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.