Malmedy Massacre - Context

Context

Hitler's plans for the Battle of the Bulge gave the main goal (breaking through Allied lines) to the 6th SS Panzer Army, commanded by General Sepp Dietrich. He was to break the Allied front between Monschau and Losheimergraben, cross the Meuse River, and then capture Antwerp. Kampfgruppe Peiper, named after and under the command of SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Joachim Peiper, was composed of armoured and motorized elements and was the spearhead of the left wing of the 6th SS Panzer Army. Once the infantry had breached the American lines, Peiper's role was to advance via Ligneuville, Stavelot, Trois-Ponts, and Werbomont and seize and secure the Meuse bridges around Huy.

The best roads were reserved for the bulk of the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. Peiper was to use secondary roads, but these proved unsuitable for heavy armored vehicles, especially the Tiger II tanks attached to the Kampfgruppe.

The success of the operation depended on the swift capture of the bridges over the Meuse. This required a rapid advance through U.S. positions, circumventing any points of resistance whenever possible. Another factor Peiper had to consider was the shortage of gasoline: the fuel resources of the Reich had been greatly reduced since the fall of Romania.

Hitler ordered the battle to be carried out with a brutality more common on the Eastern Front, in order to frighten the enemy. Sepp Dietrich confirmed this during the trial for the massacre. According to some sources, during the briefings before the operation, Peiper stated that no quarter was to be granted, no prisoners taken, and no pity shown towards Belgian civilians.

Read more about this topic:  Malmedy Massacre

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