Jerry Summers: Malmedy Massacre Trial - Ralph Schumacker

  • Monday, November 27, 2023
  • Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

A local connection to another post World War II trial involving German officers and soldiers involved participation by the late Chattanooga attorney Ralph Schumacker (1908-2001).

He graduated from City High School (Valedictorian) and the University of Chattanooga and received both a law degree and master of law degree from the Chattanooga College of Law (1931-1933).

He began his legal career in 1937 as an associate of the law firm of Sizer Chambliss (John) and Kefauver (Estes) in Chattanooga and was a practicing attorney for over 70 years!

During the post war criminal trials Ralph was part of the legal prosecution team before a military tribunal in part of one of the Dachau Trials from 1945-1947.

The above name was given to the cases because they were tried in the former concentration camp against 75 German Waffen-SS soldiers accused of the Malmedy Massacre that involved the execution style killing of the 84 U.S. Army prisoners of war (POW) during the Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944- January 25, 1945 near Baugnez.

The gory details are well documented in history and a comprehensive article in Wikipedia under the above title and the reported case of United States versus Valentin Bersin case No. 6-24 review and recommendations of the Deputy Judge Advocate for War Crimes 20 October 1947. (A copy of the book containing the proceeding is listed as being available in the Public Library in Ringgold, GA.)

For “meritorious service” Ralph Schumacker was awarded a Bronze Star while serving in the Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) corps.

The total number of victims of the combined atrocities during the 40-day period described above was allegedly 362 American POWs and 111 Belgian civilians.

After being taken prisoner those who surrendered were summarily executed by machine guns and shots to the head.

The trials and the follow up hearing were controversial and became a political quagmire that included allegations of torture and threats of violence against many German prisoners in order to extract confessions.

The United States Senate in Washington, D.C. would ultimately conduct an investigation of the cases which would contain political implications by Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin in support of the the Malmedy defendants.

Two national veteran groups (American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars) allegedly got into a major difference of opinion on the issue of whether the Malmedy defendants convicted with sentences of death should be punished accordingly or have leniency shown in their convictions with reduced time to serve.

Ralph Schumacker was a participant in these historical trials but eventually returned to the Chattanooga legal community and loved the practice of law. He established a successful clientele base that included the CBL conglomerate of shopping malls throughout America including Hamilton Place after forming a partnership with his longtime friend and surviving partner Frank M. Thompson.

(His contributions to his country, legal profession, Mizpah Congregation and family are acknowledged.)

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You can reach Jerry Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com

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