The 18-year-old Berliner Joachim Peiper enlisted the SS in October 1933 and was soon assigned to the elite of this force, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. This unit amalgamated fanatic soldiers under the command of Sepp Dietrich. On July 1938, Peiper worked directly for SS-leader Heinrich Himmler and became his first adjutant.
At the age of 26 the German SS adjutant Joachim Peiper participated in Operation Barbarossa, Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Peiper soon became Hauptsturmführer (captain) in a SS combat unit. Between 1941 and 1943 he led several combat units in the Soviet Union, in Italy, where he was responsible for the massacre of 22 civilians, and in Ukraine. In the Nazi press Peiper developed a reputation as an outstanding leader and became Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) at the end of 1943. From December 1944 onward he played an important role in the Ardennen Offensive. His task was to conquer the bridges on the Meuse, for which he had the support of the most powerful material of the Nazi army: the Tiger II. This new tank weighed 70 tons, but had a very high consumption of fuel.
Peiper and his unit were responsible for the Massacre of Malmedy, where, according to the official report, 86 American soldiers were killed as well as 164 civilians in Stavelot. Finally the unit ran out of fuel and was enclosed by American troops in the village La Gleize. Peiper and his soldiers escaped afoot, leaving behind hundreds of vehicles. After the war Peiper was found guilty for war crimes and sentenced to life, but in 1956 he was secretly freed on parole. He found a job in the car industry and moved to France, where he translated history books. In 1976 a former French resistant recognized Peiper and revealed to the media who Joachim Peiper really was. A few days later Peiper’s home was on fire. Inside the dead body of the former German Nazi was found.
The small village of Foy, just four kilometers to the north of Bastogne on the road to Houffalize, was occupied by the Germans from 21 December 1944 to 13 January 1945. The American troops had installed in Jack’s wood in Foy, in their strive for the liberation of Bastogne.
The Bastogne War Museum represents a new way to remember the Second World War in Belgium. It offers a fresh perception in a modern and interactive framework of the causes, events and consequences of the Second World War, with a special focus on the Ardennes counteroffensive: the Battle of the Bulge.
The Bastogne Barracks Museum was opened in 2010. It is located in the barracks that accomodated the Allied Headquarters during the Ardennes Offensive in 1944. Restored parts of the barracks exhibit a collection of materials used in the fighting. The so called Nuts-basement shows the office where General McAuliffe spoke the famous word ‘Nuts’,that had a major influence on the outcome of the Offensive.
The Museum of the Battle of the Ardennes tells the story of the battle and liberation of La Roche and nearby villages on the left bank of the River Ourthe during the allied counteroffensive between 3 and 16 January 1945. In 1944-1945 the town of La Roche was almost completely destroyed and 114 inhabitants were killed.
Houffalize was a strategically located crossroads on the Ourthe River, right in the center of the Bulge, south of Liège and just north of Bastogne. The German troops occupied the town from 20 December 1944 to 16 January 1945. The Allied planes struck Houffalize many times. 189 Civilians died and 350 habitations were devastated.
The 101st Airborne Museum in Bastogne is housed in the prestigious building of the former officers’ mess of the Belgian Army, built in 1936. The museum retraces the course of the Battle of the Bulge, fought between December 1944 and January 1945. A collection of items from the battle, reconstructed scenes and mannequins are displayed.