MALMEDY, Belgium -- American Soldier Stephen Domitrovich stood in the snow, knowing death for him and his friend could be near. They were prisoners of war. SS soldiers, led by Joachim Peiper, had marched them and fellow U.S. Soldiers out into a field, where Peiper tore up Geneva Convention cards that the medics among the prisoners carried, proclaiming, "Nicht gut," meaning, "Not good."
Peiper then unlawfully ordered the SS to open fire on the prisoners.
Domitrovich lied on the frozen ground, pretending to be dead and watching the SS shoot his wounded comrades.
Stephanie Domitrovich, the daughter of Stephen, gave this account of her father's survival of the Malmedy Massacre of 1944 at a ceremony recognizing the 75th anniversary of the war crime that took the lives of 84 American prisoners of war.
The ceremony took place at the Malmedy Massacre Memorial in Malmedy, Belgium on December 15, 2019.
An estimated 120 U.S. Soldiers were held prisoner at the massacre, according to historical accounts. Some, including Stephanie's father, managed to escape by either fleeing or playing dead as the SS Soldiers shot at the corpses lying on the ground around them.
"My father said a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and told her that his mother would be disappointed if he did not make it home for Christmas," Domitrovich said. "My father asked the Virgin Mary to save his life, and if she did, he promised he would attend Mass every Sunday."
Stephen Domitrovich survived, and his daughter said that for the rest of his life, he never forgot his fallen comrades and attended church every Sunday.
He died on October 20, 2019, at the age of 94.
"His spirit has returned to this hallowed place through me to be reunited with his comrades and the people of Malmedy who saved him 75 years ago," Domitrovich said tearfully as she stood in front of the brick wall that commemorates the fallen of the massacre.
She held a drawing of the Virgin Mary as she spoke.
The ceremony for the remembrance of the Malmedy Massacre included Domitrovich's speech as well as speeches from Belgian and American officials, including the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, Ronald Gidwitz.
Gidwitz said that in the atrocity of war, certain events stand out as being more serious and more disheartening than others, and the Malmedy Massacre is one of them.
"It seems impossible to find meaning in such horror, but we try," Gidwitz said, "We remember such days. Most of all, we remember the men who were killed. We even contemplate the men who pulled the triggers and we curse the monster who gave the order to execute innocent men."
Veterans, service members, officials and Belgian school children laid down roses and bouquets at the foot of the memorial as part of the ceremony.
The flowers dedicated at the Malmedy Massacre Memorial during the ceremony will remain there until after New Year's Day 2020.