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Joachim Peiper

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Joachim Peiper was a SS officer most associated with the Malmedy Massacre during the Battle of the Bulge fought during the winter of 1944-1945. The Malmedy Massacre is considered to be one of the worst atrocities committed against American soldiers in the western European sector of fighting in World War Two - and Peiper's involvement in it cast a very dark cloud over what had been a successful military career.

The Allied landing in Normandy necessitated the return of the LSSAH to the Western Front. On 17 June, the division began its move to the area of Caen, but some parts of the panzer regiment had to stay in Belgium awaiting new tanks. Furthermore, the move of the division was made under difficult conditions due to the trains transporting Hungarian Jews to the concentration camps and Allied air attacks which caused disruptions in the rail traffic. The whole division did not reach its rally zone before 6 July 1944. On 28 June, the 1st SS Panzer Regiment of Peiper arrived at the front and was immediately engaged in combat.As with the other German units of the area, they essentially fought a defensive battle until the Avranches breakthrough at the end of July and beginning of August. Having gone to the front with 19,618 men, the LSSAH lost 25% of its men and all its tanks. As with most of the Waffen SS divisions engaged in Normandy, the LSSAH lost its operational ability and was described in the official tables of the available units prepared by the OKW on 16 September 1944 not as a division but as a Kampfgruppe.

Peiper was not in command of his panzer regiment during the counter-attacks near Avranches. Suffering from a nervous breakdown he had been discreetly evacuated to a military hospital in the area of Sées at 70 km of the front line. According to the official diagnosis, he was suffering from jaundice. He would eventually be dispatched to the rear and from September 1944 forward was in a military hospital near the Tegernsee in Upper Bavaria. This was not far from his family home. He stayed there until 7 October.

His leadership of the Sd.Kfz. 251 armored half-track battalion in the Third Battle of Kharkov earned the unit the nickname Lötlampenbataillon or "Blowtorch Battalion",which resulted in him receiving the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold Three days after his actions on 6 March 1943, he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.Twelve days later, Peiper demonstrated his military skill when he led his unit at full speed through Russian positions in a surprise attack on Belgorod, causing the surprised Russians to flee. Oberführer Theodor Wisch, divisional commander of the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, recommended him for the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, which he was awarded on 27 January 1944.


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