The Battle of the Bulge marks one of the greatest battles in American history when U.S. soldiers stopped Adolf Hitler’s final push in World War II. Several official U.S. military social media pages marked the battle’s 75th anniversary by posting a glossy, colorized photo of a Nazi war criminal.
The photo of SS officer and war criminal Joachim Peiper appeared on the Facebook pages of the Army’s 10 Mountain Division, the XVIII Airborne Corps and the Department of Defense on Monday. Peiper, who is clearly wearing a Nazi SS uniform in the photo, is responsible for the massacre of 84 U.S. prisoners of war.
The picture was removed from the pages after an onslaught of social media backlash, but it still isn’t entirely clear who is responsible for what appears to be an intentional display of a Nazi coward.
In a post that remains on the XVIII Airborne Corps page, Peiper is described as “evil.” But the post also seems to romanticize him: “The fate of his beloved nation rested on his ability to lead his men,” the post says of Peiper.
“I am dumbfounded by the decision to prominently display a Nazi on military social media on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge,” Lt. Col. Brian Fickel tweeted.
A moderator for the XVIII Airborne Corps page defended the photo in a comment.
“Sometimes in movies, the movie will create a sense of tension by introducing a bad guy,” the moderator wrote. “It is [a] technique of effective storytelling.”
The touched-up photo appears to have been edited by a Slovakia-based gamer with a penchant for Nazis. The Washington Post reported:
In the lower right-hand corner of the photo, a historic image rendered modern through digital editing, a watermark reads, “Colored by Tobias Kurtz.” The same watermark is visible on an identical image uploaded to the Deviant Art gallery of a user who goes by “kapo-neu” and identifies himself on his “about” page as Tobias Kurtz. The connection was noted by journalist Corey Pein, who tweeted a link to the image posted by Kurtz on Sept. 21, 2014. Kurtz did not immediately return a request for comment.
Kurtz’s Deviant Art and Flickr accounts say he is a Slovakia-based gamer who likes photography and graphic design. He has also shared an image of Hitler laughing as a group of German soldiers prepare to execute a kneeling man and ‘favorited’ an illustration [of] Hitler punching an American soldier while Nazis cheer. “This photo have my 👍,” Kurtz wrote in the comments of the drawing.
The Army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.