SS Peiper

I don’t know if this has been covered…maybe in a separate thread on Malmedy? If so, my apologies.

I read Leo Kessler’s book ‘SS Peiper’ after finding it on a bookshelf in an office, one of those bring an old book and leave it on this shelf for folks to read deals…

The book was fascinating, but all the way through all I could think was ; is this book the real deal? Or is this revisionist propaganda by a Nazi sympathiser? It seemed believable. The fog of war…Peiper not being there but taking the blame for his men. An accidental shooting brought about by a trigger happy soldier and POW’s running…

BUT. After I lent SS Peiper to a friend he lent me another Kessler book. A pulp fiction novel, ‘Forced March’. With the SS as the good guys. Hmmm. I’m back to wondering about Kessler, as to me the SS were not ‘just soldiers’ as Kessler seems to present them.

But I’m waffling. Coming back here after a few years I can see most of you know a lot more than I on ww2. Have any of you read SS Peiper? What are your opinions on it / Malmedy? Or thoughts on Leo Kessler (aka Charles Whiting)?

There is a relatively brief thread here.

My long and boring comments in the thread can be surmised that the SS-version is a bit laughable as it is nearly unheard of for large scale uprisings on prisoners on guards when being treated at all well. Especially with the U.S. soldiers in question that were often inexperienced and befuddled troops sent to the Ardennes sector to gain experience - they certainly did. More than anyone could have imagined!! At the same time, I do not believe there was a wider conspiracy to massacre U.S. POW’s as the vast majority survived and were transferred back to Germany…

One way of interpreting Malmédy is that when Peiper skipped off to see if he could capture an American general, he left the troops guarding the prisoners in an impossible position. They were still working to a very demanding timetable - and dealing with so many prisoners did not fit with it. This in no way justifies the action actually taken against the prisoners - but it may go some way to explaining it. This is always likely to remain an unresolved controversy. Apart from anything else, all of the middle rank and junior officers at Malmédy appear to have been killed in action before the end of the war. Obviously, they were not available to answer for their actions before a court or military tribunal. In any event, the killing of PoWs shortly after surrender seems to have been much more common than we might like to think, on the Eastern Front in particular. Best regards, JR.

The other thing is that Peiper had a long history of being in close proximity if not on the scene for war crimes throughout his career. In 1939 and early 1940 he was a close aide to Himmler in Poland, before transferring to the SS Liebestandarde Adolf Hitler just in time to be close by the Wormhoudt massacre (I don’t think it was his company that was responsible, but it’s hard to be sure). He then went back to being Himmler’s aide, touring concentration camps with him and remained there in the early days of Barbarossa when one of his tasks was to provide Himmler with statistics on how many had been murdered by the Einsatzgruppen in the previous 24 hours. In winter 1941/42 he rejoined the LSSAH, at a time when the division was cooperating closely with and assisting Einsatzgruppe D. He was then out of the action again for ~9 months, before rejoining the Battle of Kharkov in early 1943 where the Soviets alleged that his battalion burned down two villages and massacred the inhabitants. September 1943 found him in Italy, where a village was shelled/burned down (depending on whose account you believe) and 22 civilians killed. Moving back to the Russian Front, in combat near Zhytomyr his battalion killed 2280 Soviet soldiers and took 3 prisoners.

After that, they moved to Belgium in spring 1944 to rest and refit, and the main war crimes allegation against his troops from then on was Malmedy. So while he may not have been guilty there, he was clearly up to his eyeballs in war crimes throughout the war.