Story Snippet – Tribunal

This time they went over everything, including the time Peiper signed the confession that there was a policy of executing prisoners in Ardenne. Peiper said he signed that only to take responsibility for his men who were tortured, confused and forced to incriminate one another. Willis’ skin crawled when Burton Ellis, a thin-moustached tax-attorney in civilian life, flashed Peiper’s confession in front of the defendant’s face to start the cross examination.

“Well is that your handwriting? And is that your signature?”

“Jawohl.”

“Well you wouldn’t have signed these if they weren’t true, would you?”

“I already explained the situation when I signed them.”

“Well, you told me I thought here earlier that you believed in the sanctity of an oath,” Ellis bellowed out.

“Yes.”

“And now you mean to tell me that now you don’t believe in the sanctity of an oath?”

“I believe in the sanctity of an oath if it’s taken under fair conditions, but not if an oath is taken under the pretext of false facts,” Peiper said with unconcealed disdain.

But Ellis persisted. “In other words, anything that’s damaging would be untrue. And anything that’s not damaging would be true, is that the situation?”

“I already said that I do not care whether some fact is damaging to me.”

Ellis put the confession papers down and stalked his way up to the defendant.

“Well that’s funny, isn’t it? You gave up on the truth when the loyalty of your unit broke down. And now you’re suddenly interested in the truth once again, is that right?”

Peiper ignored Ellis’ presence and looked straight ahead.

“The reason for that, is because today I found out that the comradeship, which I believed to have disappeared, is not an empty illusion. But I clearly see today that these men only incriminated one another because they were tricked into doing so. That makes it my duty to testify the conditions we were in, so that the German people may learn who we were in all reality. And that for six years we-”

A faint crash rumbled in the distance and the whole procession stopped. The military judge hit his gavel and ordered the translator to repeat Peiper’s words in English. Ellis sneered as the words were fed back to him.

“Now were all your men—”

That was the exact moment the explosion happened. It sent every one of the Germans flat onto the floor in a second while the white-capped American MPs looked around in confusion for the source of the blast.

Before Willis knew it, Peiper had tackled him out of the way of a falling piece of stone debris. After some argument Willis reluctantly handed Peiper the solid, black pistol.

“Just take it and get your men out of here. The back door to the right is the only one not locked from the inside,” Everett told him.

Instead of taking his lawyer’s advice, Peiper stood up and put three bullets into the backs of three American guards in fast succession.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

Willis grabbed Jochen’s arm and screamed at him. Somehow Peiper, malnourished as he was, found the strength to throw his defense attorney across the table when he tried to stop him.

“Surviving,” Peiper answered, and stonefacedly turned around to point the Browning at a mortified ‘William’ Perl.