What actually happened in the infamous Malmédy massacre?
On December 17th, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge over 80 unarmed Americans soldiers were shot down after having surrendered to a fast-moving SS tank column near the small town of Malmédy, Belgium. Although more than 30 survived and told of the killings, the event has remained mired in controversy after the U.S. Army mishandled evidence in the Malmédy investigation and trial in1946. Over the last thirty years, some SS apologists contended the massacre did not occur or was due to surrendered Americans running from captivity. What actually happened at the Baugnez crossroads over sixty years ago? Was it a “battlefield incident” in the heat of combat or deliberate murder?
The author spent fifteen years researching primary sources to help answer these questions—more than 38,000 pages of materials on the Malmédy investigation and trial, including several sources which have only been recently declassified. The trail to understand Malmédy ranged widely: archival materials at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas and the U.S. Army Military History Institute in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. German perspectives on the controversial event surfaced in lengthy examination of records and recently opened personal papers at the Bundesarchiv in Freiburg and Koblenz where Waffen SS veterans pondered the incident and its fallout.
The human side of the story is revealed by detailed first-time interviews of numerous American survivors of the chilling event. For balance, the author also obtained personal interviews with those on the German side and even local civilian witnesses. This included the emphatic commander of the Panzer IV from which the official investigation suggested the first pistol shots came. Perhaps most compelling, the author interviewed two German-speaking Belgian youths present at the crossroads who heard the orders and saw the results.
Finally, the author conducted a pains-taking ground survey of the Baugnez crossroads where the event took place. This allowed key insight into how the incident unfolded as well as appreciation for how participant recall was influenced by perspective, movements and the vagaries of human memory.
With detailed research and telling interviews, the author is able to reconstruct for the first time, the critical sequence of events– and individuals involved– that led up to the Malmédy massacre and its dramatic aftermath. Fatal Crossroads illuminates a tragic episode in World War II revealing both the brutality of war, but also the brave humanity of ordinary people swept up into historic events.
November 2011 • History • 390 pages
North American Rights: Da Capo Press
First Serial, Translation, Audio & Performance Rights: Curtis Brown, Ltd