An Army unit is conceding that it used bad judgment Monday in posting on Facebook a colorized image of a Nazi war criminal—an image that critics say glorified the man, especially given the accompanying text. The post was of Joachim Peiper as part of the Army's commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, which ran from Dec. 16, 1944, through Jan. 25 of the following year, reports NBC News. What especially galled critics is that near the start of the fighting, Peiper directed his troops to massacre more than 80 American POWs; the Facebook post didn't include that detail. Coverage:
- The post: The Army's XVIII Airborne Corps posted the image to its Facebook page along with a description of Peiper's role in the battle. The text had lines like this: "The fate of his beloved nation rested on his ability to lead his men through the American lines," per the Military Times.
- The image: It's now deleted, but you can see it via this tweet from Army public affairs officer Brian Fickel, who pronounced himself "dumbfounded by the decision to prominently display a Nazi on military social media on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge."
- An explanation: When Facebook commenters criticized the choice, a page moderator initially attempted to explain that it was a way to make a series of continuing posts about the battle's anniversary more interesting. "Sometimes in movies, the movie will create a sense of tension by introducing a bad guy," the moderator wrote. This did not help.
- Disturbing link: The Washington Post did some sleuthing and figured out that the person credited with colorizing the image is a self-described gamer based in Slovakia named Tobias Kurtz, and he has posted or liked other online images of Nazis and Hitler. As the Post puts it, "It remains unclear how Pentagon and Army officials cleared an image apparently created by an artist who celebrates Nazi propaganda online to be published alongside a tribute to the American soldiers who fought and died to defeat a fascist regime 75 years ago."
- Malmedy massacre: On Dec. 17, 1944, Peiper commanded his troops to gun down 84 unresisting American prisoners who had surrendered after Peiper's surprise offensive, per the Post and the New York Times. After the war, he would be convicted of war crimes.
- Mea culpa: "We regret the use of the photograph of Joachim Peiper," reads a Tuesday tweet from the Army unit. "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 by the time the reserve was called in on 18 Dec."
(Over the weekend, the suspected use
of white-power hand signals in the stands during the Army-Navy game triggered an investigation.)