Crossroads of Death (Magill's Literary Annual 1980)
Late in 1944, Hitler took one last gamble to win World War II by a renewed Blitzkrieg in Belgium. To Americans, the conflict was known as the “Battle of the Bulge.” One particular incident of that brief campaign stood out in the minds of many Americans. An advancing SS armored unit had herded more than seventy GI prisoners of war into an open field just south of the town of Malmédy and turned their machine guns on them. Several individuals had lived to tell about the ordeal by feigning death. The physical evidence of the killings had been gathered by United States Army inspection teams who came upon the frozen and snow-covered bodies when the German offensive failed and the United States Army advanced once more. The disarmed corpses were bullet-ridden, some with their frozen hands still above their heads. If any Americans needed to be reminded of the ruthlessness of the SS troops, the “Malmédy Massacre” provided the grisly evidence.
As the war drew to an end, the sometimes lethargic, sometimes precipitous machinery of United States military justice sought out the perpetrators of the deed. The unit in question was identified as the Battle-Group-Peiper, named after its dashing young Commander, Colonel Jochen Peiper. On May 16, 1946, seventy-four officers and men of the Waffen-SS (SS-military, as opposed to the police or purely political SS) were put on trial before an American military court. Seventy-one men, including Peiper himself,...
(The entire section is 1202 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!