|Waffen-SS (Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein)|
ϟϟ-Sturmbannführer der Waffen-SS Diefenthal and Knittel
Facing the overwhelming military might and the complete air superiority of the Allies, Hitler once again relied on his trusted and powerful Waffen-SS divisions to defeat the Allied armies, first in the brutal fighting in Normandy, and then in the dense forests of the Ardennes. During these decisive battles, the soldiers of the Waffen-SS repeatedly demonstrated their elite esprit de corps and aggressive fighting spirit, but in the end were unable to win the victories the Third Reich desired. Image: Americans (3rd Battalion of U.S. 119th Infantry) become prisoners of Waffen-SS near Stoumont on December 19 1944. The officer to the left is SS-Sturmbannführer Josef Diefenthal. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on February 5 1945 for his exploits during the offensive, while in command of the III.Battalion/SS-Panzer-Regiment 2 (Leibstandarte SS). After World War II, "Jupp" Diefenthal was found guilty of war crimes allegedly committed during the Ardennes Offensive and sentenced to death by hanging but was released in 1956. The officer to his left may be SS-Sturmbannführer Gustav Knittel. Out of the millions who fought for Germany in World War II, only 98 received both the Knight's Cross and the Close-Combat Clasp in Gold. Knittel was one of them. Document contains a false confession, saying he ordered the killing of American prisoners of war near Petit-Spai. Knittel claimed after his trial that the interrogations included psychological torture and that he was physically abused by his guards. He hoped that he could show during his trial that the killings he confessed to never happened. He intended to use the war diaries of the American units which had opposed his Schnelle Gruppe Knittel during the offensive to prove that no Americans were murdered at the date and location he gave in his confession. But during the Malmedy massacre trial his defence lawyers did not get permission to use these war diaries and following his self-incriminating confession he was sentenced to life imprisonment on July 16 1946. In May 1948 the War Crimes Review Board rejected the claim that irregularities had occurred during the trial against Knittel but his sentence was reduced to 12 years imprisonment. Gustav Knittel was released from Landsberg Prison in 1953. Commons: Bundesarchiv.