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Jochen Peiper

Discussion in 'ETO, MTO and the Eastern Front' started by Keystone Two-Eight, Mar 5, 2008.

  1. Keystone Two-Eight

    Keystone Two-Eight Member

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    Recently purchased the book " Jochen Peiper, Battle commander SS Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler" by Charles Whiting on amazon for $2.32 U.S. (in hardback). I have started reading it, and it is a pretty interesting read so far, but I cant help but feel that there is an under current of sympathy for Peiper in mr. Whitings words, almost to the point where it seems pro nazi. He claims that while Peiper -as commander of the forces in the area- was indeed ultimately responsible for the Malmedy massacre, he nonetheless was innocent of it because he wasnt exactly present for the executions. he goes on to question why an investigation into Peipers murder has not been forthcoming.

    Has anyone else read this book, and if so, did you come off with the same feelings I did?
     
  2. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Hello Keystone Two-Eight

    I haven't read this book, and I have to come right out and say that I'm not a fan of Charles Whiting's books ( we've discussed him here some time ago ). However, unlike some authors, he doesn't have a 'Nazi bias' but I find most of his work superficial and his sources are thin. However, he was one of the last authors to actually interview Peiper ( shortly before he died ) and Whiting certainly seems to have capitalized on that fact and maybe fallen under the 'Peiper spell' somewhat.

    Peiper is of course an interesting and controversial subject and has become a cult figure in certain quarters. The most comprehensive biography is the enormous one by Patrick Agte who is unashamedly biased toward his subject ( loads of great photos, though ).

    IMPO, one of the better books about Peiper is 'The Devils Adjutant' by Michael Reynolds, which focuses on the actions of KG Peiper in the Ardennes. As a soldier himself, Reynolds stick to the more military viewpoint.

    My own viewpoint is that Peiper was a dedicated, ruthless and totally professional Nazi ( in this case, yes, Nazi ) soldier. And although maybe he didn't pull the triggers himself, KG Peiper undoubtedly did some very unsavoury things in the Ardennes and he was the guy in charge. I wouldn't have liked to have been an inexperienced GI or innocent Belgian civilian suddenly being confronted with elements of KG Peiper.
     
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  3. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    I have 'The Devil's Adjutant' and agree with your assessment. It almost seems like there has been a surge of sorts on producing 'new' books on old topics with an emphasis on 'opinion' rather than fact. maybe it is just me.
     
  4. TheRedBaron

    TheRedBaron Ace

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    Dont read the Williamson bio of Peiper then... Utter tosh.

    He goes on about Peiper saving Italian jews and being an honourable 'knight'... Not too mention laying it on thick about him 'defending his home' against terrorists.

    Peiper was a good commander... But he was brutal and utterly ruthless.
     
  5. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Well said the fact that he was a good commander does not take away the fact that he was a war criminal. There will always be people like Williamson to defend him, I ignore them.
     
  6. Vince Noir

    Vince Noir Member

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    Peiper is one of the many Waffen-SS who has been 'glorified' over the last 20 years.

    There seems a need with some historians to portray these men in a very favourable light. They were products of their times, brutalised in war for an evil regime. Trying to portray them as some sort of herioc ideal worrys me greatly.
     
  7. bigfun

    bigfun Ace

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    thanks for this guys, as I have been wanting to read of this for some time, now I have a few books to consider!

    thanks again!!
     
  8. FalkeEins

    FalkeEins Member

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    ..well said ...
     
  9. Jim Baker

    Jim Baker Member

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    Williamson? What is the title of this book?

    Thanks!!
     
  10. Paul Errass

    Paul Errass Member

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    Got to agree with Martin re Michael Reynolds book but the best i have ever read is Patrick Agte's Jochen Peiper Commander Panzer Regiment Leibstandarte.

    Ignoring the obvious bias of Agte towards Peiper and the Nazis in general the book contains some of the best accounts of the Leibstandarte in many of the most famous Battles on the Eastern and Western fronts due to the fact that Agte has access to more original paper work, accounts and veterans personal archives than anyone .

    It's big and it's expensive but for the photos alone it's worth it . The way the section on the attack on the first day of the Kursk battle was written made me feel as though i was actually there !!

    regards

    Paul
     
  11. docinohio

    docinohio Dishonorably Discharged

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    Peiper is a fascinating character....I find it profound that he could be such a high ranking SS officer and former adjutant for Himmler and NOT be an official member of the Nazi party! I suspect Himmler and Hitler used him as the proverbial icon for German Aryans- blue eyed, blond, 6 feet tall, etc.- all the things that Hitler and Himmler weren't but Peiper fit the desired image well so they were willing to tolerate some deviance from Nazi protocol. I think Peiper may have been a much better man than history credits him and that the barbarian and savage experiences on the Eastern front probably would demean and degrade the sensibilities and integrity of any military man placed in that situation. However, his appropriate treatment of American POW's during the Battle of Bulge (Lieutenant Colonel in US Army testified on his behalf at his Dachau trial) stands in profound contrast to his purported involvement in the Malmedy massacre which seems to be limited considering he was not at the scene when it happened but appropriately accepts responsibilty for his men's actions as their commanding officer. A most fascinating, controversial, and I suspect tormented man. This is what makes history interesting. I'm a newbie to this blog so I'd be interested in hearing other opinions and comments of my "psychological profile" for Jochen Peiper!
     
  12. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Hi doc, no need to post the same post three times, our members will read this one.

    Fascinating? Hmm, just about how fascinating a crimininal could be. Are you admiring this murderer? I am not.
     
  13. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    This seems to fit the Patrick Agte view of Peiper which, for sure, is not shared by many others. The 'correct treatment of Allied prisoners' ( such as McCown ) happened when, as I'm sure would have been obvious to the undoubtedly highly intelligent Peiper, defeat started to look inevitable......
     
  14. FalkeEins

    FalkeEins Member

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    ..is it Reynolds who presents evidence of Peiper's 'mental breakdown' and subsequent absence from the front throughout the Normandy battles ...?
     
  15. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Not so much evidence, as lack of......

    Reynolds discusses ( on pp 247/248 of his book ) the fact that all mention of Peiper in German records or memoirs vanishes from 20th Decmber '44 to 4th February 1945 ( when he was awarded the Swords...). there is simply no mention of Peiper being involved in the Leibstandarte's actions around Bastogne. He next appears in an operational capacity in Hungary in February.

    Reynolds suspects that Peiper was 'resting' in the interim period.
     
  16. docinohio

    docinohio Dishonorably Discharged

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    Skipper, I'm not saying I admire Peiper as a murderer. I'm saying I'm perplexed and fascinated by the incongruencies....not a Nazi party member but high ranking officer in SS, convicted criminal of war crimes but treats American POW's after the Bulge as well as could be hoped. I read in the TIME series of books, in the book Battle of the Bulge, the Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army that later testified in his behalf at his trial, recalled that he and Peiper had long conversations in the night in a cellar while the LTC was his prisoner. Peiper reportedly told the LTC his men would not be killed and that the Germans and Russians regarded each other as animals on the Eastern front....neither side took mercy on the other, accepted surrender, or took quarter. Sounds like the savage murderer American history has taught us that Peiper was, right? But, why would Peiper allow the American POW's to live when he could easily have had them killed? Could it be his sense of decency and military integrity somewhat returned after he left the Eastern front and recovered from his "nervous breakdown"? Could it be he never really endorsed the mantra and doctrine of the Nazi party but fought because he was a dedicated soldier and resignation or refusal to fight after years of training and indoctrination in the SS was not a possibility and might have resulted in his execution or imprisonment. I'm not making excuses or trying to be an apologetic for his actions but rather searching deeper than most into his psyche and incongruencies. I doubt that these questions will ever be answered as most of the books out there now have been inevitably been biased and opinionated now, German authors being favorable and Allied/American authors being critical, and the truth lies somewhere in between. But, history records the writings of only the victor.....and so it goes......Peace.
     
  17. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    I can understand the point you're trying to make ( even though something tels me that this thread could easily degenerate into a 'flame war'...;) )

    It would be foolish to deny that Peiper is a most interesting character of WWII and certainly at times I've almost fallen under the spell of Peiper mythology. His story to me is yet another warning against the perils of Fascism or any other kind of extremism. He was undoubtedly handsome, charming, intelligent and capable. Membership of the Nazi Party seems rather a red herring - until the end of his life, in interviews he was an unrepentant Nazi.

    The fact remains that, in the Ardennes, although he may not have pulled the trigger it was only his unit which was involved in so many instances of prisoners and civilians being shot out of hand. The cynic in me says that, in the cellar at La Gleize, the prospect of being captured by the Americans was imminent and may have led to a softening of his own attitude toward US prisoners. And I always find the famous photo of Peiper at Himmler's side, visiting a concentration camp, rather chilling. Ordinary guy ? No.

    To me he's a warning from history. And yes, as long as books are written about him and the Leibstandarte, I'll still read them........:eek:
     
  18. ptimms

    ptimms Member

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    Sorry I can't accept fact he behaved well to some prisoners means that he had a change of heart in the West, his command was responsible for several massacres in the Ardennes.

    The issues with his brothers are interesting and not so well known, the elder brother attempted suicide at school and was left brain damaged dying in 1942 of tuberculosis. His younger brother (also in the SS) died in a car crash but there are suggestions he commited suicide after being accused of being a homosexual. Add this to the breakdown suggestions (and of course the strains of years of combat) and I think we have a very troubled man not the heroic Nazi knight some would have you believe.
     
  19. FalkeEins

    FalkeEins Member

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    there is also the international context - the 'real' enemy was suddenly not a 'beaten and bowed' Nazi Germany but the Iron Curtain sweeping across Europe. Hastings makes the point in his latest work that Americans in general - to paraphrase him - " had a hard time getting worked up about the Germans, barely regarded them as enemies and could only be stirred into action when their buddies were killed ..." (comment on Bradley's Army made by US commentator...)

    both these factors go some way to explaining the " favourable " testimony delivered by US officers on Peiper's behalf at his trial...
     
  20. Timo

    Timo Member

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    Peiper was a member of the NSDAP: he was registered on March 1, 1938, under Party-No. 5508134. Not being a party member is just one of many myths he created about himself after the war (in this case in an interview with Charles Whiting)
    It is quite clear that Peiper was kind to his American prisoners once he realized that he was surrounded in La Gleize. He was trapped and is was far from certain that his daring escape back to the German lines would be successful. From his point of view he could very well become a POW himself in the very near future and - with the Malm├ędy massacre and all the other murders his men committed in the past week in mind - he could use all the goodwill he could get and you must keep that in mind if you read about Peiper and McCown. In the end Peiper toured the concentration camps as adjudant of Himmler and gave ice-cold descriptions of how he witnessed the gassing of prisoners.
     
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