The killings in Parfrondruy, Ster and Renardmont

After Peipers troops took Stavelot and moved to Trois Ponts, the 117th regiment of the 30th infantry division retook the bridge on the southeast part of Stavelot and….blew it up. This meant that Peiper was cut off from his supply troops. And…it trapped Peipers troops. Peiper only could advance further on towards Trois Ponts, hoping for a better way. But….the towns after Stavelot were better defended by US troops…
He orderd Knittel and his troops to retake Stavelot. A good idea: there was a chance that the Americans would attack him in the back. Part of Knittels troops took the road to Parfondruy, looking for a good penetration into Stavelot.

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Parfondruy memorial

On december 19th, around 15.00 hrs, some civilians were totally surprised when some Germans showed up in Parfondruy. SS men got on the road “chemin de Parfondruy” from the route de Trois Ponts in order to attack Stavelot again.  They were orderd by Knittel, who had his command post in a farm (ferme Antoine) between Trois Ponts and Stavelot, to go there.
Those civilians were hiding in the cellar of the farm of Jules Hurlet, because of the fightings in the area. Around 15.00 hrs, mr en mme Hurlet got out of the house to feed the animals. They saw many Germans on the road, shooting at the houses, including their barn. A couple of Germans came up to mr. Hurlet and wanted to know where the Americans were. Hurlet answerd he did not know. This was the wrong answer and one German shuffed his rifle in his stomach and wanted to take him with him to the place where they thought the Americans were. Mme Hurlet asked her maid, mme Leonie Angel, a refugee from Luxemburg who spoke German, to interfere. With succes: the Germans let mr Hurlet return to his farm. But another civilian, Leon Crismer, was shot without reason.
It is said these German troops, estimated 100 soldiers, came form the Coo area, a statement wich is supported by the mayor of Stavelot, mr. Godin. Apperantly  these guys were several tankcrews, who survived an allied bombardment. It is also said that they were accompanied by German fallschirmjager.  These soldiers came up from the road from Coo to Parfondruy.
While the first Group of Germans left the scene of the Hurlet barn, two other SS-ers rushed in the Hurlet barn and found the hiding civilians. The found only women and children (2 to 8 years old)
These civilians are marched to the garage of the barn. Mme Lucien Hurlet and her maid tried to open the door of this garage from the barnside, because they had a bad feeling about the German plans. But they couldn’t get the door open.  One SS soldier entered the garage, aiming his machine gun at the civilians, who begged not to shoot them. But the SS man did. He fired several times at them.
The door, leading to the garden, collapsed because of the pressure and many dead bodies tumbled into the garden. Mme Hurlet run away from the scene. Her maid later was  found killed on the road. Mme Lucien Hurlet later was found dead in the burned out kitchen. Some say she too was killed by the SS. Other say she died because of to early birth of her child.
Mother Hurlet discoverd what happend in her garage and one day later she finds the 23 months old baby Monique Thonon, wounded at her legs and coverd in blood of her own mother, who was killed. Mme Hurlet manage to take care of the child and gives her to the Americans who take her to the hospital in Verviers. The ones who survived took shelter in the neighbouring villa L’Epilogue.
3rd armored division veteran, Charles Corbin, is one of the first men in the area, who saw what happend in the garage:
On the 21st we got orders to report to a task force in Stoumont, but could not get by a column of tanks, and got stuck in a stream when we tried to bypass them on a trail.  We then got a call to report to Colonel Lovelady’s headquarters as Stoumont was not in our hands.  A Captain Peters told us to report to Lieutenant Edmark of “D” Company, 33rd Armored (Regiment), a task force of C.C.B. 3rd Armored Division in the village of Parfondruy, to give artillery support. We were escorted part way and were told to move fast as the Germans had observation on the road.  We did move fast.  When we rounded a corner and stopped beside the first house on our right, (Villa Epilogue) there was a building on fire lightening up the sky as it became dark. (Hurlet’s farm)  Lieutenant Plummer, our new Forward Observer, said he would go ahead on foot and make contact with “D” Company and make sure it was in our hands so all of us wouldn’t get captured.  Meanwhile some of the people came out of the house and asked for help as there were several wounded inside.  William Whitten, Roland Mniece, and Howard Jenkins went in and began to administer first aid, while the rest of our section stayed on the guns.

monique-thonon

Monique Thonon and her godmother in Verviers

Meanwhile, the killings continue. Mr Desonnay is shot in the back.  Mme Pachis-Sougne, who tells a German her husband serves in the German army is shot. Her mother, who hears the noise in the next room is also shot. That same soldier is chasing the other daughter throughout the house and wounds her deadly. A neighbour, mme Breda hides and survives this massacre. Convinced that he killed everybody in the house, the soldier starts to destroy everything in the house.
On another place, mr and mme Georis are killed in their home. In a barn, mr Bolette, his son and his married daughter are hiding in the cellar. A german shouts that they have to come out. Mr Bolette is shot. While he tries to kill the daughter, his weapon jams, wich saves her life. When the weapon works again, the German starts to shoot into the basement, but he fails to kill the son.
In the hamlet Parfondruy, six barns were set on fire. Parfondruy counted only 50 people of wich 26 got killed.

 

Ster and Renardmont
On that same Tuesday of december 19th, the villagers of the hamlet Ster were hiding in the cellar of mme Jules Gaspar. Some of the men got tired of hiding in that place and got out of it to get some fresh air. They got surprised by a large Group of up to 50 Germans. (some mention 2 groups up to 50 germans) The SS soldiers ordered the men to walk in front of them . When they arrived at the Gaspar barn, one of the soldiers orderd everybody out of the cellar and asked them if there were any Americans hiding in it. One soldier tried to explain to one of the villagers that a grenade has been tossed to them.
The soldiers ordered the people to start walking in front of them. Other civillians are picked up during the walk: Henri Delcour, Armand de Potter with his fiancé, Isabelle Jourdan, Achille André and others. The group marches to the next hamlet, Renardmont. Some Germans enter the Desonnay house and take Camille Desonnay,  Raymond Desonnay and Joseph Drouguet hostage. Joseph tries top escape, but is shot. Because Camille is to slow to walk, he is being killed in his kitchen. Two women are forced to join the group: Mme Sylvie Leduc (75) and her daughter. They are found dead later, behind their house.
The group stops at the washhouse of the Legrand farm. The SS troups force the Group to go into the washhouse. Everyone who tried to escape was shot.Two soldiers were placed at the two enterances of the house. (Alfred Fuhrer and Hartmuth Strauss). The two soldiers kneel and got the order to shoot into the group.The first MG gunners has a jammed weapon. The second one shoots into the group.  After that, those still alive were killed with a revolver shot in the head. Everything went silence. One soldier, Edgar Leithold, went out to search for some branches and straw. Another soldier (a fallschirmjager) set it a fire. It failed. Instead of fire, they made a lot of smoke. This was the moment for the survivors to get away. 13 people were killed, 8 persons could escape. One of them was was Achille Andre who could tell the story.…. The washhouse was set on fire, wich made the roof collapse.
Another men, Marcel Legrand, owner of this farm and washhouse, was hiding during the atrocities. He found his wife, his two children (of eight and five years old) and his mother in law dead. They were brutally murdered with a shot in the head…
It was 1st Lt Frank Graig, 30th ID, who found the burned bodies. While entering the Legrand house, he found the body of mme Legrand, and in the corner of the living room, they found two children, both shot in the head.

Apperantly, all names of the offenders are known. They stated that people fired on them and they lost a tank. (That is ironic: they didn’t just lose one tank…)
Accroding to a report, it is only possible that the Americans, who defended Stavelot,  shot at the entering Germans.
Other troops came from the Coo area towards Parfondruy, looking for artillery positions around Stavelot. Wich is denied by another source: he stated that the German troops certainly did not came from the Coo direction.
The inhabitants of Parfondruy stated unanime that the perpetrators were young soldiers between 17 and 25 years old. They all were on foot, partly paratroopers, armed with machineguns and guns, wearing camouflage clothing and boots. Most of the perpetrators of Parfondruy were caught. During their interrogation they said that they were fired upon during the Stavelot attacks. They then were orderd to clear the town.  One SS soldier states: “When we came from Coo, just before Stavelot, women and children were killed without any reason by an SS soldier. Furthermore I saw two young Belgium people of 18 years old being killed. Both were walking besides the road, when soldiers shouted at them. They tried to run away, but were shot.”
All German soldiers who were interrogated, said they saw no civillians shooting at German soldiers.
According to statements of these soldiers, it was Untersturmführer Heinrich Dröge who told that it were civillians who shot at them. Dröge orderd his men to kill all civillians thy would engage. He gave this order just before the men entered Parfondruy. According to another statement Dröge himself got the order from Obersturmführer Heinz Goltz. It was Dröge’s idea to set it (the washhouse) on fire and erase all traces of the massacre.
The reason for the order is doubtfull. As a retaliation because he thought civiliians shot at his men, or….like in another statement we found, because the civilians would betray the positions of the Germans to the Americansif he let them go.
Most of these German soldiers were between 17 and 19 years old. One of them, soldier R., went into the German army on september 11th 1944, being part of the Hitlerjugend. On december 19th 1944, he heard a woman scream. His sergeant ordered him to go find out what is going on. In a house he finds a woman and a man, badly wounded by, maybe the German corporal, who was in the house, just before his arrival. Soldier R. kills both people.
According to statements, these guys were members of Aufklärungs-Kompanie of Kampfgruppe Knittel

Clear names.
In this case we found names of the men who were responsible for the killings of unarmed and innocent civillians.
As said before, we read several statments about who orderd the killings. It is said that Obersturmführer Heinz Goltz gave this order to platoon commander Dröge. In one of the statements it is said that Goltz got very irritated because they couldn’t find the artillery positions around Stavelot. They were looking for it quite some time. Another story is that he ran into US artillery observers in Renardmont, wich resulted in a firefight. After that, a huge artilley barage came down on his troops, wich made him withdraw. At first he sends out Unterscharführer Wolff, hoping he can find the canons anyway. But it pissed off Dröge completely, because his surprise attack on the artillery was completely gone. (what he did not realise, was that the artillery was placed around Franchorchamps.)  Meanwhile he is stuck with civillians. If he let’s them go, they can tell the US troops that he is looking for artillery, spoiling his plans. And the civillians can tell where he and his men are. It was Dröge who orderd to shoot at the civilians in the washhouse. He gave the orders to machinegunners Alfred Fuhrer and Hartmuth Strauss. According to witnesses MG loaders Franz Scziera and Alfred Schairer the machinegun of Alfred Fuhrer jams and Strauss finishes the job. It is Edgar Leithold who is orderd to set the house on fire. After that, Dröge and his men went on towards Stavelot.
Dröge got killed on december 22th 1944.
We are not sure how many civilians were killed exactly during the German raids
According to the statements, the Parfondruy massacre occurred before the Legay massacre in Stavelot.  Wich seems right if we follow the timetable of the battle of the bulge.

May they all rest in peace

We used these 10 sources:
Parfondruy
Massacre Stavelot et Parfondruy
– Civilian Massacre at Parfondruy, December 1944
Monique at Parfondruy
– Duo who escaped massacre reunited
Trial Heinrich Goltz
Charles Corbin
Henri Delcour, Parfondruy
German forum
L’Hiver 44

 

 

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Villa L’epiloque in Parfondruy