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17 Dec, 2019 13:32

US military under fire for commemorating WWII battle anniversary with photo of Nazi war criminal

US military under fire for commemorating WWII battle anniversary with photo of Nazi war criminal

Several US military social media accounts are taking heat online for sharing a colorized image of convicted Nazi war criminal Joachim Peiper, who led a unit that killed dozens of unarmed US POWs during the Battle of the Bulge.

The photo was shared by the official accounts of the Department of Defence, the Army’s 10th Mountain Division and the XVIII Airborne Corps to kick-off a photo-series commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory. 


The accompanying text from the now-deleted post was written from the perspective of the Nazis. 

“The others were confident. They believed in der Führer. They believed in their Soldiers. Not him. He picked up the pen. ‘Today we gamble everything,’ he wrote. 'If this does not work, we are doomed.’”

The initial offending posts were deleted amid a groundswell of intense outrage online.

“What the actual f*** am I looking at here?” wrote one irate Facebook user. 

The military account’ social media managers even attempted to defend the decision to publish the commemoration, including the colorized photographs and bizarre narrative.

The Malmedy massacre was not mentioned in the original posts. One of the accounts has the original text still available online, but swapped out the photo of the SS war criminal for pictures of American troops.

"Thanks for taking down the nazi glam shot after 12 hours and a half-assed compensation by just adding a couple of photos of US soldiers,” wrote one Facebook poster.

“Sometimes in movies, the movie will create a sense of tension by introducing a bad guy. It is a technique of effective storytelling... The fighting started with a German attack. There is no way to get into the story without describing the German side,” a moderator for the XVIII Airborne Corps page wrote, defending the initial decision to commemorate the battle from the perspective of a Nazi war criminal.

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Not everyone was so quick to anger, though, as some claimed those offended were enforcing anachronistic politics on the posts. 

"It’s history, not a political post. Stop taking the photo out of context. Today people get offended over everything,” wrote on user. 

"I look forward to the story. And I'm sorry for all the complaints you've received about the photo,” agreed another. 

Peiper was a personal assistant to Heinrich Himmler and led the 1st SS Panzer Division troops who summarily executed 84 American prisoners of war in the infamous massacre. 

Peiper and 64 members of his unit were convicted of war crimes and were sentenced to death or life in prison. However, by 1957, every convicted man had been released after efforts to delegitimize the trial proved successful. Peiper later burned to death in a suspected revenge killing in France in 1976.

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