In December 1944, 84 American POWs were killed near Malmedy, Belgium by the SS Panzer division Kampfgruppe Peiper. The term “Malmedy massacre” was later applied to a series of massacres committed by the same SS unit over several days during the Battle of the Bulge.
Although portrayed as outright atrocity in this video clip, some controversy remains regarding how calculated these executions actually were. Several former American prisoners testified that a few of their comrades had tried to escape, and some may have picked up discarded weapons to shoot at their German captors.
Upon discovery of the murdered American POWs near Malmedy, several U.S. units declared that all SS troops were to be shot on sight rather than taken prisoner. It is also possible that some American forces may have killed German prisoners in retaliation.
At the 1946 Dachau Trials, all war crimes attributed to Kampfgruppe Peiper were reviewed. 43 death sentences, 22 life sentences and 8 shorter sentences were pronounced. But after the verdict, the way in which the court had functioned was disputed, and the case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. The court made no decision, but subsequent review by a U.S. Senate sub-committee noted judicial irregularities during initial interrogations of the defendants.
Because the US Army conducted a trial revision, the death sentences were commuted, and the other life sentences were subsequently commuted within the next few years.