thon repeatedly. Later Mr. Thon forced me to add my signature. For three days Mr. Thon worked on me in order to induce me to take the oath on this second statement. Some of the words he used were: "You are a coward if you do not protect your sub-leaders and men, you are not worth to be an officer. You can go on a walk with Peiper if you make the same statement. Look at Göring, he behaved like a man at Nurnberg" and so forth. Coblenz is incriminating you. On this, I asked to be confronted with Coblenz. It was refused. On another occasion I was taken to a larger room where captain Schoemaker and colonel Ellis tried to achieve what the first lieutenant Pearl and Mr. Thon had not succeeded in doing, namely to break me. For this purpose they showed me numerous pictures of dead bodies taken at the Cross-roads, and asked me if such things could happen without orders. I reiterated again that no orders of an illegal character had been given and their construction of the case would collapse like a house of cards, if not earlier, then at the trial, as it was fictitious and not corresponding the facts"

TH Albright
Member
Posts: 346
Joined: 07 Mar 2003 13:37
Location: Arlington, VA

Post by TH Albright » 16 Oct 2003 14:23

Timo..point well-taken..I know you have researched Knittel well from previous correspondence. Your point on Peiper is also well-taken. He generally treated the American POWs under his direct supervision in accordance with the "...rules of land warfare" One of the direct killings of an American POW that was ordered by Peiper was in Stoumont after the man had attempted an escape; this was a violation. Peiper had mentioned this to Major Hal McCown, the senior POW. I am curious...what is your take on the murder of Belgian civilians at the hands of KG Knittel? I do get the impression that they weren't premeditated and were perhaps the product of frustration and young troops under extreme duress. In some accounts, I have also read that German troops witnessed some "suspicous" activites on the part of locals. In your opinion, were these murders not ordered or condoned by KG Knittel officers?

Timo
Member
Posts: 3869
Joined: 09 Mar 2002 22:09
Location: Europe

Post by Timo » 16 Oct 2003 15:42

TH Albright wrote:(...) I am curious...what is your take on the murder of Belgian civilians at the hands of KG Knittel? I do get the impression that they weren't premeditated and were perhaps the product of frustration and young troops under extreme duress. In some accounts, I have also read that German troops witnessed some "suspicous" activites on the part of locals. In your opinion, were these murders not ordered or condoned by KG Knittel officers?

In my opinion, apart from Wereth (11 murdered Afro American soldiers), the only case that can be attributed to Knittel's men is the murder of 24 civilians in the Legrand Farm in Parfondruy, a hamlet situated on the steep hills west of Stavelot. There were possibly other murders, but I have not come across enough evidence to prove specific involvement of men from KG Knittel (could have been KG Peiper, could have been victims of artillery, etc.)

On 19.12.1944 Mohnke ordered Knittel, who had just contacted Peiper in La Gleize, to return to Stavelot because American forces, mainly from 30th US Inf.Div., had recaptured the town and thus managed to cut off the LAH spearhead from their supplies.

Knittel returned to Stavelot with his small force (the main body of his Kampfgruppe was still on the southern bank of the Amblève) and planned his attack on the town. He wanted to reach the bridge in Stavelot by deploying two groups from his 2.Kompanie: one platoon along the main road into the western part of Stavelot, the rest of the Kompanie along the hillside, using the road through Parfondruy to enter Stavelot from the north.

However, the group that used the main road soon met American infantry resistance at the entry of Stavelot, soon supported by their artillery positioned to the north of the town. It became clear that Knittel had to deal with the American artillery or the attack would not stand a chance. Therefore he ordered the Stabskompanie to search for the American guns. Ostuf. Heinz Goltz split his unit into smaller searchparties which took off from the main road and moved north into the hills.

One of the searchparties was formed around Ustuf. Dröge's Pionierzug. They left their vehicles near the twin viaduct and moved along the Sentier de la Croix aux Clous, a trial that led them to the Mazures Farm and then in the direction of Renardmont. Dröge orders absolute silence because the element of surprise is crucial. The civilians they encounter are captured and taken along in the rear of the German group, to prevent them from warning the Americans about the German attempt to surprise them. Near the Groffin de Renardmont Farm, (east of Parfondruy, south of Renardmont) Dröges men encounter American artillery spotters, who had positioned their observation post on the hillside to have an excellent view on Stavelot. The Americans fled, but soon after that American artillery opened fire and Dröges group was forced to retreat to the Pirnay Farm (north of Parfondruy). There a group is send north to continue their search for the American artillery positions, but the main body of the Pionierzug stays behind. Dröge is frustrated because the Americans now know about his presence which means his task has become nearly impossible. He has no clue what to do with the captured civilians. They're a real problem in his eyes: if he sets them free they will probabely try to contact the Americans about their new location and the composition of his group. He decided to get rid of them. On his way toward Parfondruy he meets with Ostuf. Coblenz, who commanded 2.Kompanie and was returning from his attempt to reach the northern entry of Stavelot. Coblenz handed over his civilian prisoners to Dröge, who moves on to the Legrand Farm, where the captured civilians and the inhabitants of the Farm are shot, the farm is burned down. After the crime Dröge and his men join the 2.Kompanie in it's attempt to push the Americans out of Stavelot.

I am quite sure that given the terrain and communications difficulties, and given various statements by witnesses, Knittel could not prevent these murders. He never saw Dröge again, who was KIA on 22.12.1944 and he didn't see Goltz until 21.12.1944 when the Stabskompanie abandoned its positions near Ster, a hamlet west of Parfondruy. The same artillery fire that stopped the attack of his men on 19.12.1944 forced Knittel to find cover in the cellar of the Antoine Farm, a farm west of Stavelot that became his HQ during that week in the Stavelot area. Due to heavy artillery from American guns (and later from German guns too, when LAH believed that Knittel and his men were already captured) the farm building was completely demolished and Knittel had no opportunity to leave the save cellar.

Was Knittel the kind of man who would commit such murders? No, from what I've learned from my interview with madame Antoine, the owner of the Antoine Farm. I visited her last March. Knittel and his staff shared the cellar with 13 civilians, both inhabitants of the farm and refugees from the area. No harm was done to them. Au contraire, when some of Knittel's men spotted an American soldier observing the farm with his binoculars, they planned to kill everybody in the farm to get rid of witnesses. The American observed them from a window of the Legaye House, were civilians were murdered and the SS men knew that Americans had probabely discovered the bodies (impossible to prove these killings were committed by KG Knittel or KG Peiper). They planned to grenades into the cellar when they pulled back. A servant overheared their plans and complained to Knittel who promised that no such thing would happen. He said he and his staff would be the last to leave the building. And this is exactly what happened. None of the civilians in the farm were doen any harm.

ChristopherPerrien
Member
Posts: 7045
Joined: 26 Dec 2002 00:58
Location: Mississippi

Post by ChristopherPerrien » 16 Oct 2003 19:33

[quote="David Thompson
Dietrich testified that he had indeed given such an order, because the Ardennes offensive represented "the decisive hour of the German people." (Messenger, p. 179). Dietrich went on to say:
"The Fuehrer said we would have to act with brutality and show no humane inhibitions. He also said that a wave of fright and terror should precede the attack, and that the enemy's resistance was to be broken by terror." (Richard Gallagher, "Malmedy Massacre," Paperback Library, New York: 1964, p. 111).


You know I fing it quite amazing that either Dietreich or Pieper would think that executing prisoners would do anything positve to assist their war efforts, unless they were both way too stupid to be in command roles. Although I can understand a reason to carry out a Fuehrer order ,even if illegal, because of the obvious repercussions of not carrying them out. Their mindless genenaralizing/reasoning/excuses about why it needed to be carried out has no place except for the sole reason that they not only carried out the order but WANTED to do so.

tonyh
Member
Posts: 2911
Joined: 19 Mar 2002 12:59
Location: Dublin, Ireland

Post by tonyh » 20 Oct 2003 14:40

"The Fuehrer said we would have to act with brutality and show no humane inhibitions. He also said that a wave of fright and terror should precede the attack, and that the enemy's resistance was to be broken by terror."

Where does it mention killing POW's in this sentence?

Tony

ChristopherPerrien
Member
Posts: 7045
Joined: 26 Dec 2002 00:58
Location: Mississippi

Post by ChristopherPerrien » 20 Oct 2003 15:36

It is implied. Besides this is a third person statement about what the Fuehrer said, not a direct order by Deitriech or Pieper. Peiper yelling No quarter! Take no prisoners ! is much more damning evidence.


You also have to realize the sheer frustration these Elite? SS panzer formations were under. The 6th SS Pz Army was charged with seizing the fuel dumps necessary for the futherance of the offensive. Even with these elite troops with tanks like King Tigers , they failed miserably against US road blocks composed of rear echelon and ad hoc forces. They were getting beat and fell off their time table. It is no suprise that such revengeful instances happened especially since there were orders that condoned it.

Timo
Member
Posts: 3869
Joined: 09 Mar 2002 22:09
Location: Europe

Post by Timo » 20 Oct 2003 16:52

ChristopherPerrien wrote:The 6th SS Pz Army was charged with seizing the fuel dumps necessary for the futherance of the offensive. Even with these elite troops with tanks like King Tigers , they failed miserably against US road blocks composed of rear echelon and ad hoc forces. They were getting beat and fell off their time table. It is no suprise that such revengeful instances happened especially since there were orders that condoned it.

...Strange. KG Peiper did capture fuel before they reached Baugnez, without any resistance from American "rear echelon and ad hoc" or other troops. The Malmédy massacre took place before the alleged attack on the fuel dump north of Stavelot (on the road to Francorchamps), which by the way never took place according to LAH veterans. They claim they didn't know about the fuel stored north of Stavelot and didn't make any attempt in that direction. They claim this story was made up by the American soldiers who set fire to the fuel dump to cover up the fact that they burned thousands of gallons of valuable fuel for nothing. But back on topic, they had no reason to be frustrated about failed attempts to capture fuel at the time of the murders. Same for Knittel who had his vehicles refueled at Kaiserbaracke just before moving into Stavelot on the 19th.

Did such revengeful instances happen when American troops fell off their time table? Do you consider the 30th US Infantry Division (Old Hickory), the 3rd Armoured Division (Spearhead) and the 82nd Airborne rear echelon and ad hoc?

Timo
Member
Posts: 3869
Joined: 09 Mar 2002 22:09
Location: Europe

Post by Timo » 20 Oct 2003 16:54

Also, once more, what actual prove do you have for such orders, apart from the Schwäbisch Hall statements.

tonyh
Member
Posts: 2911
Joined: 19 Mar 2002 12:59
Location: Dublin, Ireland

Post by tonyh » 20 Oct 2003 17:01

>>>It is implied.<<<

That, I'm afraid, is just not good enough. One can say that anything is implied in a given sentence if one wishes.

Tony

User avatar
Germania
Member
Posts: 1593
Joined: 27 Sep 2002 19:11
Location: Germany

Post by Germania » 20 Oct 2003 17:16

chalutzim wrote:
tonyh wrote:(...) If all you need for a proscecution of a commanding officer is that they were in charge of a guilty party then there are hundreds of officers from all sides who would be liable to face the same charge, wouldn't there?


Hence, leave Peiper and another criminals alone. Moral relativism will pay the bill.


Peiper was no criminal, we can´t leave him alone because he is an part of my people and why shouldn´t we speak about it? Fear of truth?

Return to “Holocaust & 20th Century War Crimes”