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". On 6 May , Peiper was awarded the German Cross in Gold for his achievements in February 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. Some of these were burned alive in the church of Yefremovka. Even old Genghis Khan would gladly have hired us as assistants. Himmler sent personal congratulations over the radio: "Heartfelt congratulations for the Knight's Cross my dear Jochen! I am proud of you! The official SS newspaper Das Schwarze Korps "The Black Corps" described Peiper's actions in Kharkov in glowing terms such as "the master of the situation in all its phases" and extolled Peiper's "quick decision making", "caring" attitude and "bold and unorthodox orders".
The paper emphasized that he was "a born leader, one filled with the highest sense of responsibility for the life of every single one of his men, but who [was] also able to be hard if necessary". The descriptions of his tactical skills propelled Peiper to become an icon of the Waffen-SS after the war, with former battalion members describing him in glowing terms. Beginning in August, Peiper's battalion was stationed near Cuneo.
After this, Peiper and his unit were called in to free the German soldiers and took up positions in Boves, controlling access to the town. They threatened to destroy the town and its inhabitants should their demands not be met. Peiper committed to sparing the town if the German soldiers were freed. The parish priest of Boves, don Giuseppe Bernardi, and local industrialist Alessandro Vassallo, who had acted as negotiators between Peiper and the Italian soldiers and partisans, successfully secured the release of the prisoners and the return of the body of the killed SS trooper.
There were 24 victims; all were males, with the except for one woman who died of smoke inhalation in her home after it was set on fire by looting SS men. At least seventeen were murdered in cold blood, rather than in a battle. Most, especially those killed near the cemetery, were of non-military age and were found shot by small arms fire.
In nearly all burning houses ammunition exploded. Some bandits were shot. Beginning in November , Peiper's unit arrived on the Eastern Front, where it took part in combat in the area of Zhytomyr.
Peiper was soon appointed commander of the 1st SS Panzer Regiment after its previous leader had been killed in action, yet he had no experience leading tanks. His personal record in support of the nomination stated that, from 5 to 7 December, Peiper's regiment eliminated several Soviet artillery batteries, destroyed a divisional headquarters, and killed 2, "Russians", with only three taken prisoner.
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During the action at the village of Pekartchina, Peiper "attacked with all weapons and flame-throwers from his SPW [armoured fighting vehicle]". The village was burned to the ground and "completely destroyed". Peiper's command style, aggressive and without regard for casualties, reached its limits. Headlong attacks without proper reconnaissance lead to heavy losses in men and materiel.
The remnants of the unit were taken over by another officer on 22 December. On 20 January , Peiper left his unit and went to Hitler's headquarters. Hitler presented him with a new award, the Oak Leaves to be added to his Knight's Cross.
Joachim Peiper - Wikipedia
Peiper was physically and mentally exhausted. A medical examination concluded that he needed rest. Peiper went on a long leave with his family in Bavaria. New recruits, many of whom were teenagers, had little in common with fanatical SS volunteers of years past. The recruits underwent brutal training; five were sentenced to death for shirking their duties.
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Peiper gave the command to the executioners and later had recruits march past the bodies. In , he was investigated by German authorities in connection with this event; Peiper denied everything, and the case was closed in Transportation was limited, and the Allies had near-total air superiority. Peiper was rarely in the frontline command, due to the terrain and the need to maintain radio silence.
Peiper was not in command of his Panzer regiment during Operation Luttich , the failed counter-attacks near Avranches. Suffering from a nervous breakdown , he was relieved of command on 2 August and dispatched to the rear. From September forward, he was in a military hospital in Upper Bavaria, not far from his family.
He was discharged on 7 October.
During the autumn, German forces had to counter the attempts of the Western Allies to cross the Westwall , while Hitler was looking for an opportunity to seize the initiative on the Western Front. In a desperate attempt to defeat the Allies on the Western Front, the German armies were to break through the U. The division was split into four combined-arms battle groups with Peiper commanding the most substantial, which included all armoured sections of the division. To address the lack of fuel, Peiper was provided with a map showing American fuel depots to allow him to seize fuel at those locations if needed.
Peiper complained that the road assigned to his Kampfgruppe was suitable for bicycles, but not for tanks. Just make it to the Meuse. Even if you've only one tank left when you get there. Peiper's mechanized column did not reach the jumping-off point until midnight, delaying his attack by almost 24 hours. In the early morning of 17 December, they captured Honsfeld and much-needed fuel. Peiper continued west on his assigned route until he had to deflect shortly before Ligneuville because the assigned road was impassable.
This bypass forced him towards the Baugnez crossroads near Malmedy. During Peiper's advance on 17 December , 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 th Field Artillery Observation Battalion , were quickly overcome and captured. The survivors were able to reach American lines later that day, and their story spread rapidly throughout the American front lines.
The atrocities continued. In Honsfeld, Peiper's men murdered several American prisoners. The battle group was eventually declared responsible for the deaths of prisoners of war and civilians. The battle group paused for the night, allowing Americans to reorganize.
The spearhead continued on, without having fully secured Stavelot. By then, the surprise factor had been lost. The U. 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. 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. 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. 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 Rather than a stain on Peiper's honour, the killing of POWs was celebrated in official records.