Belgium / Story

Racist murders in Wereth




On 17 December 1944, a Waffen-SS unit captured eleven G.I.s at the Langer family farm in Wereth. They were then tortured and executed. These men were part of the 333rd Artillery Battalion, which was composed of African-American soldiers commanded by white officers.

As the Ardennes Offensive raged since 16 December, the American troops present there had no choice but to withdraw, but the artillery remained in position. The situation was extremely difficult. The 333rd Artillery Battalion, isolated behind German lines, then tried to return to Bastogne in small groups. One of these got lost in the woods, six kilometres from the Belgian-German border. Faced with hunger and cold, eleven exhausted men arrived at the farm of the Langer couple who took them in and fed them. However, they were betrayed for hosting American soldiers. In the region, which became part of Belgium after the First World War, many did not see the Americans as liberators. The SS, acting under the Nazi racist doctrine, would attack the African-American soldiers, who were beaten and tortured before being executed.

Their tortured bodies were not found until two months later, having been left behind by the residents for fear of reprisals. Seven of them were buried in the American cemetery of Henri-Chapelle. The other four bodies were returned to the families. Those responsible belonging to the 1st SS Panzer Division were never prosecuted for these acts. Some were, however, prosecuted for the massacres of civilians in Stavelot. The murder of the eleven African-American soldiers in Wereth — all but one in their twenties — was forgotten except by their families.

In 1994, a cross was finally erected at the place of their execution at the initiative of the youngest of the Langer sons. Since 2004, a memorial erected by the Belgian authorities, at the behest of the village residents, pays tribute to the memory of all African-American G.I.s who died in combat or as a result of racially motivated massacres. It is the only one of its kind in Europe. In 2006, a similar monument was erected in the United States at Winchendon Military Cemetery in Massachusetts. In 2011, a film by Robert Child was dedicated to The Wereth Eleven.50.348995595066484, 6.231632794579122