PARIS (Jul. 18)
French police are under orders from Justice Minister Jean Lecannuet to investigate with “utmost speed and thoroughness” the murder last week of former SS Col. Joachim Peiper who was convicted of war crimes by an Allied court after World War II but later freed. His charred body with gunshot wounds was found last Wednesday in the burnt-out ruins of his house in the Burgundy district.
Police suspect that Peiper was “executed” by a group calling itself “The Committee for Action on Behalf of Resistance Fighters and Deportees” which is believed to have members associated with extremist Jewish organizations. The Paris bureau of the West German news agency DPA received an anonymous telephone call the day after the killing in which the “Committee” claimed responsibility.
The group has no connection with legitimate anti-Nazi and former resistance fighter organizations. The International League for the Rights of Man branded the murder “useless and pointless.” Serge Klarsfeld, husband of Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld, said the killing of Peiper, who was 61, was “contrary to the spirit of the resistance and politically useless.”
Peiper was convicted in 1945 of having ordered the execution of 71 unarmed American prisoners of war during the battle of Malmedy. He was sentenced to death but eventually reprieved and released from prison in 1956. He was tried later for having ordered the destruction of an Italian village in 1943 and the death of 43 civilians but was acquitted for lack of evidence. Peiper commanded an SS Panzer regiment during the war. He was a colonel at age 29 and known as “Hitler’s Wonderboy.”
SUSPICION OF REPRISAL
Suspicion that his murder was in reprisal for his wartime activities was re-enforced by a press conference held by eight hooded men in Paris April 18, 1975 at which ex-Nazis were warned that unless West Germany ratified the Franco-German agreement on the prosecution of war criminals, “they will be executed.” Police sources said that some of the hooded men are believed to be associated with extremist Jewish groups.
Following his release from prison, Peiper headed the advertising department of the Porsche Motor Co., in Stuttgart. He retired to France in 1966. Last month he was recognized by a former French POW. He complained to police that he subsequently received countless threats by phone and mail. He sent his family back to Germany but remained behind. Police believe he fought a gun-battle with his assailants before he was killed.