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Hitler's Warrior: The Life & Wars of SS Col. Jochen Peiper

Jochen PeiperSS colonel Jochen Peiper was one of the most controversial figures of the Second World War. Handsome, intelligent, and impetuous, he volunteered for the Waffen SS at an early age and dedicated his life to the Nazi cause. Peiper was Heinrich Himmler’s ever-present personal adjutant in the early years of the war-- an SS "everyman" witness to momentous events in Hitler's Third Reich. Once on the fighting front with the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler,  Peiper became known for a flamboyant and brutal style of warfare.

After the war, Peiper became the central subject in the bitterly disputed Malmédy war crimes trial, where he was condemned to death but ultimately released due to the efforts of Senator Joseph McCarthy and an Atlanta attorney Willis M. Everett, Jr. After moving to eastern France in 1972, he was harassed by the French Communists and died in a gun battle at his home on July 14, 1976–Bastille Day. His assassins were never identified.

In HItler's Warrior, historian Danny Parker highlights the fascinating personalities of Peiper’s story and raises questions on how an intelligent and capable soldier could decide to embrace the dark side of genocidal conflict. The rich narrative is bolstered by previously unseen archival sources as well as extensive interviews with German veterans, Belgian, Italian and French civilians, and even participants from the Malmédy trial at Dachau .

This major new historical work helps us to fathom the world of Hitler’s Third Reich, a morally inverted world in which cruelty was good and kindness belied fatal weakness.

Coming December 2014 • History • 464 pages
North American Rights: Da Capo Press
First Serial, Translation, Audio & Performance Rights: Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Comments

Mr. Parker-

I am confused with your analysis, at least as it is presented by the review written by Al Hemingway.

1) I have never read of any proof,other than testimony on You Tube,where Peiper admits that he instructed his men that they should respond in the same way that the British/Canadian 'commandos' were instructed;which I am assuming he is referring to Dieppe or possibly D-Day.

2) I haven't read in ANY books that Peiper was present during the actual 'massacre'?

3) Hemingway,and I quote says in his review,"Peiper.....would let nothing stand in his way until he had accomplished his objectives-even if it mean't slaughtering prisoners and innocent civilians."

4) Hemingway later refers to Peiper's 'sordid' past?!

Peiper was Himmler's adjutant for,what, from 1940-5/1941. How does one even conclude that he was privy to the 'find solution'? Yes, his Leibstandarte Battalion was referred to as the 'blowtorch battalion' because of his admitted use of flamethrowers when attacking on the Eastern Front. We both know that there was 'no quarter given' on that front.

I simply don't understand how one concludes that Peiper was responsible for Malmedy,other than his sweeping statement that he would take responsibility for his men's action,in the Ardennes offensive,if they were set free,or that he was the responsible commanding officer?

It's like blaming JFK for the Bay of Pigs.....and many did.....and he too made a similar statement as to responsibility!

I don't think Peiper was known for his "brutal style".........flamboyant,impetuous?? Isn't this a way of simply attributing what many considered a positive leadership style to something negative?

You've read Peiper's comments about how young many of his soldiers were and how they had witnessed the slaughter of thousands of German civilians in the bombing campaigns of 1944-45. How does one turn a relatively minor incident at Malmedy,when the Wehrmacht was a mere 'shell' of it's former self,facing overwhelming odds, fielding grade C,at best warriors,excepting those that had survived.....against the inferior Allied troops?

Isn't this simply history for the masses,history written by the victors?

Dear Mick,

Sorry for the long delay; I seldom look at my own website.

I'm not familiar with the review by Al Hemingway. Is it here somewhere? I'm not sure what you're referring to.

Relative to "brutal and flamboyant warfare," yes that is my language and I stand by it.  Of course, I don't believe Peiper looked at it as a negative. I do believe Peiper had much in common in fighting style with George Armstrong Custer.  Both loved cavalry too.

Brutal and flamboyant? Yes. Ineffective? No.

In the upcoming book, Peiper himself acknowledges in letters written home, that "old Genghis Khan himself would be proud of our fighting...and the way we are fighting would be improper for the eyes of young women..." These will be revealed in the book and were located at the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz. They are in Peiper's handwriting and have been transcribed and translated. They are perhaps the most important sources in the new book.

On Peiper's awareness of the Final Solution: he confessed as much to Otto Dinse in 1943. I interviewed Dinse mightself where he verfified his meeting with Peiper where Peiper told him that some terrible things were happening at the camps in Poland. "We had better win this war....or things will go badly for us."  Dinse further said that anyone "who denied the Endloesung, was not a kamerad."  Dinse said that repeatedly; he had been in Lublin when the Jews were being rounded up. Peiper was also a witness (which he admitted in several instances) to one fo the first gassing experiments with human victims. They are Peiper's words; not mine.

Relative to the Malmedy massacre in context, perhaps you haven't read my book. I do draw parallels with similar killings that took place under American eyes: Chenogne, Holzheim and others (see p. 282-283). In all honesty, the terrible event at Malmedy is clearly eclipsed by events at Stavelot- Parfondruy- Steyr and Ruy where elements of Knittel's command killed dozens of innocent women and children.

Yes, we did that at Mai Lai, so there are no clean hands in war. Peiper said as much (see p. 282)..

But it is also clear that the Leibstandarte was implicated in a number of killings in the Ardennes beyond Malmedy:  Ligneuville, La Vaulx Richard, Wereth and Honsfeld. While I do not directly implicated Peiper in the shooting at Malmedy (he was further on), the shooting at Cheneux of an American soldier by Paul Zwigart took place in Peiper's direct presence. In any case, it is difficult to find a similar murderous trail from the offending American combat groups.

In any case, I do make an effort to describe the Malmedy shootings in context and endeavored to examine the event in a careful and documented fashion.

One can lament my being an American as a source of bias ("written by the victors'), but I suggest such comments may not consider the depth with which I have looked into the historical events.

I've tried to be objective; take a look.

Danny Parker

 

QUOTE from Mr Parker's site: "In A Deadly Past, historian Danny Parker highlights the fascinating characters and personalities of Peiper’s story and asks such questions as how an intelligent, cultured, and capable man could decide to embrace malevolence?"

May I answer that? Peiper did not embrace evil. He signed up to be the best soldier he could be for his nation, he was apolitical (a soldier not a politician!). His position as Adjutant to Heinrich Himmler, the 2nd most powerful man in the Reich after Adolf Hitler was a step in the right direction to being the best, Peiper was hardly going to (or, in a position to) refuse such a post. Too many horror stories have been written about Jochen Peiper simply because of his relationship with Himmler and the whole blown out of proportion “Malmedy case.

Thank you for reading.

My apologies for not looking at this page for months and the time taken to respond.

I must say its a bit discouraging to put 20 years into researching a subject and to have it condemned before it sees publication.

In any case, I am doing my best to be objective in the book.

Bad boy? Like most of us, Jochen Peiper comes across as a complex person, motivated to do what he thought was correct. Yet, it is fact that Peiper himself wrote from the front in 1943, "Aber auch ein schlechter Ruf verpflichtet"-- "a bad reputation has its committments." The letter is in Peiper's handwriting at the Bundesarchiv Koblenz. His words-- although he admits he took them from film deva, Zarah Leander.

For me, Peiper's life represents a cautionary tale: we must be careful in who we spend closest time with and the ideas in which we believe.

Peiper's closeness to Himmler and his approval of his aims and plans are fact. He was not just a soldier. He was a soldier and adjutant to Heinrich Himmler. He remained on Himmler's inner circle (as will be shown in the book) to the end of the war. And even beyond.

The regime of the Third Reich, and more particularly, the SS, was at the root of great suffering in Europe. How can one see it differently?

I cannot.

Thank you for reading my response.

Danny Parker

Mr Parker

I am looking forward to your book a lot! I first read about Mr Peiper in the 1970;s shortly before his death in books by Charles whiting.

I have not read Patrick Agte's book or Jens westermaier's, which seems to be a reposte to the former - I have not got round to buying them - yet.

However I have read most of the rest, including two books in French on the death of Peiper at Traves.

After over 30 years of reading I have never found satisfactory answers to why Peiper was ever given command of 1 ss pz regt as he had no tank experience whatever. Also I still have not seen a satisfactory explanation of his lack of presence in the fighting in Normandy.

I have concluded that he was an over promoted favourite of Himmler and was not at all equipped to command tanks compared to say (to pick 3 names at random) wunsche meyer or Kausch.

If true then something was completely wrong within the Leibstandarte structure.

With regard to the death of H Peiper and the French books which I read I am astonished that his neighbour Kettelhut was able to melt away without rendering explanation and hope that your book will reveal more facts.

Hr Peiper looks to me to have been promoted too quickly into tank command and probably weakened the effectiveness of the whole unit. Again I hope your book will explain why Peiper seemed to be missing at notable crisis points for the division in Normandy.

best regards

Dear SW7man,

My new book will not thoroughly cover the war time period (that will be left for a later book or books; it is all written; just no way to publish a 2,000 page opus in one go!)

The question regarding Kettelhut, however, will be covered extensively in the book. Indeed, the mystery of what happened on Bastille Day in 1976 will be revealed in detail.

Thanks for your interest

The postman has delivered your book at last!
BTW Which book does the Lemaire story belong to?

Hello Mr. Parker..I have read The Fatal Crossroads and find it the definitive book on the topic of Baugnez. I am looking forward to the Peiper bio, having read your chapter 1 highlights last year. One comparison I wanted to add based on my own reading on Peiper was the remarkable similarity in style and personality, at least militarily, of Peiper to Banastre Tarleton in our own Revolutionary War. Like Peiper, Tarleton was a larger-than-life personality in the field, ruthless in application of military (and "extramilitary") violence to achieve tactical and pyschological ends (i,e, the bad reputation has its commitments) and a mixed record at best once he achieved higher command of troops beyond his direct pervue (i.e., cavalry aand armored PzGd). And we lovers of miltary history are always hooked on characters like these! Looking forward to reading the new work..

Tarleton and Peiper! Excellent comparison!

Dear Mr. Albright,

Yes, I think Tarleton would strike a close comparison with Peiper. 

However, even more recent, I find George Armstrong Custer to have much in common with Peiper's methods methods of battle, love of horses and flamboyant, arrogant and even vain nature.

That Custer was effective is indisputable. However, that he was foolhardy in his audacious approach to battle is equally evident.

There is much in common with Peiper.

Peiper nearly had his Last Stand at Hill 252.2 near Prokhorovka on 12 July 1976.

Unlike Custer, he survived being overrun.

Surviving, Peiper never tired of advancing deep-- and even fatally deep behind enemy lines.

Unlike Custer, he preferred to strike under cover of darkness. "Night is a friend of the weak," he was fond of saying...

In fact, in writings after the war, Peiper appeared to be more proud of his deep 25 km nighttime advance to Simontornya with Werner Sternebeck in Hungary on 9 March 1945, than he was of his famous advance in the Ardennes!