SS-Obersturmbannführer Peiper, 1. SS Pzr (LSSAH), War Crimes – Testimony (JAG)

Peiper-001

Beginning November 1943, Peiper’s unit arrived on the Eastern Front, where it took part in combat in the area of Zhytomyr. On Nov 20, Georg Schönberger was killed in action, and Peiper took his place as commander of the 1. SS Panzer Regiment, a position he held until the end of the war. Peiper was 28 years old. Under his command, the regiment fought through the winter and was engaged in numerous night assaults against the Red Army. His Panzer unit played an essential role in stalling the Soviet offensive in the area of Zhytomyr. Peiper led actions by attacking the rear of enemy lines and captured four division headquarters. For this action he was awarded the Oak Leaves of the Knight’s Cross. Peiper’s aggressiveness and regiment command appointment caused resentment by some against him. In the mean time, brutal combat involving his unit continued. On December 5 and 6 1943, the unit killed 2280 Russian soldiers and took only three prisoners. During heavy fighting, the village of Pekartschina was completely burned with flamethrowers and its inhabitants killed. On Jan 20 1944, Peiper was withdrawn from the front. He left his unit and went directly to Hitler’s Headquarters where he was awarded the Oak Leaves to be added to his Knight’s Cross. Shortly afterwards, on his 29th birthday, Peiper was promoted to SS-Obersturmbannführer. However, Peiper was physically and mentally exhausted. A medical examination carried out by SS doctors in Dachau reached the conclusion that he needed rest. Therefore, he went to see his wife in Bavaria. In March 1944, the LSSAH was withdrawn from the Eastern Front. The transfer of all its units was not completed before May 24. Peiper joined his unit in April. The battles in the east had caused heavy losses of men and material. The new recruits were not of the same caliber as the pre-war volunteers, who’d been recruited according to strict criteria. In Belgium, five young recruits accused of stealing poultry and ham from civilians were sentenced to death by a court-martial. The verdict seemed out of proportion to the offense, especially when looking at similar cases. Peiper ordered the five shot on May 28 1944 and had the other young recruits marched past the corpses; but the executions actually had a negative impact on the morale of the regiment. The stay in the Belgian Limburg was devoted mainly to drills and refit, made more difficult due to the lack of material and gasoline.

Wittmann-Nueske-Peiper-Jan-18-1944

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