1.SS-Panzer-Division (LSSAH) War Crimes (Memorandum)
Compiled by Doc Snafu
I have worked several months to research, find and compile this huge archive then publish it in a way that it becomes readable without too much trouble. The relevant sources are so diversified that it was not an easy task. Being patient like I am and without getting help from anyone (as usual) – many want to join but no one ever found the departure line – I could have used files from well-known historians available online. After reading many of these files I found out that it was not possible to read these archives because of the like the wartime newspaper publication or because of the historical mistakes in their contents. Of course, I am not ‘the’ expert in this part of World War Two nor do I have the needed financial support to buy all the archives available on this particular subject, but be sure that I have – even if I run alone a real non-profit small organization – encoded all the relevant information I could find. Another thing to say is to alert the readers that my initial language is French, German, and some Dutch. All I know in English is the American slang I have learned during the years I walked American World War Two returning veteran groups with my spiritual father in Military History, Charles B. MacDonald.
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
December 15, 2020.
In the early days of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP), the leadership realized that a bodyguard unit composed of reliable men was needed. Ernst Julius Günther Röhm (Nov 28, 1887 – July 1, 1934), a German military officer, a founding member of the NSDAP, a close friend, and an early ally of Adolf Hitler formed a guard formation from the 19.Granatwerfer-Kompanie. This formation evolved rapidly and became the Sturmabteilung (SA).
In 1923, Hitler ordered the creation of a small separate bodyguard dedicated to his service rather than a suspect mass of the party, such as the SA. Originally the unit was composed of a handful of trusty men like Rudolf Hess, Joseph Berchtold, Emil Maurice, Erhard Heiden, Ulrich Graf, Bruno Gesche, Sepp Dietrich, Christian Webber, Karl Fiehler, Walter Buch and Hermann Fobke commanded by Julius Schreck and Joseph Berchtold. This group was designated the Stabswache (Staff Guard). The unit was issued unique badges, Schreck resurrected the use of the Totenkopf (Skull) as the unit’s insignia, a symbol various elite forces had used in the past, including specialized assault troops of Imperial Germany in World War I who used Hutier infiltration tactics, but at this point, the Staff Guard was still under the control of the SA.
Later that year, the unit was renamed Stosstrupp Hitler (Shock Troop) and placed under the command of Julius Schreck. The unit never numbered more than 20 members. On Nov 9, 1923, the Stosstrupp, along with the SA and other NSDAP paramilitary units, took part in the abortive Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. In the aftermath of the putsch, Hitler was imprisoned and the NSDAP and all associated formations, including the Stosstrupp, were officially disbanded.
During this period, the mid-1920s, violence remained a large part of Bavaria politics and Hitler became quickly a potential target. In 1925, he ordered the formation of a new bodyguard unit, the Schutzkommando (Protection Command). The unit was renamed the Sturmstaffel (Assault Squadron) and in November was renamed the Schutzstaffel, abbreviated to SS.
In 1933, the SS had grown from a small bodyguard unit to a formation of over 50.000 men. The decision was made to form a new bodyguard unit, again called the Stabswache, which was mostly made up of men from the 1.SS-Standarte. In 1933 this unit was placed under the command of Josef ‘Sepp’ Dietrich who selected 117 men to form the SS-Stabswache-Berlin on March 17 and this unit replaced the army guards at the Reich Chancellery. Eleven men from the first company of 117 went on to win the Knights Cross, and forty of them were awarded the German Cross in gold for bravery.
Later in 1933, two further training units were formed: the SS-Sonderkommando Zossen on May 10, and a second unit, designated the SS-Sonderkommando Jüterbog on July 8. These were the only SS units to receive military training at that time. On Sep 3, 1933, the two Sonderkommando merged into the SS-Sonderkommando-Berlin under Dietrich’s command. In Nov 1933, on the 10th anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch, the Sonderkommando took part in the rally and memorial service for the NSDAP members who had been killed during the putsch. During the ceremony, the members of the Sonderkommando swore personal allegiance to Adolf Hitler. At the conclusion, the unit received a new title, Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (LAH).
On April 13 1934, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler ordered the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (LAH) to be renamed Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH). Himmler inserted the SS initials into the name to make it clear that the unit was independent of the SA or the regular army. The LSSAH was considered a National Socialist unit, which eventually grew into an elite Panzer Division of the Waffen-SS. Although nominally under Himmler, Dietrich was the real commander and handled the day-to-day administration. Later, in 1934, Stabschef-SA Ernst Röhm continued to push for greater political influence for his already powerful SA. Hitler decided that the SA had to be eliminated as an independent political force and ordered the LSSAH to prepare for the action.
The LSSAH formed two companies under the control of Jürgen Wagner and Otto Reich, these formations were moved to Munchen on Jun 30. Hitler ordered all SA leaders to attend a meeting at the Hanselbauer Hotel in Bad Wiessee, near Munchen. Hitler along with Sepp Dietrich and a unit from the Leibstandarte traveled to Bad Wiessee to personally oversee Röhm’s arrest on Jun 30. Later, at about 1700, Dietrich received orders from Hitler for the Leibstandarte to form an execution squad and go to the Stadelheim prison where certain SA leaders were being held.
There in the prison courtyard, the Leibstandarte firing squad shot five SA generals and an SA colonel. Additional alleged traitors were shot in Berlin by a unit of the Leibstandarte.
On Jul 1, Hitler finally agreed with Göring and Himmler that Röhm should be executed. In what the Nazis called the Röhm Putsch, but otherwise came to be known as the Night of the Long Knives, companies of the LSSAH, together with the Gestapo and Göring’s Landespolizeigruppe, performed Death Squad actions.
At least 85, but most likely no less than twice that number of people, were executed without trial over the next few days.
This action succeeded in effectively decapitating the SA and removing Röhm’s threat to Hitler’s leadership. In recognition of their actions, both the LSSAH and the Landespolizeigruppe General Göring were expanded to regimental size and motorized. In addition, the SS became an independent organization, no longer part of the SA. Thereafter, as the SS swelled with new recruits, the strict recruitment regulations for the LSSAH meant that only those deemed sufficiently Aryan as well as being physically fit would be admitted. The LSSAH provided the honor guard at many of the Nuremberg Rallies, and in 1935 took part in the reoccupation of the Saarland. On Jun 6, 1935, the LSSAH officially adopted a field-grey uniform to identify itself more with the army which wore a similar uniform.
The LSSAH was later in the vanguard of the march into Austria as part of the Anschluss, and in 1938 the unit took part in the occupation of the Sudetenland. By 1939, the LSSAH was a full infantry regiment with three infantry battalions, an artillery battalion, and anti-tank, reconnaissance, and engineer sub-units. Soon after its involvement in the annexation of Bohemia and Moravia, the LSSAH was redesignated Infanterie-Regiment Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (motorized). When Hitler ordered the formation of an SS division in mid-1939, the Leibstandarte was designated to form its own unit, unlike the other Standarten of the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT), SS-Standarte Deutschland, SS-Standarte Germania, and SS-Standarte Der Führer.
The Polish crisis in 1939, put these plans on hold, and the LSSAH was ordered to join the XIII.Army-Korps (Army Group South), which was preparing for the attack on Poland.
1.SS-Panzer-Division, known War Crimes
SS-Obermusikmeister Hermann Müller-John ordered 50 civilians, several were Jews, shot at Błonie, Poland in Sept 1939. Gen Joachim Lemelsen, commander of 29.Infantry-Division (motorized) reports of these murders to his superiors and Gen Walter von Reichenau, commander of 10.Army orders the arrest of Müller-John. A few days later Adolf Hitler places the SS troops under separate SS jurisdiction at the request of Heinrich Himmler and the investigation into the killings was dropped.
34 civilians were killed in Torzeniec by soldiers from the Pionier-Zug under command of SS-Obersturmführer Christian Hansen.
Soldiers from 95.Infantry-Regiment (17.Infantry-Division) and Leibstandarte killed close to 200 civilians in Zloczew, the reason for this massacre is not known. It was investigated post-war by both Poland and West German authorities but no clear motive was found. Gen Herbert Loch, commander of 17.Infantry-Division that operated closely with LSSAH during the invasion of Poland complained about the LSSAH and their wild firing and tendency to reflexively set villages alight as they passed through them.
On May 28, 1940, 80 British POWs from the 48th Division were killed at Wormhout by soldiers from the 2.Battalion commanded by SS-Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Mohnke.
Six soldiers of the LSSAH were captured by Soviet troops in Taganrog in October 1941, then tortured and murdered. After the bodies were located in March 1942 an order was issued that all Soviet soldiers captured during the following three days be shot, an estimated 4000 were killed.
During the recapture of Kharkov in March 1943, the LSSAH is accused of killing some 700 wounded Soviet soldiers in the 1st Army Marshalling Hospital but it should be noted that it is unclear if this massacre is more than just an allegation.
Soldiers of LSSAH were involved in the killing of 22 Italian Jews in the area of Lago Maggiore in September 1943. Five soldiers were put on trial for these crimes post-war.
On September 19, 1943, the Italian town of Boves was shelled by troops commanded by Joachim Peiper, and 34 civilians killed in retaliation for the capture of two Waffen-SS officers.
A soldier of LSSAH was sentenced to five years in prison post-war for the shooting of two escaped Soviet POWs near Oberlind, Germany, March 1945.
Atrocities Locations & Units
Battle of the Bulge
The following is the order of battle per specific crime location, omitting atrocity generalization, such as convictions of ranking commanders for overall responsibility. Peiper is also excluded, inasmuch as another section of this study deals with him.
(December 17 1944) – Honsfeld
(December 17 1944) – Bullingen
(December 17 1944) – Baugnez (Malmedy)
1.SS-Panzer-Regiment (1.SS-Pz-Bn – 1.SS-Pz-Co);
1.SS-Panzer-Pioneer-Battalion (Engineers) (3.Co);
(December 17 1944) – Ligneuville
(December 18 1944) – Stavelot
1.SS-Panzer-Regiment (1.SS-Pz-Bn – 1.SS-Pz-Co) (1.Plat);
(December 18 1944) – La Gleize (1)
2.SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment (3.SS-Pz-Gren-Bn – 11.SS-Pz-Gren-Co)(1.Plat);
2.SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment (3.SS-Pz-Gren-Bn – 11.SS-Pz-Gren-Co)(3.Plat);
2.SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment (3.SS-Pz-Gren-Bn – 11.SS-Pz-Gren-Co)(4.Plat)
(December 19, 20, 21, 22 1944) – La Gleize (2)
2.SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment (3.SS-Pz-Gren-Bn)(11.Co)(2. Plat);
2.SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment (3.SS-Pz-Gren-Bn)(11.Co)(4. Plat);
(December 28 1944) – Cheneux
(December 19 1944) – Stoumont
1.SS-Panzer-Regiment (Hqs Co) (Radio Plat);
1.SS-Panzer-Battalion (Hqs Section);
2.SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment (3.Bn, 11.Co, 4.Plat);
1.SS-Panzer-Pioneer-Battalion (3.Co, Hqs Plat);
1.SS-Panzer-Pioneer-Battalion (3.Co, 2.Plat)
(December 20 1944) – Wanne
1.SS-Panzer-Regiment (1.Bn, 1.Co, 2.Plat);
(Dec 1944 / Jan 1945) – Petit-Thier
1.SS-Panzer-Regiment (Hqs Co)
Routes and Atrocity Incidents, Narratives, Route Description
Units of the Kampfgruppe Peiper proceed generally on the following itinerary: from the forest around Blankenheim, Germany, on Dec 16, to Dahlem, Hallschlag, Scheid, Losheim, then into Belgium during the night of the Dec 16/17, in Lanzerath, Honsfeld, which was reached by the point at approximately 0700 Dec 17.
The next town was Büllingen which was reached about 1100, Dec 17, then to Schoppen and Thirimont which was reached by the point about noon Dec 17. The Kampfgruppe got to the Five Points Crossroads (Baugnez) which was reached at about 1400 the same day, then to Ligneuville, and then to Stavelot which was reached at about 2200. In the morning of Dec 18 at about 1000, Stavelot was attacked and the Kampfgruppe proceeded to the next village, Trois Ponts, then to La Gleize, to Cheneux, and to Stoumont on Dec 19, and back to La Gleize.
Kampfgruppe Peiper proceeded without any incidents of interest from the Blankenheim area to the town of Honsfeld in Belgium. American troops assigned to various units of the 612-TDB were located in this area. In the early morning of Dec 17, the Germans attacked the positions occupied by the Americans. In one instance a house containing 18 enlisted men and four officers was surrounded by troops of the 1.SS-Panzer-Division and was in the process of being destroyed by 88-MM guns when a white flag was displayed from a window and firing from both sides ceased. At about 0800 or in the morning of Dec 17 in the vicinity of Honsfeld, members of the 3.SS-Panzer-Company saw 6 to 10 American Prisoners of War’s standing in the front of a house with their arms raised in surrender. The Germans opened fire and killed them.
Shortly before the 3.SS-Panzer-Company arrived at the Army small airfield near Büllingen on Dec 17, six or eight unarmed surrendered American prisoners of war were seen walking along the road toward the rear of the Kampfgruppe. Between the airfield and Büllingen the crew of a half-track belonging to the 3.SS-Panzer-Company fired into two separate groups, each consisting of 5 to 8 unarmed and surrendered American prisoners of war. Other groups were shot by other 3.SS-Panzer-Company men, in the Büllingen vicinity. An American PW, a flight officer was shot to death near Büllingen after he had been interrogated by a man called Preus, commander of the 10.SS-Panzer-Company. In Büllingen, the commander of the 1.SS-Panzer-Company, mentioned to 8-10 unarmed Americans, who were shot. Two American PW’s were shot by the member of the 10.SS-Panzer-Company at about 0800 on Dec 17. In Büllingen, a German soldier (Rieder) of the 9.SS-Panzer-Pioneer-Company shot a woman (Frau Anton Jousten). About a kilometer beyond Büllingen, in the direction of Thirimont, 3.SS-Panzer-Company men shot 6-8 American PWs.
In the extra-judicial sworn statement dated Jun 26, 1946, signed by the mayor registrar of the Town of Bullingen it is certified that Madame Anton Jousten died in Bullingen on Dec 18, 1944, (the date at which the body was found) and that the list in the registrar’s office contained no other case of death of unknown causes during 1944. In the extra-judicial sworn statement of Monsieur Jousten the husband of Madame Jousten, Anton Jousten stated that his wife was killed on Dec 16, or Dec 17, by American Artillery fire while she was outside her house attempting to flee from combat. He also stated that her body wore the marks indicating that the death was caused by the explosion of an Artillery shell. In this extra-judicial sworn statement from Anton Jousten, the exact wording for the last sentence is the death was caused by the explosion of a granate. Because the word ‘shell’ doesn’t exist in German (shell as an artillery shell), the word in German used is ‘granate’, the War Crime Investigation Team, as well as the War Crime Court, did jump from the German term ‘granate’ to the American term ‘Grenade’. In fact, when Anton Jousten stated that his wife was killed by a ‘granate’ he was meaning an artillery ‘shell’. This just to correct the original text from the archive.
Baugnez (Five Points Crossroads)
Elements of Kampfgruppe Peiper arrived at the 5 roads intersection (Five Points Crossroads) in Baugnez, between Malmedy and Ligneuvile, between 1200 and 1400, Dec 17. The Crossroads is located about four kilometers southeast of Malmedy at a point where one road leads down to Malmedy, another to Hedomont, another to Waimes, and another to Ligneuville. Elements of Kampfgruppe Peiper captured personnel of the American 285-FAOB. German armored vehicles, a tank, and half-tracks were moved into position to fire upon the Americans. German armored vehicles proceeded along the road opposite this group of American prisoners. This unwanted shooting of surrendered and unarmed prisoners of war was carried out by element of various units of the Kampfgruppe Peiper.
After leaving the Crossroads the German column resumed its advance toward Ligneuville. At this place, Hotel du Moulin, about 1600, Dec 17, 8 American prisoners of war were shot by personnel of the 9.SS-Panzer-Company.
Ligneuville to Stavelot
A troop carrier and personnel guarded 15 American Prisoners of War. According to reports, they shot the prisoners.
On Dec 17, the spearhead of 3.SS-PzAA1 (Kampfgroup Knittel – 1.SS.Pz.Div LSSAH) entered the little town of Wereth and found eleven black American soldiers who surrendered to them. Some were wounded but this didn’t stop the SS from marching them to a field during a severe blizzard and shooting them in cold blood. All were members of Btry C 333-FAB. The bodies were found covered in snow two months later when the villagers directed members of the 99th Infantry Division to the site.
On Dec 21, when certain units of the Kampfgruppe Peiper were engaged by American Tanks, Sturmbannführer Gustav Knittel gave the order to shoot 8 unarmed and surrendered American prisoners. This took place at the edge of the woods near a single house located near the bridge over the Amblèbe River, 3000 M west of Stavelot. Gustav Knittel was in charge of the 1.SS-Recon-Battalion. Units of Kampfgruppe Peiper continued their advance to Stavelot and reached there on Dec 18. Some Belgian civilians were fired upon by one of 4 Tanks parked on the roads leading to the Hospital. On the outskirts, on the evening of Dec 18, two civilians were shot by members of the 6.SS-Panzer-Company. Still on Dec 18, at the edge of Stavelot on the road to La Gleize, personnel from the vehicle of the commander of the 1.SS-Panzer-Company, fired upon a woman. On Dec 19, Units of Kampfgruppe Peiper shot other Belgian civilians.
Some units of Kampfgruppe Peiper proceeded to Cheneux and vicinity where they were subjected to a very severe air attack. American prisoners were shot a few meters from the vehicle in which the commanding officer of the Kampfgruppe Peiper was riding. On the evening of Dec 18, 30 to 40 Americans were collected on the outskirts, and German personnel from five Tanks and half-track fired upon them.
Among the elements of the Kampfgruppe Peiper entering the town about 1500 on Dec 17, were units of the 11.SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Company, 9.SS-Panzer-Pioneer-Company, and 3.SS-Panzer-Pioneer-Company. American unarmed and surrendered prisoners of war were shot at the town church. During the period of Dec 18 to Dec 23, other units of the Kampfgruppe Peiper entered La Gleize, departed therefor, and returned thereto. American prisoners were frequently killed by units of Kampfgruppe Peiper during these 6 days. A pasture in the vicinity of the schoolhouse was the scene of some above things. Some shootings were carried out with the approval of Joachim Peiper.
On the morning of Dec 19, after various units of the Kampfgruppe Peiper had left Ligneuville, Stavelot and La Gleize, the column arrived in Stoumont, and shooting took place. While a Fallschirmjäger was escorting 7 prisoners of war to the rear of the German lines, elements of the 11.SS-Panzer-Company took them over and shot them. On the same day (Dec 19) elements of the 3.SS-Panzer-Pioneer-Company shot also prisoners of war. Elements of the 9.SS-Panzer-Company were sawed with prisoners of war. On Dec 19, 15 to 20 prisoners of war were killed by the crew of a Panther at the point next to a house which was thought to be the CP of SS-Sturmbannfuehrer Peiper. Also, 3 other prisoners were killed in Peiper’s presence. Elements of the 2.SS-Panzer-Company also killed men in Stoumont. 15 to 25 American prisoners were guarded by German paratroopers when fired upon by crews of several German Tanks. An interview pointed this fact out: while some of us were walking American prisoners to the rear, these SS started shooting like hell on the prisoners and they even wounded one of us. We were about to call the others Fallschirmjäger and ready to shoot back at the SS when the fire ceased. At about 1400, on Dec 19, elements of the 2.SS-Panzer-Company reached the most westerly point attained during the offensive, approximately 2000 M west of Stoumont. There, Machine Gunners of 2 Tanks fired at some 15 unarmed prisoners of war.
On Dec 20, and/or Dec 21, some elements of Kampfgruppe Peiper were in Wanne. They were units of the 1.SS-Panzer-Regiment, 7.SS-Panzer-Company, and PWs were also fired upon.
On Dec 31, certain units of the 9.SS-Panzer-Company were in that town. Again, PWs were killed.
Peiper was in his HQs on Jan 10 or Jan 13, 1945, in a castle near the town. SS Sturmbahnfuehrer Kurt Sickel was with him. There is no need to say what happened.
This entire original translation is nothing else than a mess. It is such bad work that I was, several times, lost in the text I was typing for the readers. There is no way to release such a kind of text and I will have to correct the entire testimony and the entire report according to common sense and simple military activity. Remember that I am working with a very bad xerox of the already translated testimony (as usual). So I will have to retype the entire text but first, re-translate it from English to German then back to English to get the real testimony or at least to have the correct sentence that Peiper wrote in this period of time.)
SS-Obersturmbannführer Joachim Peiper
Atrocity Trial Testimony
He was convicted in 1946 as a participant in the Malmédy Massacre, Dec 17-20, 1944, and his 81-page direct testimony, plus the cross and redirect, explained some tactical operations of Kampfgruppe Peiper. Because he was a defendant, his remarks need evaluations. They were more detailed in some respects than the three Peiper interviews possessed by the Foreign Studies Branch, OCMH, thus of probable value. The following extracts of the tactical data will be connected into as orderly a sequence as possible, but the interrogation was not always chronological.
A – Direct Examination by Lt Col John S. Dwinell, Assistant Defense Counsel
(December 14) Blankenheim Forest. We were called for a Regimental Conference at 1600, CP in the Blankenheim Forest. Attending were: CG 12.Volksgrenadier-Division, Generalmajor Gerhardt Engels, CO 1.Panzer-Battalion, SS-Sturmbannführer Werner Poetschke; CO 2.Panzer-Battalion, SS-Obersturmbannführer Heinz von Westernhagen – (CO Heavy Tank Battalion (Tiger) .501); CO 3.Panzer-Battalion, Sturmbannführer Josef Diefenthal (2.Panzer.Regiment attached); Adjutant and Signal Officer 2.Artillery.Battalion & Flak Battalion.
The attack order of the 1.SS-Panzer-Division was read. Then, subsequently, I had a conference about purely tactical matters in which I explained that we had to make an attack through a terrain unsuitable for tanks, especially for the Mark V Panthers and the Mark VI Tigers, that the only chance of success depended upon speed, surprise and relentless commitment of person and material. I explained the basic thought to form a spearhead (Aufklärung Abteilung) which would consist of the 1.Panzer-Battalion, the 3.Panzer-Grenadier-Battalion, Panzer-Flak, and Panzer-Pioneer. Composed in such a manner, it should be suitable because of its speed, armor, and firepower to solve all coming problems.
This group should without regard advance, should not pay attention at unimportant enemy goals not booty not prisoners of war, and the task of this group should be finished then if only one single Mark IV Panzer was to reach the Meuse River even without a crew inside. That was clear to me and I carried it thought and I explained it because of the very difficult terrain and because of the regrouping of the enemy this groups should be entirely rubbed and that it would then depend that the Mark VI Tigers Battalion would be sent behind in a closed orderly march in order to after the 1.Battalion were rubbed out, take over the heavy fighting itself. And that was according to my judgment the area of the slopes of the Ardennes into the area of the Meuse.
In other words, the 1.Battalion received a very desperate task, which I explained very clearly to the officers. Ammunition was to be used sparsely because of re-supply. We had only one tankful of fuel in each tank because I could not figure on reinforcement and had to depend to supplement my vehicle with enemy fuel. As to the point, its decisive part was the march order. Bad narrow roads would make an order of march change later, therefore the composition was carefully planned.
I’ve talked over two hours with the commanders about this. The entire band of march (Kampfgruppe) was about 25 Km long. Because of the fact that the broadcast was very limited, due to the bad terrain features, I had to choose a place for myself almost in the center if I wanted to have an essential point of inference. Divided column into section. SS-Sturmbannführer Werner Poetschke commanded the spearhead of the group, consisting of his 1.Panzer-Battalion, the 3.Panzer-Grenadier-Battalion, the 9.Panzer-Pioneer-Company, and the Regimental Flak Company.
(December 15) I.SS-Panzer-Corps conference with SS-Obergruppenführer Hermann Priess. Present also was SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny who discussed Operation Greiff and the plan of his Panzer-Brigade 150, whose CO, SS-Obersturmbannführer Willi Hardieck, which was to work in conjunction with Peiper’s Kampfgruppe meanwhile accomplishing his own engagement for a kind of obscure mission. Pieper had a long discussion with Hardieck about the mission. Another Regimental conference on the evening, Regimental order largely based upon divisional, finished at about midnight.
(December 16) The march began about 0600 in the morning to 1200 noon. I fell out with my group at about 1600. But the bad road conditions and the immense number of vehicles that were compressed in that area, together with the group of Skorzeny, which apparently had not had very much training, the traffic on the road proved to be of the chaotic extent with the entire 1.SS-Panzer-Division, the 12.Volksgernadier-Division, the 3.Fallschirmjäerger-Division. The movement was entirely stopped at Scheidt and road jams prevented the engineers from getting through to repair a blown-up bridge. Entire Artillery of the 12.Volksgrenadier-Division had to change positions to the front, and being horse-drawn, there was a terrible heap of Tiger tanks on the road and four-legged mules. Peiper and his commanders personally directed traffic, and since the bridge was not completed on time, we had to have a detour built, by reason of which I could only start off with being twelve hours late.
First, we reached the town of Losheim (Germany) in the darkness at about 1700. Losheim had been taken by the 12.Volksgrenadier-Division. Traffic jam; exceptionally dark night and the town was under American Artillery fire.
Next town: contrary to my original orders according to which I was supposed to proceed along the main highway, I received a radio order to take the route by way of Hüllscheid, Merlcheid, Hasenvenn, and Lanzerath (Belgium). Minefields impeded. To the best of my recollection, I, therefore, lost three tanks and five half-tracks on the way from Losheim to Lanzerath. We arrived in Lanzerath at about midnight, I had a meeting with Oberst von Hoffmann at the Café in Lanzerath, and I received a radio order to embark elements of the 3.Fallschimjäger-Division on our tanks. I ordered von Hoffmann to prepare a battalion for an attack along the Lanzerath – Honsfeld road, acting as his flank defense.
(December 17) At about 0400, we attacked with tanks, motorized infantry, and foot infantry towards the forest. Contrary to the reports received from the Paratroopers, the forest was freed of enemy troops. It was under a severe artillery barrage. At Dawn, we surprisingly entered Honsfeld. (Questioned about combat conditions there, an American Recon unit was stationed in the town.) The vehicles were standing in the front of all the doors of all the houses in town and there were plenty of weapons around, particularly, Armored Cars, Tanks, Tanks Destroyers, and AT guns, but the troops were not at their weapons or in their vehicles. All the troops were inside and asleep. Hardly any fighting. First moving spearheads led by Preuss merely shot at some houses and the town was passed without any serious resistance. Peiper was with the spearhead. His own command group which was to march behind Poetschke’s Group remained way behind and he stayed with the spearhead to take action more rapidly, to encourage troops, and to evaluate the results of the reconnaissance performed by the unit Knittel and the unit under Hardieck, both of which were supposed to pass by me. The Fallschirmjäger Battalion, under SS-Obersturmbannführer Paul Tauber, was left behind in Honsfeld, due to orders misunderstanding.
Beyond Honsfeld: the spearhead filled in approximately one kilometer west of Honsfeld. Peiper stopped; he was in Poetschke’s tank and/or in Diefenthal’s vehicle, and in the lead. Continued on the road he had originally planned but testimony explained: I first had had orders to march to Heppenbach from Honsfeld; on account of the obviously poor road conditions I decided to go by way of Bullingen. Bullingen itself was assigned to the 12.SS-Panzer-Division by the operational order. Since I heard the noise of combat which was due to the 12.SS-Panzer-Division comparatively far to the rear and up northeast, I thought it might be possible to pass through the town of Bullingen without causing a traffic jam together with the 12.Panzer. We continued along the main road to Bullingen. Small Airdrome on the left, just outside Bullingen, at which were 12 or 13 American liaison planes, propellers moving, ready to take-off. Crews, surprised, hid in hedgerows, fired upon Peiper’s force. Fire from the town also. Our leading vehicle strafed with Machine Gun and Artillery destroying planes. Time from 0900 to 0930. Peiper went into Bullingen about 0930. Captured fuel dump, vehicles left Bullingen at full speed in order of refueling, along a road to the southwest. American Artillery helped to accelerate the departure movements.
About 3 kilometers from Bullingen (Morscheck), at a fork, Peiper ordered a short break to allow the entire Kampfgruppe to regroup. The leading vehicle, Preuss, lost contact with the rear of the column because he continued along the road Peiper originally ordered him on, namely southwest. But since down there in the next town, there was one bridge and those were particular – points of particular danger for us. I decided at this road fork to choose the road into Moderscheid by way of the forest, instead, particularly, since this resulted in time-saving and was a short cut and also take us away from an unexpected direction.
We moved from Möderscheid to Schoppen, then Odenval toward Thirimont, about noon on Dec 17. Peiper indicated that his whole Kampfgruppe was not with him, and the identity of the force was not clear from the testimony, but he rode Diefenthal’s vehicle at least some between Odenval and Thirimont. Stopped Jeep driver who was to repair a telephone line and learned that the American troops had given up Malmédy and were retreating in a westerly and southwesterly direction. No combat at this location. But at about that time I suddenly heard my cannons and machines guns open fire. I therefore realized that the leading vehicles of the group had hit the main road from Malmédy to St Vith and since at the moment I was completely alone with the jeep driver, we drove off to the spearhead. The column behind me was detached since the pieces of road between this road fork and Möderscheid was exceptionally difficult. About here, a road a kilometer east of Baugnez (Bagatelle), Peiper met his armored spearhead.
At the east end of Malmédy on the highway N-23 (today N-62) leading to St Vith (Roadblock Avenue Monbijou – 291-ECB a 99-IBS) one American convoy leaving the area and heading to St Vith (B Battery 285-FAOB) was stopped by Lt Col David Pergrin, CO of the 291-ECB. Pergrin had one company of engineers available to him. He had no idea of the extent of the enemy’s strength, but one of his own jeep patrols had warned him that a German armored column was approaching the area to the southeast of Malmédy (Bagatelle – Baugnez). He therefore warned the jeep’s passengers, Capt Roger L. Mills (Hqs Bat. 285-FAOB) and Lt Virgil Lary, not to proceed in that direction, and advised them to turn around and go to St Vith using another way. The artillery officers did not listen. Ignoring Pergrin’s warning, the battery proceeded on its way. At about 1300, Mills and Lary’s column approached the crossroads at Baugnez.
There they met a US MP, Pvt Homer Ford whose mission was to ensure military traffic made the correct turn at the crossroads. A few minutes earlier he had directed elements of the US 7-AD towards St Vith, and he now directed the leading vehicle of the 285-FAOB column to turn towards Ligneuville. As the 10th vehicle passed the crossroads, firing was heard on the rear. On Jan 13, US troops found 66 members of B Bat. 285-FAOB; 3 from Hqs Co 285-FAOB; 4 from the 32-AIB; 2 from the 200-FAB; 2 from the 546-Ambulance Bn; 4 from the 575-Ambulance Co; 1 from the 86-ECB.
About five tanks and about the same number of half-tracks were standing in front of me and were shooting with all weapons at their disposal in a southwesterly direction at a range of about 500 meters. This was the road leading south from the Malmédy crossroads. This was about 1300 to 1330, Dec 17. Peiper saw personally an American truck convoy (285-FAOB) and ordered a cease fire several times which finally ended about 2 minutes later. Annoyed at having his armored spearhead held up, so much time already being lost. Also, Peiper was annoyed at having these beautiful trucks which were needed so badly all shot up. Peiper ordered the column to drive on at a great speed. He had Poetschke radioing to division that enemy was leaving Malmédy, retreating toward south and southwest, and that we had reached the main road south of Malmédy. Peiper mounted Diefenthal’s vehicle and followed the others already moving towards the cross roads. The road leading south from the Malmédy crossroads, from beginning of the forest was pretty well blocked by the American destroyed vehicles. One Panther pushed them off the road. Peiper and Diefenthal reached the Crossroads at Baugnez at about 1330.
Peiper continued his road and drove into Ligneuville, arriving shortly after 1400. He ordered Diefenthal to clean out the town with his grenadier troops. A Sherman knocked out the leading tank in the column (Mark V Panther SS-Untersturmführer Arndt Fischer) and the following Panther knocked out the Sherman. Peiper remained in Ligneuville for about 45 minutes. Burning ammo was exploding everywhere. He bandaged Arndt Fisher, the adjutant of the 1.Battalion. Poetscke arrived on foot. Peiper was informed that a high echelon American Command Post had been located in the Hotel (Hotel du Moulin) here which according to the testimony of the innkeeper of the restaurant already had been disturbed at their dinner. A strong tank column was also supposed to be immediately toward our front. Peiper changed the march order of the spearhead, bringing 1.Panzer-Company from the rear to take over the lead. The Group continued then to Stavelot.
The estimated time of the arrival of the Kampfgruppe in the outskirt of Stavelot (La Vaulx Richard) was between 2000 and 2100, Dec 17. The Group had at once attempted to take the town in one rapid attack. That, however, proved impossible because of infantry troops that were available were not strong enough and because the tanks had no chance to come into action along the street. The terrain was extraordinarily unfavorable, slopped down very much toward the left and a hairpin curve was right outside the town so that everybody passing by this curve was knocked by several American Tanks and Tank Destroyers (526-AIR & 825-TDB) as well as infantrymen (99-IBS) maning AT gun which were located behind a roadblock at the edge of the town.