Assassination of Black
Assassination of Black-Americans
Submitted by Fred Hinson
(Date of inquiry unknown)
From documents received from America, I have been able to learn that a group of black soldiers was coldly slaughtered on the road out of the little hamlet of Wereth.
These 10 houses are situated halfway between Herresbach and the twin villages of Halenfeld and Heppenbach.
Let us recall that these villages form part of a German-speaking region of Belgium and region were incorporated into the German army.
The little road in hardened earth that crossed the village in '44 has been widened and paved. The reader will find below two eye-witness reports gathered from civilians during the inquest led by the American army. The names of those questions has been voluntarily changed. The third eye-witness report is that of the American officer who was present when the soldiers' bodies were photographed before they were autopsied.
Map of the Vicinity of the Town of Wereth
Testimony of Witnesses
1. Mr. "X:, having been duly sworm, witnessed the following:
"I am the burgermeister of Wereth and live there.(1)
Sunday, 17 December, 1944, eleven black American soldiers arrived at my home at 1600. They came on food with their hands in the air, carrying a blue flag.
Apparently, they believed that the Germans were in the village. They had two rifles but didn't look as if they would use them. When they discovered that there were no Germans present, they stayed a half hour to an hour and ate the food I gave them.
Then, four or five Germans came in a car, looking for the blacks who came out and put their hands in the air. The Germans searched the blacks, took off their helmets and made them sit down on the ground, which was extremely cold and damp.
They stayed like that until it was night. At nightfall, the men were lined up in the street and were made to run in front of the vehicle driven by the Germans.
Neither I, nor any member of my family, saw the black soldiers again living. The next day, they were found dead at some 800 meters from my house, along the road.
Two civilians who had left before the arrival of the Germans and who tried to return towards Valender, heard gunfire after nightfall. When they came back the following morning, they found the eleven bodies
I don't know who the Germans were, nor to which unit they belonged. They wore SS insignias on the collar and drove a little amphibious vehicle. They came from Halenfeld. I think that they were soldiers from the Hohenstauffen, but I don't remember their insignia. I am sure they were SS. I didn't see them again after they left my house. I didn't know the blacks were dead and their bodies had been left on the edge of the road until you removed them for there. (2)
2., Madarne "Y" having been duly sworn, declared the following:
"I am a homemaker, 49 years old; I live in Wereth in Belgium.
I was present in the house of Monsieur "X: when eleven black soldiers arrived and were fed. This was the last time I saw them alive. I left a little afterwards and I was walking in the street when the German soldiers arrived in a vehicle. The chief, a sergeant, stopped me with a Heil Hitler and then questioned me about American soldiers. I told him that the soldiers had left, which wasn't true. The vehicle, however, went along the way and the Germans collected the Americans at Monsieur "X"'s house. The Americans were led away and found dead the next day.
I don't know who the Germans were, nor their unit. They were SS troops. All of the preceding took place on Sunday, 17 December. Monday, the parachute group arrived and on Tuesday, the men from the Hohenstauffen division. The first units to arrive in our neighborhood were the armored units, I believe. (I need to look up this word.)
3. Mr. James L. Baldwin, Major in the Infantry, 0-1299837, having previously taken the oath, declared the following, to wit:
That on or about February 13, 1945, 1 was assigned to the 395th Infantry Regiment serving as S-2; that I identified nine photographs pasted on five pages number one to five; each page was marked in the lower left corner Exhibit F; that I "paraphe" and dated each page in the upper right comer; that I was present when these photos were taken by John Polachek, First Lieutenant "MIS"; that the scenes illustrated by these nine photos were examined by myself on or about February 13 at Wereth in Belgium; that a more detailed description of the scene in question and of the circumstances during which these photos were taken is following:
On or about February 13, I sent certain patrols across the whole zone of the 395th Infantry Regiment to find the dead and missing American equipment.
On the date in question, Corporal Ewall Seida, chief of the section attached to the squad *-R (reconnaissance) of the 395th Infantry Regiment, alerted me that the civilians of Wereth had informed him of the presence of eleven bodies of black Americans in a narrow path.
Corporal Seida went to the spot and decided not to remove them pending an inquiry (inquest).
Break in Text
Blows to the back of the head and fractured skull for soldiers C. Adams, R. Green and J. Stewart ...
Bayonet blow penetrating the brain for soldier G. Davis ...
Double fracture of the jaw for E. Pritchett ...
Four fingers pulled off the hand of soldier T. Forte ... etc. .
The lawyer noted as well that one of the soldiers had had the strength to apply a dressing on one of his wounds before dying.
Where did the black Americans come from?
The black American unit closest to Wereth was stationed around Schoenberg (7 km south).
It consisted of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion attached to the 10th Infantry Division which was defending this region. This battalion was composed of black soldiers commanded by white officers.
The After Action Report, no too explicit, indicated that batteries A and B and headquarters moved towards the rear starting at 1:00 a.m. the night of the 16th to 17th.
Battery C, which stayed in position, fired on Bleialf until 8:00 a.m. At 8:15, the enemy infantry in half-tracks with machine gun and mortar support attacked this battery.
In the ensuing confusion, certain Americans took off in the direction of Schoenberg, while others were made prisoner. The eleven Black Americans who arrived in Wereth towards 1600, were very probably some who escaped from this C Battery.
It is difficult to say with certainty. Nevertheless, one can put forth a hypothesis
Leaving Schoenberg, they climbed the hill over woods and fields to arrive at the end Of the afternoon at the entrance to Wereth.
To what unit did the assassins belong?
It is difficult to say with certainty. Nevertheless, one can put forth a hypothesis.
This savage assassination of unarmed prisoners recalls immediately all those perpetrated by Peiper's column during Sunday, 17 December. The first killings took place in the morning at the exit of Honsfeld. This village is only a few kilometers distant from Wereth. It is possible that little units had been detached from the main troop and sent to the flanks to search out the presence enemy soldiers.. hence the encounter with the eleven blacks. Just the same, the late hour of the massacre ( at nightfall) inclines us to believe that the assassins belonged more than likely to the Hansen column. At the end of the afternoon that Sunday, Hansen placed itself parallel to the Peiper column, taking over the network of roads near Wereth.
Several questions come to mind from reading the preceding.
- Had the Germans been alerted to the presence of the black Americans at Wereth? Despite the false information given by Madame "Y", they pursued their path and discovered their future victims.
Monsieur "X", who fed the Americans and kept them at his place for an hour, knew that he was taking enormous risks.
Taken in flagrant delicto aiding Americans (or denounced) ... he risked being shot ... It seems he had no problems in this regard. Why? (3)
- Did Monsieur "X" suggest to these soldiers to continue their escape ... or did he "encourage" them to surrender. As night was about to fall, the time was particularly good to pursue the escape.
- For what reasons didn't these young boys who, since morning, had crossed fields. and woods to save themselves, continue towards the West, keeping up the hope to find friendly troops?
- Why didn't the American army pushed forward with their investigation as it did for Baugnez, in order to find the authors of the massacre? Did the color of the skin of the victims come into play?
These questions remain forever without answers
Identity of the victims
Adams, Curtis - Bradley, Mager - Davis, George - Forte, Thomas - Green, Robert - Leathewood, Jim - Moss, Nathanial - Motten, G.W. - Pritchett, W.M. - Stewart, James J - Turner, Due.
I cannot read the text under the photo or the names after "We thank the faithful and devoted helpers who participate in the work of composition, typing, correcting and sending of this bulletin.
BREAK IN TEXT
There isn't room in our bulletin to relate all the inaugurations of monuments, crosses, plaques or steles, pertaining to the Battle of the Ardennes, which took place this year. I
However, we want to highlight two spots because they seem to us to be exemplary.
At Melines, Monsieur Florent Lambert, member of CRIBA, was able alone bring about a remarkable work dedicated to the memory of all the American combatants who participated in combat in the region.
The imposing ceremony which took place at Melines the tenth of September showed Monsieur Lambert the high esteem non only of the local population but also of the members of CRIBA who came in great numbers from Tirlemont, Liege, Malmedy, Stavelot, Houffalize et Bastogne.
In your name, we had the pleasure of sending Monsieur Lambert a letter of thanks and congratulations.
At Wereth, where a cross was raised in memory of eleven black American soldiers. Madame Adda Rikken, from Gouvy, member of CRIBA, was gracious enough to send us the following description:
Two moving ceremonies took place Sunday, 11/09/94 in the German-speaking region of the country. The first, at Medell (Meyerode) for the reinauguration of the monument erected to the memory of the American lieutenant, Eric Fisher Wood, and the second at Wereth (Amel - Ambleve) where a granite cross was dedicated by two families from Wereth, Hermann Lange and Felix Wis, in memory of eleven Black Americans savagely assassinated by the Nazis at the exit of the hamlet. (see CRIBA/ Info No. 53 page 13, article to Joseph Pothen).
Military honors were rendered in the presence of the burgermeister of Amel, the doyen of Meyerode, American and Belgian reserve officers, the color guard, friends who had come from the USA, and numerous civilians.
(1) This Mr. "X: was not burgermeister of Wereth, nor of any other neighboring village!
(2) In this deposition, Mr. "X: contradicts himself. It says on the one hand that they found the bodies the next morning and at the end of the deposition, "that he didn't know that the blacks were dead until you came to remove them."
(3) Bob Reppa, who commanded Troop A of the 32nd Cavalry Squadron recalls in his memoirs: "There where we passed, one got the feeling that the inhabitants knew the Germans were coming back soon. The people cleaned their houses and got rid of all traces of the Americans coming through." They knew why!
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