During the Battle of the Bulge, Waffen SS soldiers shot 84 American prisoners near the Belgian town of Malmedy—the deadliest mass execution of U.S. soldiers during World War II. The bloody deeds of December 17, 1944, produced the most controversial war crimes trial in American history. Drawing on newly declassified documents, Steven Remy revisits the massacre—and the decade-long controversy that followed—to set the record straight.
After the war, the U.S. Army tracked down 74 of the SS men involved in the massacre and other atrocities and put them on trial at Dachau. All the defendants were convicted and sentenced to death or life imprisonment. Over the following decade, however, a network of Germans and sympathetic Americans succeeded in discrediting the trial. They claimed that interrogators—some of them Jewish émigrés—had coerced false confessions and that heat of battle conditions, rather than superiors’ orders, had led to the shooting. They insisted that vengeance, not justice, was the prosecution’s true objective. The controversy generated by these accusations, leveled just as the United States was anxious to placate its West German ally, resulted in the release of all the convicted men by 1957.
The Malmedy Massacre shows that the torture accusations were untrue, and the massacre was no accident but was typical of the Waffen SS’s brutal fighting style. Remy reveals in unprecedented depth how German and American amnesty advocates warped our understanding of one of the war’s most infamous crimes through a systematic campaign of fabrications and distortions.
A first-rate book. Remy’s superb analysis shows how virtually every element of the standard narrative on the Malmedy trials is wrong.
Steven Remy’s The Malmedy Massacre is an important read for anyone interested in the politics of international justice. Using a broad array of investigative and intelligence records, he reconstructs and then dispels the enduring myth that upright German soldiers were tortured into false confessions—a fiction born of lingering antisemitism, Cold War politics, and an international effort to rewrite the Nazi past.
An impressive and important book. Remy demolishes a lot of the mythmaking surrounding the Malmedy massacre and tells a story that makes the early years of the Cold War in Germany and America look very different and often very surprising. This highly readable and engaging account should fascinate anyone interested in World War II and its aftermath.
[The] definitive new study of the Malmedy trials…The Malmedy Massacre does an especially sensitive job at picking apart the psychological factors involved…Remy lays out those facts with eloquent clarity and displays a commendable impatience throughout his book at the persistence of the alternate narrative itself…This is as much a story about the battle for history as it is about one set of atrocity trials. The names Remy stitches together in his account will be unfamiliar to readers, but the account itself is one for the permanent collection.
The story of how a massacre of U.S. soldiers came to be remembered as an instance of American abuse of defenseless Nazis is the subject of Steven Remy’s rigorously researched new book, The Malmedy Massacre: The War Crimes Trial Controversy. Remy is hardly the first historian to write about the Malmedy affair. But whereas previous histories have largely accepted the myth of U.S. malfeasance, The Malmedy Massacre convincingly corrects the record. In so doing, Remy offers a timely study of the process of historical mythmaking—how false and distorted accounts come to constitute their own durable reality…The Malmedy Massacre is a solid account of history that current events have contrived to make exceptionally relevant. Remy could not have researched and written The Malmedy Massacre in anticipation of U.S. President Donald Trump’s politics of misinformation, yet he has delivered a sustained exploration into the creation, circulation, and ultimate acceptance of ‘alternative facts.’ What makes this story particularly poignant is that Remy is not really telling us anything new. As he makes clear, the record had already been corrected by the Baldwin committee report nearly 70 years ago. What he documents, then, is the tenacity and durability of fake history. To those who subscribe to the pleasing shibboleth that the truth will always come out, Remy has delivered a disturbing counterexample.
[Remy] writes in a vivid, engaging and sometimes darkly (yet never inappropriately) humorous manner, and conveys the ongoing importance of the broader issues effectively. This is a significant, scholarly and highly recommended contribution to understanding a war crimes trial whose resonance remains palpable seventy years on.
Remy has written an absorbing and authoritative analysis of the Malmedy controversy.
- 352 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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