Following on for the well received 'Career, Crimes and Trial of Sturmbannführer Gustav Knittel'
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In November 1984, a 60-year-old war veteran from Gariboldi, Oregon, wrote a letter to the mayor of Stavelot. In the Second World War, Frank Warnock had been a 1st Lieutenant in the 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th US Infantry Division. On the 22nd of December 1944 he had discovered the remains of twenty-three murdered civilians in the garden of the Legaye-Crismer house in Stavelot. He shared some of his recollections and this resulted in an extensive exchange of letters between him and local historians. In one of these letters Warnock reflected on what he had written to them: “Is there anything in these pages to suggest that haughty, arrogant bestiality is exclusive to the Hitlerite German? Certainly not. It was there long before Hitler and will remain among all races, cultures, colors, religions for a hundred or thousand generations to come. Until sanity comes to the human race. All groups on each of the continents have committed horrors on others or to each other. We have all tried to sweep our own horrors under the rug, but if we dare to peek a little, there they are. Staring back at us. All of us.”After I had written and published my Gustav Knittel biography, a feeling remained that the victims of the 'Schnelle Gruppe' had been neglected. I had named them and had described their fate, to the best of my ability with the available sources, but they were still people who only came into view when they were murdered. They had no face, no life, no history before that horrid day in December 1944. I had to try to rectify this and, in fact, the same was true for the perpetrators. I mentioned them in Knittel's life story, but the lower ranks in particular remained one-dimensional perpetrators. The seed for this new book had been sown. All the veterans who helped me with my first book have passed away but I could go back to their children, back to the archives, the written memories, fellow researchers and, above all, back to Stavelot. The judicial documents had been embargoed for decades, but now the Belgian archives finally begun to reveal their secrets. And with the help of tireless 'Sherlock' Vincianne Boulanger, the new research gained momentum. She interviewed the last living eyewitnesses and their relatives told her about the victims. This includes her own father, Yvon Boulanger, whose grandmother, aunt and cousins were murdered by the SS.While I finalise the manuscript for this book about a massacre that took place seventy-eight years ago, there is war in Ukraine and reports of new outrages echoe what happened in Stavelot all those years ago. Sadly, we have to conclude that Frank Warnock was right.Timo R. Worst, the 30th of April 2022