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January 26, 2011

Keith Olbermann vs. Bill O’Reilly on the Malmédy Massacre

Filed under: TV shows, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:24 am

I know that I am a bit late in blogging about Keith Olbermann, who has been in the news lately, but it took me a while to remember why I stopped watching his TV news commentary on MSNBC, and started watching Bill O’Reilly on Fox News instead.  On his show on June 1, 2006, Olbermann was outraged as he pointed out that Bill O’Reilly had said that it was U.S. troops that had killed German POWs in the Malmédy massacre during World War II.

During an interview with former NATO supreme commander, Wesley Clark, on May 30, 2006, O’Reilly had compared the incident at Malmédy to the alleged killing of 24 Iraqi civilians by U.S. soldiers in Haditha, Iraq.

I looked it up on the Internet and here’s what O’Reilly said:

“In Malmédy, as you know, U.S. forces captured SS forces who had their hands in the air and they were unarmed and they shot them down. You know that. That’s on the record. Been documented.”

On the May 31, 2006 show, O’Reilly changed his story, in response to a viewer who noted that the Malmédy incident was “the other way around.”

This was not the first time that O’Reilly had made this mistake, according to Olbermann. During a previous interview with Wesley Clark, on October 3, 2005, O’Reilly had said essentially the same thing.  On his show, Olbermann had called attention to O’Reilly’s statements, saying, “the victims at Malmédy in December 1944 were Americans, Americans with their hands in the air, Americans who were unarmed.”

Bill O’Reilly is an educated man; he constantly brags about his degree from Harvard, which irritates me to death.  So why would O’Reilly make such a big mistake?  Well, he was a bit mixed up about the Malmédy massacre, but not completely wrong in his accusation that Americans had shot German soldiers who had their hands in the air.

The infamous Malmédy Massacre occurred, during the Battle of the Bulge, at approximately 1 p.m. on December 17, 1944 and the first survivors of the massacre were picked up at 2:30 p.m. on the same day by a patrol of the American 291st Engineer Battalion. The story of an unprovoked massacre, as told by the survivors, was immediately sent to General Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander of the war in Europe, who made it a point to disseminate the story to the reporters covering the battle.

One of the news reporters at the Battle of the Bulge was America’s most famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, who was covering the war for Collier’s magazine. When the gory details of the Malmédy Massacre reached the American people, there was a great outcry for justice to be done. To this day, the Malmédy Massacre is spoken of as one of the worst atrocities perpetrated by the hated Waffen-SS soldiers.

The Inspector General of the American First Army learned about the massacre three or four hours after the first survivors were rescued. By late afternoon that day, the news had reached the forward American divisions.

In his book , entitled “The Ardennes, The Battle of the Bulge,” Hugh Cole wrote the following:

Thus Fragmentary Order 27 issued by Headquarters, 328th Infantry on 21 December for the attack scheduled for the following day says: “No SS troops or paratroopers will be taken prisoners but will be shot on sight.”

In his book called “The Other Price of Hitler’s War: German Military & Civilian Losses Resulting from WW 2,” author Martin Sorge wrote the following regarding the events that took place after the massacre:

It was in the wake of the Malmedy incident at Chegnogne that on New Year’s Day 1945 some 60 German POWs were shot in cold blood by their American guards. The guilt went unpunished. It was felt that the basis for their action was orders that no prisoners were to be taken.

America had signed the Geneva Convention of 1929, which means that America was required to treat German POWs according to the rules of the convention.  The Geneva Convention did not allow for revenge killings of enemy soldiers.  It did not allow for orders that “no prisoners will be taken.”

O’Reilly was wrong when he said that this war crime happened at Malmédy.  It actually happened at Chegnogne, but it happened because of the so-called Malmédy Massacre.  You have to give O’Reilly credit for knowing about this obscure bit of history.  That’s why I switched from Olbermann to O’Reilly and I never looked back.

I have blogged about the Malmédy Massacre case before, but it bears repeating that America adhered to a double standard regarding war crimes committed in World War II.  The German soldiers involved in the Malmédy Massacre were prosecuted as war criminals, but there were no charges against the Americans who killed the German POWs.  During the proceedings against the Germans who were charged with killing POWs, the defense lawyers were not allowed to mention this. Any of the accused men who inadvertently said anything about American soldiers breaking the rules of the Geneva Convention were promptly silenced and these comments were stricken from the record.

In the Malmédy Massacre proceedings, the prosecution case was based on the accusation that Adolf Hitler himself had given the order that no prisoners were to be taken during the Battle of the Bulge and that General Sepp Dietrich had passed down this order to the commanding officers in his Sixth Panzer Army. This meant that there was a Nazi conspiracy to kill American prisoners of war and thus, all of the accused were guilty because they were participants in a “common plan” to break the rules of the Geneva Convention. Yet General Dietrich’s Sixth Panzer Army had taken thousands of other prisoners who were not shot. According to US Army figures, there was a total of 23,554 Americans captured during the Battle of the Bulge.

The prosecution claimed that General Sepp Dietrich, on direct orders from Hitler himself, had urged the SS men to remember the German civilians killed by the Allied bombing, and to disregard the rules of warfare that were mandated by the Hague Convention of 1907 and the 1929 Geneva convention. This meant that all of the accused were charged with participating in a conspiracy of evil that came from the highest level, the moral equivalent of the Nazi conspiracy to exterminate all the Jews in Europe, which was one of the charges against the major German war criminals at Nuremberg.

An important part of the defense case was based on the fact that the accused men in the Malmédy case were classified as Prisoners of War when they were forced to sign statements incriminating themselves even before they were charged with a war crime. As POWs, they were under the protection of the Geneva Convention of 1929, which prohibited the kind of treatment that the accused claimed they had been subjected to, in order to force them to sign statements of guilt. Article 45 of the Geneva Convention said that Prisoners of War were “subject to the laws, regulations and orders in force in the armies of the detaining powers.” That meant that they were entitled to the same Fifth Amendment rights as American soldiers.

During the Malmédy Massacre case, Lt. Col. Rosenfeld (the law member among the prosecutors) ruled against a defense motion to drop the charges, based on this argument; he said that the Malmédy Massacre accused war criminals had never been Prisoners of War because they became war criminals the moment they committed their alleged acts and were thus not entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention of 1929.

During the Malmedy Massacre proceedings, the prosecution claimed that Lt. Col. Jochen Peiper had instructed his men to fight as they had fought against the Russians, disregarding international law about the treatment of prisoners of war. The defendants testified that they had been instructed to take no prisoners, but they understood this to mean that because they were fighting in a tank unit, they were supposed to send POWs to the rear to picked up by infantry units.


  1. Further Glory and Gasan need to do a better job of informing themselves about what the German war machine was
    up to . In a real sense the whole German army was a criminal organization under the Nazi regime .There is ample proof that not only the S.S. but the Wehrmacht committed atrocities . Don’t waste your pity on a man Like Peiper.
    He probably should have been hanged for what he and his men did on the eastern front .Stalin had the right formula
    for what to do with these “men”. Read about what the Germans did at Babi Yar,where some of my relatives were murdered. Read the words of the pigs themselves, Jeckeln,Rasch,and Blobel.They were monsters working for a monstrous regime.Malmedy was a Massacre. The reason the bodies were scattered is because when the G.I.s saw
    what was happening they tried to run.
    Some of us don’t have the luxury of objectivity. NW

    Comment by Nathan Andrew Ward — April 6, 2014 @ 11:35 am

    • Nathan Andrew Ward praises the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century, Josef Stalin. He then tries to co-mingle the events of the Holocaust with those of the Waffen SS. Nathan Andrew Ward has the luxury for neither objectivity nor intelligence.

      Comment by The Furred Reich — January 25, 2015 @ 8:24 pm

      • To all the Nazi sympathizers out there who were offended by my”praise” of Josef Stalin, you misunderstood me if you think I am a fan of Stalin. He like Hitler was a mass murderer. But he instinctively knew the right way to deal with the Nazi hierarchy and their henchmen . A bullet or a rope. Churchill was offended by Stalin’s final solution to
        the Nazi problem. Although I would rather live under an enlightened leader like Winston Churchill I’m glad that Joe
        Stalin decided the fate of a lot of Nazi’s.
        And no matter what you think of the Soviets when it comes to executing a fascist you have to love their enthusiasm.The Nazi’s were loser’s and when it finally sank in about what they could expect after capture they
        frequently took the cowards way out.Himmler and Goering come to mind.
        The modern Nazi sympathizers will try their best to rewrite history but the ideology will always be a loser. Just too
        many impure people in this world.

        Comment by cascabelmu2a — January 26, 2015 @ 10:26 am

        • Nathan Andrew Ward digs himself even deeper into a hole by not only praising the greatest mass-murderer of all time, but also by calling the Racist butcher Winston Churchill “enlightened.” In doing so, the disgusting pig Nathan Andrew Ward is effectively a Holocaust Denier; the Bengali Holocaust, where Racist Bigot Winston Churchill deliberately requisitioned food from Bengalis and caused massive starvation which caused the deaths of 3-6 million Bengalis. Nathan Andrew Ward believes this is an “enlightened” policy. Nathan Andrew Ward defends the pigs of history, and of course, calls anyone who points out these inconvenient truths ‘Nazi sympathizers.’ After all, real facts are something that Nathan Andrew Ward would prefer to avoid.

          Comment by The Furred Reich — January 26, 2015 @ 11:19 am

          • Whenever faced with an unpleasant set of facts(like his side losing WW2) people like “The Furred Reich” first get all
            depressed then they get angry then they start to blather and sputter and slobber all over themselves kind of like their hero old Adolph whose hysterical histrionics were famous. And if logic and reason fail them they immediately
            descend into name calling. A childish response from “The Furred Reich” But do I hate him? No I just think he should
            do the human race a favor and drink rat poison. Go ahead you’ll be a martyr !

            Comment by cascabelmu2a — January 26, 2015 @ 11:48 am

  2. Seriously ! I hope there is a hell and when you Nazi sympathisers get there you are an American G.I. at Malmedy. Why do so many guys on here wanna blow Peiper the guy was a Dick. A dirty SS Nazi piece of shit and I think all SS soldiers should have been shot or at least paralyzed for their involvement. They were also in charge of rounding up anyone Hitler wanted disposed.

    Comment by Mark G — March 14, 2014 @ 10:11 pm

  3. O’Reilly was still wrong, he claimed that the Americans perpetrated Malmedy, when it was really the SS forces. You are correct to say it was a double standard in terms of war crimes. In fact, Olbermann even admitted in that piece of commentary that Americans too unfortunately committed war crimes. But, again, O’Reilly had claimed it was Malmedy, he wasn’t half right, or half wrong, he was 100% wrong and Olbermann was right, so stop trying to carry O’Reilly’s water and definitely stop trying to be an apologist.

    And before accusations start flying around, I don’t watch Olbermann (actually not even on anymore, but still never watched him) or O’Reilly. I disagree with both of them on a lot of issues. That being said, when someone’s correct, I give them credit, and when someone’s incorrect, I criticize them for it.

    Comment by TheMaskedSoul — May 17, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

  4. Thank you very much for writing about this. This is an episode that is hard to get and keep straight.

    Comment by Skeptic — January 29, 2011 @ 2:59 pm

  5. We are in a big trouble in this country. I can only dream that we would be led forward with people like Lt. Col. Willis M. Everett, or Joachim Peiper.
    This is the established fact that GI’s were given an order to execute all POW’s wearing “lightning bolts” on their collars. I have watched the the documentary episode where every German POW in camouflage was grabbed by the collar by GI’s to expose the SS insignia. And then they were executed. This segment of documentary, which was about 10 seconds long, was shown a while ago on the History Channel. Everyone in doubt, could just watch bloodthirsty series “The Band of Brothers”. It is obvious that it is Spielberg’s wet dream is to be there and kill as many “krauts” as he wants.
    Here is the real story:

    I could not believe my eyes when I saw these videos. SS-Colonel Joachim Peiper took a full responsibility for what his subordinates have done supposedly, even he wasn’t even there? By the time of trial he was not the colonel of any unit or anything. But he tried to save their lives by lying about his own guilt and thus facing a death penalty. Joachim Peiper knew that this is not a fair trial and tried to save live of a SS Private Georg Felps who was accused of firing first shots. Georg Felps, ethnic German (Volksdeutsche, the German born outside Germany proper) was born in Rumania. Most likely, he did not even speak very good German. And, it is now established that he fired from his pistol at three American POW who tried to escape. The pistol is a very poor choice to start a “massacre” .
    Remember, they have surrendered already few minutes ago and, if they are trying to escape after that, they have lost the POW status. The pictures are only confirm that. The prisoners are usually formed in crowds, but there is a significant distance between location of the bodies. It appears that all of them tried to flee after they have surrendered.
    What happened there is rather a tragedy, but definitely not a war crime. No one was executed after Lt. Col. Willis M. Everett appealed the case.

    Comment by Gasan — January 27, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

    • First of all, that was rather entertaining.
      Second, both sides committed war crimes. See Michael Burleigh’s Moral Combat. In it he talks about how both sides treated prisoners of war. Probably the worst offenses occurred on the Eastern Front and the Pacific War. The German Army and Red Army both treated each other’s prisoners badly but the Germans were particularly ruthless, allowing around 2 million Red Army soldiers to either starve to death, die of exposure or shoot in less than a year, from June of 1941 to January of 1942. Altogether around 3.5 million Soviet Prisoners died through the course of the war. According to Soviet records around 400,000 German POWs died in captivity but numbers maybe higher, closer to 1 million.
      The Japanese also treated POWs badly and when this got back to US forces they stopped attempting to take prisoners. I’m trying to keep this short but I do recommend the book.

      Comment by P. O. Truth — July 24, 2015 @ 4:58 pm

  6. off topic, but I think the subject of Elie Wiesel and his tattoo interests you, I have made a suggestion here
    I have emailed the curator of the Feig family history page where the material was collated from and I await a response. So I may have retract and modify what I wrote – depending on an reply – if any.

    Comment by littlegreyrabbit — January 27, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

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