Ever since I got my interest in the Battle of the Bulge I’ve heared about the Massacre at Malmedy. The name Joachim Peiper sounds familiar to everyone who’s taken their time to read up on literature about the Battle of the Bulge. There’s a lot of rumours going around about what happend on that crossread near Malmedy. After 6 years of active researching on the Battle of the Bulge I thought it was time to dig more in this senstive subject where 84 American Prisoners of War were killed in cold blood.
The book by Charles Whiting was first published 1971 and I believe his work has been cited by many others who researched this controversial topic. In this review I don’t really want to go in-depth on the details as this is my first book on the subject. Although, I can give you my opinion on the way the book has been written and how the story has been told.
First of all compliments to Charles Whiting for making such a ‘detailed’ account of actions of Kampfgruppe Peiper. Not only did Whiting tell us about the Malmedy Massacre, he also told us about the killings in Stavelot and the killings of several other POW’s by the Kampfgruppe.
The biggest part of the book is the route taken by Joachim’s Kampgruppe from the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge until their last day fighting in it. The style of writing used by Whiting makes the book seem more like a novel than a historical reference work. The whole story and its details seem to be too perfect to be historicaly correct. But, for historical research I THINK a lot of facts will have to be checked multiple times. Nevertheless, it worked perfectly for my imagination and it definitely gave me a great first glance of the actions by Kampfgruppe Peiper.
The latter part is about the trial that took place after the war. Whiting gives you a great perspective about how the interegations took place and how the POWs of the 1st SS were treated. The massacre has been such a controversial topic after the war. Concluded from Whitings account less than 1% of the 1st SS has been involved in the killings of the POWs and the civilians of Stavelot. What I got from his account of the trials is that all the soldiers of the 1st SS were treated as if they were part of it. Some were so badly tortured that even when they didn’t participate in any of it, they admitted to being guilty of the acts. I even started to feel compassion for them.
For someone who never read a book about the Joachim Peiper or the Malmedy Massacre, this book would be great and easy to read for you. However, I wouldn’t take everything for what it is, but I suggest you to keep asking yourself if some events happend in the way they were described. In big lines the story is true, but you can’t just write a history book in a way that novels are written. Yet, maybe this was the purpose of Whiting and, in that case he did it very well! I do hope that when you read this book that it sparks you interest to start researching the different acts that are discussed and that you hopefully broaden your knowledge by reading more literature about Joahim Peiper and the Malmedy Massacre.
You can order Massacre at Malmedy by Charles Whiting here!