The Army and the Pentagon commemorated the Battle of the Bulge with a large photo of a Nazi who murdered US prisoners in that fight
- The US Army and the Department of Defense posted a large, color photo of Nazi officer and war criminal Joachim Peiper, who massacred captured US troops, in Facebook posts commemorating the Battle of the Bulge.
- The posts have been deleted amid the furor, but only the Army's XVIII Airborne Corps, which first posted the photo along with apparent excerpts from Peiper's diary, has offered an explanation.
- The Corps said that the post was part of a weeks-long effort to retell the story of the Battle of the Bulge.
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The US Army and the Department of Defense are facing a furor for posting to their official Facebook pages a large photo of Nazi officer and war criminal Joachim Peiper, who massacred captured US troops in the very battle being commemorated.
The Army's XVIII Airborne Corps first posted the colorized photo with a first-person narrative from the perspective of the infamous Panzer tank commander and Waffen SS leader as part of an ongoing effort by the Corps to retell the story of the Battle of the Bulge on its 75th anniversary.
The post featured apparent excerpts from Peiper's diary. In one, apparently from Dec. 16, 1944, the XVIII Airborne Corps' post began, "He paused at his desk. He hated to be alone with his thoughts, with the feeling of uncertainty he'd been trying to avoid for weeks."
A day later, on Dec. 17, 1944, Peiper's forces murdered 84 captured Americans in an incident known as the Malmedy massacre, and were resonsible for the deaths of another 19 American prisoners of war elsewhere in Belgium.
These posts were also shared on the 10th Mountain Division and Department of Defense Facebook pages with varied context.
"We regret the use of the photograph of Joachim Peiper. The intent was to tell the full story of the Battle of the Bulge, which will continue here, by explaining the incredible odds that were stacked up against the American Soldier," the XVIII Airborne Corps said in a posted statement that replaced the now-deleted post of Peiper and his musings.
In a tweet, the XVIII Airborne Corps reportedly called Peiper a "terrible person" but an "effective combat leader," The Washington Post reported. That tweet has since been deleted.
The Pentagon's post was accompanied by a commemorative message about the Battle of the Bulge, but no specific context for the photo. The 10th Mountain Division appears to have not had anything more than the photo.
Business Insider reached out to the Pentagon for an explanation of the post but has not yet received a response on Tuesday.
Social media users were quick to criticize the posts by the Army units and the Department of Defense, calling them "vile and disturbing," according to The Washington Post. One user said the US military was "glorifying a Nazi war criminal."
The photo of Peiper is interesting because it is in color. While the National Archives has one in black and white, the photo posted on social media by the US military says "colored by Tobias Kurtz."
A spokesman for the XVIII Airborne Corps told The New York Times that the offending photo was purchased from an image sharing website called ipernity.
The Times discovered a Deviant Art account believed to belong to Tobias Kurtz that featured several colorized photos of Nazis, as well as comments that spoke positively of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
For his crimes, Peiper spent more than ten years in prison after being tried by an American military war crimes tribunal. After his release, he was killed in a gunfight in France.
I am dumbfounded by the decision to prominently display a Nazi on military social media on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. pic.twitter.com/Do0mB7Guvj- Brian Fickel (@USArmyPAO) December 16, 2019