SS-Standartenführer Jochen Peiper

SS-Anwärter: October16, 1933
SS-Mann: January 23, 1934
SS-Sturmmann: September 7, 1934
SS-Rottenführer: October 10, 1934
SS-Unterscharführer: March 1, 1935
SS-Standartenjunker: September 11, 1935
SS-Standartenoberjunker: March 5, 1936
SS-Untersturmführer: April 20, 1936
SS-Obersturmführer: January 30, 1939
SS-Hauptsturmführer: June 6, 1940
SS-Sturmbannführer: January 30, 1943
SS-Obersturmbannführer: November 11, 1943
SS-Standartenführer: April 20, 1945

Iron Cross 2nd class (1940) and 1st class (1940)
SS-Honour Ring (1941)
Knight's Cross (1943)
Oak Leaves (1944)
Swords (1945)
German Cross in Gold (1943)
Infantry Assault Badge in bronze (1940)
Eastern Front Medal (1942)
Sudetenland Medal (1938)
Anschluss Medal (1938)
Close Combat Clasp in bronze (1943)
Close Combat Clasp in silver (1943)
Tank Destruction Badge (1943)
SA Sports Badge in bronze

Joachim Peiper (1915-1976) was more commonly known as Jochen Peiper, which was a popular nickname for Joachim in Germany. Peiper was born in Berlin, in the family of an officer on January 30, 1915. During the war campaigns of 1939-1945, Peiper was the Senior Officer and Commander of the Waffen-SS. His father was a World War I veteran. He had two brothers, Hans Hasso and Horst. At the end of his military career, Peiper was the youngest regiment Colonel in the Waffen-SS. He was officially known as the SS Standartenführer Joachim Peiper, from the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler.

Peiper was recruited to the SS-Verfügunstruppe in 1935 after he had graduated from college. Sepp Dietrich went through his application and accepted him to the SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, which at the beginning of the war was changed to a fighting unit of the Waffen-SS. At first he was appointed as the adjutant of Heinrich Himmler's, afterward he was the Commander of different 1st SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler panzer units. When he was in Himmler's staff, he met and married his wife, Sigurd, with whom he had three children: Henrich, Elke and Silke. Himmler was fond of Peiper and followed his career with great interest. At the age of 29, Peiper was already a Colonel in the Waffen-SS, highly respected and awarded one of the highest German medallions during the war: the Knight's Cross with Swords that was given to him personally by Adolf Hitler.

Peiper was a skilled military leader and participated in many important tank battles during the war. His men were very loyal to him, many said he was a "charismatic leader". Peiper took part in some of the most important battles, such as the Kharkov and Kursk attacks on the Eastern Front in 1943. The most noteworthy is Peiper's leadership of the LSSAH attack unit (appointed under Sepp Dietrich's 6th SS Panzer Army) during the guard operation on Rhine (the Battle of the Bulge). Peiper's attack unit reached the village of La Gleize in Belgium before the American troops managed to strike back. Peiper was forced to leave hundreds of vehicles behind, among others was six Tiger II type tanks, and returned to Germany on foot with 800 men.

Peiper has been accused in the mass murder of Boves, but he has never been declared guilty.

When he was in Italy, Peiper discovered that the Italian government has put a group of Jews in prison. Peiper ordered that the Jews would be handed over and later released them. One of the released Jews was a rabbi who later wrote a testimony of Peiper's kindness in the war crimes court.

After the Second World War, Peiper and other Waffen-SS members were accused of war crimes in the Malmedy massacre trial. Peiper volunteered to take the blame provided that the court will release his men – the court refused. The real story of Malmedy was as follows: the US soldiers captured by Peiper's attack unit were taken on a meadow to wait for a transportation that would take them behind the frontline. Peiper left some of his men to guard and left in front of the tanks to Ligneuville. When most of the attack unit men arrived in Baugnez, the units were settled there and the men chatted with their fellow guards. One vehicle had broken down and it was being repaired. Suddenly one soldier sitting on a tank noticed that the US prisoners had taken advantage of the guards' inattentiveness and were trying to escape. He grabbed his gun and shot in the direction of the escapees to make them stop. But the shots made the prisoners panic and they ran off in different directions. Now the Germans started shooting with automatic guns – 21 US prisoners were killed during the escape. Harold D. McCown, the US Army's 30th Infantry Division's Major, admitted during the process that he had spoken with Peiper until the early morning hours. The reason behind this was that he had heard that Peiper's men were shooting the US war prisoners. He asked if they were alright. Peiper had sworn that McGown's men will not be shot – McGown confirmed that as far as he knew, Peiper kept his word and did not shoot any of the US war prisoners. Despite that Peiper was found guilty and was sentenced to death by hanging, as many of his men. Peiper later requested that he and his men would be shot instead, but the court refused. It was obvious that the lawsuit was not very convincing and as many of their opponents later admitted, the real reason was Peiper's and his men's courageous fighting that brought their enemies many losses.

The statements were forced out of people with beating and torturing. The punishments of several Malmedy protectors was eased and after 11,5 years imprisonment, mostly in solitude, Peiper was released by the end of December 1956.

In January 1957 he got a job in Porsche company in Frankfurt. But he was soon fired. Afterward he worked for Volkswagen in Stuttgart, but he was also soon fired because of arguments with the left-wingers. He realized that he cannot stay in Germany and moved his family to France. During the attack of 1940 he had been in France and he liked it, it was beautiful and peaceful. Thanks to his French nationalist friend Gauthier, he managed to buy a watermill in Traves. But the building was in bad condition and Peiper did not have the necessary means to restore it. SS-Obersturmbannführer Erwin Ketelhut finally took over the mill and Peiper had a house built for his family in Spannplate in 1960. The house was like a military fort – surrounded by bushes and was not seen from the street. For 16 years he was threatened and received anonymous phonecalls, but he still lived peacefully and was determined as was common to a soldier.

In Haute-Saône, Traves, France, Peiper earned living as a translator.

On June 11, 1976 Peiper was in a shop in Vesoul buying wire to build a fence for his dog. The salesman, Elsassian Paul Cacheux, a member of a communist party, recognized by his accent that he was German and asked him if he had been in France during the war. Peiper paid with a cheque that had his name and address. Cacheux checked the "brown lists" that contained all names of wanted Germans for Peiper's name. He forwarded the information on Peiper to the French left-wingers. On June 22, 1976 a French communist newspaper "L'Humanite" published an articled entitled: "What is this Nazi doing in France?". People demanded the government to make Peiper leave France. Leaflets were distributed in Traves where Peiper was called a war criminal and a Nazi. On the walls in Versoul people wrote: "Peiper, we're gonna do July 14 for you!" (July 14 is a national holiday in France).

In the morning of July 13 Peiper sent his wife who had cancer to Germany. He did not want to leave the house himself because he was afraid that it would be burnt down. His neighbour Erwin Ketelhut proposed that Peiper could spend a night in the watermill but Peiper refused. He also didn't want Ketelhut to stay with him because Ketelhut had shot the attackers. "No," said Peiper, "There has been enough killing already." Jochen Peiper waited on his roof terrace from where he could see the whole area. Ketelhut had lent his gun to Peiper. 11.30 PM he heard some kind of rustle in the bushes and saw a dozen men climbing up the steep shore. He shot in the air to scare the drunk men away. They jelled at him to come out. He opened the door to talk to them.

What happened next, only those know who were there. Obersturmbannführer Jochen Peiper's corps was burned and only a meter long, it had no arms or legs. He had died approximately 1 AM. The house was burnt down, the roof had fallen in. What had happened between 11 PM and 1 AM? Was the Obersturmbannführer still alive when he was crippled? A mixture of gasoline and oil was poured on the floor and then lit. Peiper was in his bedroom, on the leftside, with his back towards the wall, one arm across the chest. Nothing had fallen on him. He had died because of the heat. His body was not cremated, but it had shrunk.

Erwin Ketelhut and some French men who knew and respected him, thought that this kind of chivalric man, who had had to face so many dangers in his life, should not have died like this. The murderers had driven their car over the meadow until the river, where they had two boats waiting. They crossed the river with their boats and then climbed up the shore. After the murder, they ran away over the meadow. The fire brigade searched the arms and legs from the river. The French police investigated this case for six months. The communists and resistance members of Vesoul were interrogated. No one knew anything! The area of Traves is sparsely inhabited, there are approximately 10 inhabitants on one square kilometer. Everyone knows their neighbours and their secrets.

The inhabitants of Traves knew who the murders were, but they kept quiet.

On the night between the 13th and the 14th July we commemorated the Obersturmbannführer and the Cavalier of the Knight's Cross Jochen Peiper.

Sayings by Peiper:

  • "I admit that after the battles of Normandy my unit was made up mostly of young fanatic soldiers. Most of them had lost their parents and siblings during the bombings. They had seen thousands of corpses in Köln after the terrorist attacks. Their rage was so strong that they could not control it."
  • "Imagine being approved and an admirable national hero for millions, but six months later you're sentenced to death by hanging."
  • "My men are the product of a war, who grew up without education, on the shattered cities' streets. The only thing they knew was how to use a weapon on behalf of the Reich. They were young people who had heard a lot and desired to won or die for their homeland, doesn't matter if it was wrong or right. Seeing these accused men today, I cannot see the Peiper attack unit anymore. All my old friends and comrades are lost forever. The real reward is waiting for me in Valhalla."
  • "History is always written by the winners, the history of the losers belongs to the decreasing circle of the participants."
  • "I was a Nazi and will always be one. The Germany of today does not have one great nation, it has become a province for Europe." – a response to a French writer in 1967. A quotation from Michael Reyolds' book "The Devil's Adjutant", p. 260.