Book Reviews


Hitler’s Warrior: A Review by Dwight R. Pounds, Ph.D; Col., USAFR (Ret.)

Hitler's Warrior

‘Hitler’s Warrior’ is good reading


“Hitler’s Warrior” is a fitting title in that SS Col. Joachim (Jochen) Peiper arguably was the World War II German equivalent of America’s Audie Murphy, who won virtually every combat award in the books. The Nazis corrupted the traditional Knights (Iron) Cross and handed them out by the proverbial bushel.


To recognize truly outstanding accomplishments, it was necessary to embellish the medal with wreaths, diamonds and swords, some of which apparently were added specifically for Peiper. Despite the many honors and medals he earned, Peiper’s primary concern throughout the war and the rest of his life was for the well-being of the troops under his command.


Peiper was of good Aryan stock that the SS prized so highly. He was blond, handsome, athletic, physically strong, ambitious and highly intelligent. Still, he was a most enigmatic man, personally and professionally. He loved music and literature, yet was ferocious in battle.


He rose to the rank of sturmbahnführer (colonel) in the dreaded SS at age 30, but he never joined the National Socialist (Nazi) Party. He could have spent the duration of the war in relative safety as a staff officer (adjutant) to Heinrich Himmler but seized the opportunity to command Waffen SS tank battalions on the Eastern and Italian fronts. Peiper and his personal tank crew destroyed an estimated 200 enemy tanks or more on all fronts. So extraordinary were his leadership skills and audacity in battle that he was chosen to lead the German attack in the 1944 Ardennes Offensive, known in Allied circles as the Battle of the Bulge. It was during the Italian campaign and the winter offensive in Belgium that two war atrocities were branded to his reputation, and from which he could never extricate himself: The attack in 1943 on Boves, Italy, in which numerous homes were destroyed and 33 civilians killed, and the massacre of 87 American prisoners of war at Malmédy, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge. (He admitted that the killings in both incidents occurred, and under his command, but vehemently denied that he gave the orders for either.)


Equally damning were his closeness to Himmler as a trusted member of his staff and being one of Adolf Hitler’s favorite soldiers. He had been a member of the elite and infamous “Leibstandarte Adolph Hitler,” the only military unit honored by the Führer’s name on their uniform sleeves. Yet, rather than assume a false identity at the war’s conclusion, Peiper surrendered under his own name and made no attempt to leave the country, and he took nominal command of the prison camp as ranking officer.


Telling Peiper’s story and doing so objectively was no small task for the author, Danny Parker, who spent more than a decade collecting materials and interviewing people in his subject’s life. Somehow he managed to condense his voluminous material into five sections covering Peiper’s life: his rise to power, his battles, his trials for war crimes and imprisonment, his eventual release and employment at Porsche AG and Motorsport Magazine, and, finally, his tragic end following a self-imposed exile in France. The reader can despise the cause to which Peiper devoted his life but still respect his personal integrity and leadership on the battlefield. These stories unfold in 309 pages of text and 111 pages of notes.


The book is good reading for anyone interested in military history, Nazi Germany, the war crimes, the Holocaust and WWII. Parker offers an intriguing look into the distorted mind of the despicable Himmler, whom Gen. Heinz Guderian referred to as a “certified nut case.” Peiper’s letters reflect a keen mind, often taking on a philosophical or poetic quality, even in translation. Particularly interesting is the account of Peiper’s war crimes trial as detailed in chapter 13. Descriptions of interactions between Peiper, his defense council, Lt. Col. Willis Everett, and the prosecutor, Lt. Col. Burton Ellis, and their arguments for and against the defendants are engrossing and resulted in a death sentence, later commuted to life imprisonment, and parole following 10 years of incarceration.


Although a reading knowledge of German is by no means necessary for in-depth reading of this book, there are several recurring terms with which one should be familiar. The schützstaffel, or “SS,” came into being as the leibstandarte (bodyguard) for Hitler, and, during the war, evolved in part to the waffen (weapons) SS, elite and fanatical combat units, and the totenkopf (death head) units that ran concentration camps and presided over the deaths of thousands. The SS had its own tradition of ranks, with each usually being translated into English in the text. Panzer and Tiger refer to tanks; SPW (schützenpanzerwagen) refers to half-tracks.


The ultimate tragedy of Peiper was that he was shaped by war while yet a young man. As hostilities continued, his unprecedented awards, his connections to Hitler, Himmler and the SS, Boves, the Battle of the Bulge and the Malmédy Massacre became well known. The war crimes trials simply cemented his checkered reputation in place, a reputation that he could not repair even during his French exile when he sought to live out his days peacefully. He lived five uneventful years near Traves, France, until an old member of the French underground recognized his name and went to the press. A firestorm of old passions that could not be quenched ensued and eventually led to his death. His murder is shrouded in mystery and remains unsolved, but absurd rumors and speculation concerning the circumstances and whether he actually died persisted for years and were reminiscent of the conspiracy theories following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Rather than the Israelis, the French Resistance, or the East German Stasi, people so insignificant as local young toughs with Molotov cocktails probably killed him, but the legend of Peiper was such that he would not “go gentle into that good night.”

— Reviewed by Dwight R. Pounds, Ph.D; Col., USAFR (Ret.)

Hitler’s Warrior A Review by Gerhard L. Weinberg (a Jewish historian who states that his family suffered persecution in NS Germany)

Hitler's Warrior


Joachim Peiper, generally referred to at the time and after the war as Jochen Peiper, was a key figure in the German SS and police organization from 1935 to the end of Nazi rule in Germany as well as in postwar trials and connections between former higher SS officers. He had both a professional and a personally close tie to Heinrich Himmler, the head of the German police apparatus. The professional tie was that Himmler’s attention had been drawn to Peiper who was assigned to Himmler’s headquarters as a result. The personal tie was that of the two key secretaries of Himmler, one became Himmler’s mistress and the other Peiper’s wife. The two women were close friends and remained so, and thus Peiper learned about events in headquarters after he left it. In this book, therefore, the reader can obtain a realistic sense of how the top of the German police apparatus operated before and during World War II and also the extent to which Himmler seriously believed some of the weirder notions he acted on like the connection of so-called Aryans to Tibet.

What distinguishes this book is that the author combines an extraordinarily careful search for new sources as well as the existing literature with a general fairness in his judgments about the individuals and events in Peiper’s life. After leaving Himmler’s headquarters, Peiper participates in the fighting on the Eastern Front, in Italy, and in the West. It is in connection with the Battle of the Bulge and the murder of a substantial number of surrendered American soldiers near Malmédy in Belgium that Peiper has come to appear in American literature on the war. He was captured and tried by the Americans in the famous or notorious Dachau trial. Anyone accused of killing lots of Jews and surrendered American soldiers was of great interest to Senator Joseph McCarthy who saw to it that the Dachau cases were redone, and all defendants, including Peiper, got off easy.

The author explains in this very well-written book how Peiper was involved in several later trials and interacted with other former SS officers from his new home. That was a house he purchased in the village of Traves in eastern France. His death there in 1976 remains an open case, but this reviewer finds the author’s explanation that he died while fighting a fire in that house set by local youngsters a most likely one. From the special ceremony when Peiper is sworn into the SS to the arguments over the burial of his charred remains, the book offers a full and thoughtful account of an important figure in the Nazi political and military system.


Hitler’s Warrior: Review by “Kommandeur”

It is very difficult getting used to the writing style of an American! My personal opinion is this: Some of it reads like fiction; like Mr Parker is writing a story of the Old German.  This is not what I am used to with my military books. I do prefer the style of Micheal Reynolds (Devil’s Adjutant) written work, keeping to the facts with military precision even if some of those facts have been incorrect!

You will not find any incorrect facts in Hitler’s Warrior. Danny Parker’s work on this book is remarkable and his research is unquestionably amazing. Thanks to the Author, we now have many more new details of Peiper’s life; for which we are very grateful, Even though Hitler’s Warrior is a book I am finding a little hard to read it is turning out to be a very interesting book.  


Hitler’s Warrior – Review by Sanna Hesse

The little black-and-white photo-study of the three Peiper boys absolutely should have made it to Parker’s book. It discloses a great deal about the family and their place in Wilmersdorf, Berlin. If it is a privately-engaged children’s nurse, then it is quite different to having a state-provided nanny. The German economy was still vaguely, upright and prosperous at this time.

It would have been late April/May,1915? Wee Achim looks to be able to support his head a little, (16+weeks?) but not quite sit unaided. The knitted, hooded, coatlet he is wearing is a complicated stitch and lovingl-crafted and the boys’ coats (perhaps a light wool) are nicely cut. What is the significance of the small boutonniere’s in their lapels? The baby is going aaargh! at the sunlight as the photographer has the sun behind them, in the technique of the time. The hats are cute……but what is the name of the navy vessel on the band? Was H-H holding the baby’s hand unbidden, out of affection? Where was it taken, who by; which particular occasion? Who will ever know??? Detail – that is what I wanted in the book, Mr Danny S Parker, not some of the Mills and Boon intimations about gazes.


Fatal Crossroads: By Anonymous:

Fatal-Crossroads-Parker

“Having read this very readable book, I can only recommend that the English Language Book Market would offer the American reader more English language printings of books needed to compare Danny S. Parker’s convictions to reality. He feels that he may have betrayed his German veteran interview partners and I cannot but agree. An open-minded approach ought to take over from Danny S. Parker’s meandering around battlefield reality.

The late Belgian author’s Gerd J. Gust Cuppens Massacre a Malmedy in French, or Was wirklich geschah . . . in German is still denied to the American public for lack of being translated into English, probably because his result has a minimal number of 21 executed American POWs on the Baugnez meadow. The Dutchman Hans Wijers’ English language book The Battle of the Bulge includes ret. US Army Cpt. Michael de Barto’s Malmedy Massacre chapter, which leaves things a little more open. The Belgian Henri Rogister’s Une Enquete Inedite, regrettably only in French, presents a clear, detailed account whilst still relying heavily on American eyewitnesses. John M. Bauserman’s The Malmedy Massacre which supports a war crime version of events seems to be Parker’s main source of material with the exception of some personally conducted interviews.

Bill Merriken and Kenneth Ahrens are two American witnesses whose testmony about the violent circumstances of the capture and dead bodies de-bunks some of the major points used to support a premeditated war crime. The official indictment has 72 American POWs counte as murdered on the meadow. Eleven more dead POWs are not included in the case. 

Reality speaks a different language: A convoy with 120 Battery B men and other unit’s members, plus 30 POWs from SS-vanguard vehicles had arrived at the locale. The initial altercation of the convoy with the point of the German battlegroup, the roadside clearance, and actions against armed and unarmed, but still unsurrendered GIs playing ‘dead man’ or trying to avoid capture, and of suvivors of the shooting of POWs trying to get away until dusk led to about 55 American soldiers killed in action. All this has taken at least one hour and took place from beginning to end at nearly a whole mile of roadside. A girl witness describes that most of the survivors of the inital altercation escaped into nearby woods, meaning that maybe up to 40 of the convoy’s GIs never got captured on that fatal day and must be included in 17 more survivors Col. Pergrin’s engineers picked up; and 29 more crossing American lines into safety over the next hours. 7 men out of 30 POWs of the German vanguard were also saved. 4 of the 30 got killed. The remaining 19 men are neither known as dead nor otherwise documented. 10 GIs had to drive US trucks for the SS. We therefore have to conclude that there were more than 80 survivors out of the at least 150 American soldiers having arrived at the Fatal Crossroads.

Does this compare in any way to Danny S. Parker’s conclusions?”


Fatal Crossroads: By Anonymous:

In so doing, he has come up with findings that may surprise readers.  As they should.
First, the often-villified Joachim Peiper is a far more complicated person than is generally known.  He is a very tough one to figure out, full of contradictions.  He was extremely intelligent, cultured and well-read.  Peiper was one of the best panzer commanders of the war, yet he was disgusted with the Ardennes offensive and had no confidence in it.  He was known for his daring panzer raids deep behind enemy lines, yet he preferred to ride in an amphibious jeep.  He was personally courageous.  After the war he took “responsibility” for the Malmédy Massacre because it happened under his command, but, as Parker’s research shows, he likely did not order it.  

While the shadow of the (in)famous Peiper lurks over everything in Fatal Crossroads, he actually plays only a relatively minor role in it.  Parker’s research reveals the true undisputed villain in the Malmédy Massacre: SS Major Werner Poetschke, a tank commander who was basically Peiper’s second-in-command.  In a paramilitary institution already filled with thugs and brawlers, Poetschke was especially bad — a sadist who seems to have been bipolar.  Poetschke did not get along with Peiper and seemed to take delight in terrorizing civilians and even his own troops.  And he encouraged such behavior among those under his command.”

Fatal Crossroads: By Lesley Beck

I found this book hard work after reading the brilliant Hitler’s Warrior!  Those American eyewitness accounts just were too much for me! Yes, this book is about Peiper but in another way; it was not about Peiper! It was about the American eyewitnesses and often Americans will embellish the facts to suit themselves or their cause! It is a very good book, hard work but good. It is also quite a brave piece of writing. An American basically stating that the Malmedy Massacre was not ordered by Col Peiper.  Thank you DSP.


A Biography of Himmler’s SS Commander: Kindly submitted by Alex Kirov

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“Westemeier is a poor biographer to say the least. He would fit right in among the writers at the National Enquirer. While he adds plenty of footnotes and sources some of the material, he has personally unearthed, he uses hearsay and speculative rumor as if it were fact, and his bias is so extreme that it makes this book nothing more than an odd attempt at character assassination. Not only that, it is a rather pricey one to boot. You can source anything, yet your sources must stand under scrutiny if you are to be taken seriously. Here the sources are a wild mix of the good, the bad, and the very ugly with more questionable sources than there should be in a book like this.

He is on one of the forums on Axis history and has posted about the book a lot in the past and as it was being written. He has been held to the torch due to so much wild material and opinion disguised as fact. He doesn’t meet academic standards at all. What makes his book so bad is the spin and the way he tries to make the “facts” meet his own comprehension and biased understanding of the events. He often uses third party word of mouth and rumor as if it was actual fact. His Wikipedia entry on Peiper was removed almost entirely after he went in and deleted the original and made his own entry with a hundred references to his own book and only three to two other writers, Charles Whiting and the author of “The Devil’s Adjutant” whose name escapes me at the moment. He is incapable of objectivity and that is important when dealing with history and serious biographies of people like Peiper.

However he is in the same trendy vein as the author who declared his own objectivity with all seriousness only to go on to write a most subjective and biased biography on Stalin titled “The Red Tsar”. Yes the irony is biting especially since the title alone is condescending and anything but objective. These are the new writers of the day, writers who are overly politicized, yet the go on and declare themselves objective and unbiased before they dish out a biased narrative that becomes the new understanding of history. In Westemeier’s case it makes for an absurd and tainted fairy tale that is fit for the trash can. You should question everything he has written.”


A Biography of Himmler’s SS Commander: By pzrmeyer2 (on Feldgrau)

“As an active follower and participant in the ongoing debate to define and biograph Jochen Peiper, I eagerly awaited the release on what I was told to be the definitive biography of the Waffen SS leader. My copy finally arrived this past week and I jumped right in.

Unfortunately, though extensively researched and well sourced, “Joachim Peiper” again shows that the final word on Peiper is yet to be written. The problem I had with this book is not the amount of research and time the author devoted to the subject, but the overall bias and contemptuous tone Westemeier has for his subject and openly takes throughout the book, robbing it of its objectivity.

One can literally feel Westemeier’s disgust and hatred of Peiper and the entire Waffen-SS organization, save perhaps Max Wünsche, oozing constantly through the pages. Indeed, even the author’s use throughout the book of the name “Joachim” instead of the subject’s preferred “Jochen” can be interpreted as disdain, given the overall tone of Westemeier’s book. It is, as a poster on another forum website observed, the mirror opposite of Patrick Agte’s book. Where one author paints a flowery picture of the determined and martyred Waffen-SS supersoldier wise beyond his years and never wrong, this account portrays him as a cold, calculating, and essentially incompetent opportunist virtually since birth.

Westemeier, a reserve Bundeswehr officer, begins by revealing that growing up in a Germany in need of heroes, he was initially a “fan” of Peiper. So, drawn to the Peiper “myth”, as perpetuated by devious veterans, he set out to write a flattering biography of one of his idols. Along the way, he discovered more and more info that led him to construct a very different portrait of Peiper. And this is really the theme of the book: Westemeier’s feelings of betrayal upon his apparent discovery that his idol, and the organization he belonged to, was criminal to the core.

Angered by this shocking revelation, and furious over the reactions and alleged threats he received from “right wing” neo-nazi Waffen-SS myth perpetuators, the apoplectic Westemeier proceeds to take out his rage on Peiper, powerless since 1945 and dead since 1976, and the entire Waffen-SS apparatus, including surviving vets, spouses, and family members. Any sources contradicting the image that Westemeier sets out to portray are contemptuously branded and dismissed as “SS apologists”, rightwingers, unrepentant Nazis, or cunning old men who suddenly develop “memory gaps” when pressed on unflattering details about Peiper. No facts are allowed to speak for themselves. Negative adjectives accompany everything: all Waffen-SS men are “fanatics”…everyone “knew” about the KZs and approved…etcetera etcetera etcetera…

Viewed through Westemeier’s filter, nothing remotely positive can be said about Peiper. Westemeier even manages to present the recollections of the wife of one of Peiper’s military academy classmates that Peiper was keen on the music of Mendelssohn and on “degenerate art” (as the Nazis categorized ‘Jewish’ or ‘contemporary’ art) in the 1930s as part of a postwar whitewash to spare Peiper additional prison time. Positive comments by veterans about Peiper’s leadership and performance are all slighted with asterisks relating to margin notes insinuating that these are Waffen-SS apologists who cleverly avoid self-incrimination by publicly supporting the politically correct view that Waffen-SS men were not “soldiers like any other”.


Westemeier apparently sees any book or article that takes a balanced view of Jochen Peiper and the Waffen-SS in general as revisionist, as part of an extensive conspiracy to whitewash the Waffen-SS and misrepresent Peiper as a tragic martyr. Westemeier’s “Joachim Peiper” consequently seeks to set the record straight but succeeds merely in imposing the author’s personal views, which echo simplistic modern popular opinion that everything, down to the smallest detail, that happened was part of an evil master plan.

On Page 35, for example, the author writes: “On March 1, 1938, Joachim Peiper was accepted as a member of the NSDAP, receiving membership number 5.508.134. This number appears on no SS seniority list, and Peiper disputed ever having been a member of the party. Especially after the war, when he created the picture of apolitical soldier, he must have totally forgotten to ask the NSDAP for his membership, as he seemed to have forgotten nearly ‘1000 years of the III Reich’. His father also wrote after the war to whitewash Joachim, that his son had never been a party member. The Leibstandarte submitted the application. On April 27, 1939, the NSDAP office in Munich received a message from the Berlin office, which stated that the Reichsfuhrer-SS thought it very important that a man in his inner circle, like Peiper, be a party comrade. The response from Munich was to say that they were surprised that the man in question had not yet a membership card in his possession, as it had been sent to the SS LAH local branch. Peiper applied for his membership while serving with the Leibstandarte. Peiper paid no dues, and there are no photos of him wearing a party badge. The SS Dienstaltersliste did not, but the NSDAP clearly listed him as a Party member, and Peiper’s SS file held his NSDAP membership card No. 5.508.134.

“Himmler is said to have approached Bormann in an effort to obtain a low party member for Peiper to avoid the opportunistic nature of a higher number. This story, however, is open to interpretation. With or without a party badge, Peiper was a dedicated National Socialist…”

Is it possible that Peiper’s party membership application form was submitted on behalf of Himmler or someone in the LAH command structure without Peiper’s knowledge? It seems plausible, given the author’s own findings as related in the book but that is not what Westemeier infers. If Peiper himself did not even know that he was an NSDAP member, doesn’t that exonerate Woldemar Peiper’s writings? No, is the author’s contention. It is simply all part of a conspiracy to hide the truth.

Here is another extract showing how the author’s opinion overrides his own findings: “On 4 July 1938 Peiper was assigned to the Reichsfuhrer-SS personal staff for service in the adjutant’s office. Heinrich Himmler believed this posting should be a normal part of an SS leader’s career to provide junior SS leaders with insight into the complete scope of SS activities…for Joachim Peiper, the assignment to Himmler’s staff presented a great career opportunity. The anti-Semitic and unjust character of the NS system, the concentration camps led and guarded by the SS, were already part of Peiper’s SS perspective. He was not accidentally pulled into the swamp of crime. He actively stepped into it, and never saw and recognized the NS crimes as wrong”

If Peiper’s appointment as an adjutant was just “a normal part of an SS leader’s career”, how can Peiper be guilty of “actively stepping into a swamp of crime”? Was the SS a criminal organization in 1938? Westemeier seems to be allowing his retrospective judgement to cloud historical objectivity. By whose criminal code was Peiper guilty of “actively stepping into a swamp of crime”? Who railed about the “unjust character of the NS system” at the time? It should also be remembered that Peiper was neither a maker nor an executor of policy. He was merely an adjutant and a young officer in Germany’s Praetorian Guard.

No stone is left unturned in Westemeier’s efforts to diminish the subject of his biographical opus. Westemeier even heaps scorn and ridicule upon Peiper’s relationship with his wife, Sigurd: “To Joachim, Sigi was ‘my best comrade’. From today’s perspective, this is not a term of affection that a loving wife would wish to hear”. This is quite a presumptuous statement to make, particularly as Westemeier is himself a reserve officer in the Bundeswehr. I would argue that many a soldier in many an army would apply the same moniker to an army wife, suffering through the loneliness and worry of their spouse’s combat deployments.

The following passage is another excellent example of the melodramatic opinion that Westemeier passes off as fact throughout the book. The laughable prose, filled with redundant cliché’s, is more resemblant of Soviet-era publications than a modern, serious historical work. It shows quite clearly that Westemeier is too emotionally involved and opinionated to render an objective telling of the facts:

pg 52-53.

“Unlike any other SS leader, Joachim Peiper was shaped directly by his Reichsfuhrer. The apologetic literature transfigures Peiper as an “icon of the Waffen SS” and a victim of the victor’s justice, which seeks to disguise his job under Himmler. Peiper was not the apolitical front soldier, but rather the perfect manifestation of the race warrior molded by Himmler’s ideology. Joachim Peiper was not a murderer in the concentration camps during the execution of the final solution, but a product of and participant in the SS system, and at least a bright and shining gear in the SS destruction apparatus. Without the people and careers like those of Joachim Peiper, millions of murders by the SS regime would not have been possible.
“The Final Solution was no secret in the circles of the Leibstandarte; the SS leaders knew what was happening with the “Untermenschen” behind the front. And since the “Day of Metz” in September 1940 even the most naïve SS leaders clearly knew that the Ss carried out the extermination of people for ideological reasons.

“But the SS leaders rarely spoke freely and openly, or at least this is the image SS veterans created after the war. Peiper spoke with the Ss-Standartenfuhrer Albert Frey (198) about his Adjutant duties under Himmler; he was also a witness to shootings of Jews (199).”


notes:

198 Ss-Standartenfuhrer Albert Frey…he was eyewitness of the mass murder of Jews in 1941, and after the war fled temporarily to Argentina. He was very active in the HIAG and by 1968 was in the committee of the veteran organization of the Leibstandarte.


199 Communication Albert Frey to the author on 2/18/94. Albert Frey did not want to comment on the subject of the conversations: “I could matter of factly tell you everything that you would like to know. But can I really? How should I know if my dead war comrade, Jochen, would approve of it, if I revealed his personality, his innermost feelings, and thoughts that were known to me? He can no longer tell me; therefore, I must restrict myself from sharing with you that which you could otherwise discover, as well”. The author unfortunately received the answer that Albert Frey preferred not to discuss the topic anymore. As in his written memoirs, Frey avoided any indication of his knowledge of the mass murder by the SS.
And there’s the rub: Westemeier is enraged that an 80+ year old man who he does not know personally doesn’t wish to relive those times with him, and given the fact that others were still being sought and put on trial as late as 2004 (Priebke, etc) doesn’t wish to risk incriminating himself and risking trial and prison to someone who would no doubt run immediately and eagerly to professional “nazi hunters” in and out of governments and indict him.
Moreover, it seems astonishing to me that an Army officer like Westemeier cannot grasp the concept of the “Band of Brothers”, and the “Wall of Silence” that men forged in an environment of combat, blood, fear, and death, who fought and endured unspeakable hardships together for years would so quickly reveal their innermost thoughts to a total stranger with ambiguous intentions. As a former officer myself, I knew much about the deeds and misdeeds of several NCOs and soldiers who were killed in action or in accidents, but I certainly wouldn’t besmirch their names posthumously to a muckracking journalist.


And as far as “apologetic literature” and “Waffen SS icon” etc etc, How can Peiper, again, dead since 1976, be responsible for books or articles written some 25 years after his death that allegedly glamorize him?

This is the fundamental flaw of Westemeier’s book: the reader is denied any opportunity to make up his own mind as to what type of a man Peiper was in the context of his times. Westemeier swings such a heavy hammer of contempt that it becomes hard to picture Peiper without horns and a tail. Had he presented his findings and his extensive research in a more even-handed manner, this book could have closed the door on any myths surrounding Jochen Peiper. Instead, it simply adds to the controversy. At this point, my recommendation would be to read this book, read Patrick Agte’s book, and try to draw your own conclusions, using commonsense, when it comes to the gifted but flawed Jochen Peiper.

Addendum to the original review

In an angry, private correspondence to another critic of the book, one in which criticisms of Westemeier’s impositions of personal opinions intertwine with facts are dismissed as comments made by “SS buffs” who have never read real books, only comics, he claims “It was not PC that changed my perspective, it were{sic} the sources and findings in the archives. So after the sources could not be questioned, the attacks are named at the author”. But it is not the critics making personal attacks, it is Westemeier, who routinely calls anyone that disagrees with him and his narrative of events as a “neo-nazi”, an “SS groupie”, or an SS myth perpetuator.

One of the most contentious points in the book is that readers are invited to believe that Peiper lied about or attempted to conceal his NSDAP membership to construct an image as an apolitical soldier. If true, this would suggest a moral weakness and intrinsic dishonesty on Peiper’s part, a weakness of character. Now, why would someone who had already spent time on Death Row – on trumped-up charges based on confessions extracted by torture – and done hard time in jail for his wartime service try to conceal his NSDAP membership when he was so unequivocal about his Nazism in a newspaper interview over twenty years after the end of the war?

Again, the fact that Peiper was an NSDAP member is not questioned, nor is Peiper’s admission a 1967 interview with an Italian journalist that “I was a nazi and I remain one… ” What is questioned is the conspiracy inference that the author makes that a) Peiper knew he was a party member, and b) that he denied it and willfully tried to conceal it in later years and the way in which Westemeier deals with the question in his narrative.

Peiper could have been a National Socialist in spirit without wishing to join a party widely seen as run by fat, corrupt “Golden Pheasants” by many young men, particularly the generation who passed through the SS-Junkerschule at Tölz and Braunschweig in the late 1930s. That Himmler had to make an issue of party membership in relation to LSSAH and SS-VT officers is quite illuminating in itself. One detects an inability on the part of authors like Westemeier to grasp the nuances, to read between the lines, so to speak. Peiper could either have been unaware of his administrative induction into the NSDAP alongside other LSSAH and SS-VT officers in 1938 and 1939 or he could have simply decided to refuse to recognise the legitimacy of his membership. There were plenty of Nazis who never joined the party back then, just as there are plenty of Nazis today who prefer not to be members of any movements or parties. Peiper might have opted to be economical with the truth over his NSDAP membership but if so, it cannot have been from any desire on his part to downplay or deny his Nazi beliefs, as the 1967 newspaper interview proves. Westemeier’s thesis, therefore, makes no sense, unless one chooses to interpret it as an attempt to make Peiper look bad to modern readers.


And as far as Peiper bearing witness to early events that later morphed into the nazi holocaust, Jochen Peiper was a 2nd Lieutenant (SS-Untersturmführer) when posted as Adjutant to Himmler’s staff. It is hardly as if Himmler, Wolff, Heydrich and the others turned to him when making or executing policy and said: “Hey, Jochen, what do you think we should do about those Jews over there?” or “Should we turn a blind eye when the lads pack a load of natives into a barn and burn it down?”.

From Westemeier’s viewpoint, it seems that Peiper is to be “damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t”: Peiper’s request to be released for combat duties in the spring of 1940 indicates a glory-seeking opportunist worried that the war would end before he could get his share of booty and medals. His recall from combat duties to resume his adjutant post means that he must be held accountable as a main player in the implementation of genocidal policies, though he neither ordered them or personally carried them out.
Was Peiper responsible for his circumstances at the time? Could he have risked compromising his career by refusing the order to report to the staff of the Reichsführer-SS? Formed as an adult and army officer in Hitler’s Germany, could he have stood up and shouted: “No, Reichsführer! You cannot let those Jews be shot. It is a war crime! Think of posterity!”. Given than they tended to believe that posterity would be theirs for a thousand years, the notion is unrealistic.


Did Peiper order, in the heat of battle and in desperate hours not only for his men, but for Germany, for individual POWs or others to be shot? It certainly seems likely. Is he, or the German military, unique in this reprehensible action? Hardly, as many objective accounts of Allied treatment of Germans or Japansese reveals the same things occurring, and far more routinely than many would care to admit. Should Peiper have been held accountable for his orders? Absolutely, and he did claim responsibility in the case of Malmedy.

At what point do we back off and murmur to ourselves: there but for the grace of God go I? How sure are you – anyone reading this – that you would have been brave enough to say: No, I refuse to go along with this! Very, very few people were that brave.

Indeed, in another private correspondence the reserve Bundeswehr officer Westemeier points out that he had made Major by 34 and Lt-Col before 40, apparently a meteoric progression in today’s Bundeswehr. Is it plausible that, in the modern Germany, with its constant paranoia about Nazism and neo-Nazism, that someone “got to” Westemeier and “suggested” that he “correct” his Peiper book, on pain of messing up his career? It certainly seems possible, as the vast majority of footnoted sources in the new book were available to Westemeier before he published his very different first book, if one goes by dates of letters and interviews. If so, it puts the author in a similar position as his own subject, who, 60 years earlier and in the early stages of a promising military career, “went along to get along”.

Westemeier goes on to say that he felt betrayed after his first Peiper book and that he had to change every page, which may explain why this second one can be interpreted as nothing more than an exercise in vengeance, carried on the back of a man who has been dead for thirty-one years and cannot defend himself anymore. If he feels that he was duped by various witnesses and sources when he wrote the first book and that a revision is necessary, that is fine. But it is a bit risky to set out to write an historical narrative when one is fuelled by feelings of anger, betrayal and a desire for some sort of vengeance. And it is all too easy to judge men like Jochen Peiper from today’s perspective, especially when one is a guilt-ridden German. There is bound to be the risk of a tendency to make the facts fit the narrative rather than the other way around.

In other words, as an objective historical biography, “Joachim Peiper” is flawed from the start because of the author’s motives for writing it or, rather, rewriting his first book.”


3 comments

  1. Westemeier is a poor biographer to say the least. He would fit right in among the writers at the National Enquirer. While he adds plenty of footnotes and sources some of the material, he has personally unearthed, he uses hearsay and speculative rumor as if it were fact, and his bias is so extreme that it makes this book nothing more than an odd attempt at character assassination…

  2. Hi bro, here is my little research about SS 1st panzer regiment in the winter of 1943-1944. I might be able to prove that Danny Parker was wrong for blaming Peiper on his tactics (the culprit) caused the loss the panzer regiment in the period of winter battle, if you are kind to share relative info of Wehrmacht 1st, 7th or SS 2nd panzer division to me. 🙂

    Of course, you’re welcome for just make a tour and have fun. Have a good day.

    https://lavieillegarde.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/who-is-to-blame-for-the-loss-of-ss-1st-panzer-regiment-in-22-november-1943-to-the-end-of-january-1944/

    Ps. I believe “the total loss was low” implies their attack succeeded and thrown the Reds out of some places, so they can take their time for recovering the immobile tanks. 😀

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