On September 5, 1944, a unit of Belgian marquis attacked a German unit, killing three soldiers. Two days later the American troops arrived in the area and the Germans retreated. Three months later, during the Ardennes Offensive, the village of Bande was retaken.
On Christmas Eve, a unit of the German SD (Sicherheitsdienst) set about arresting all men in the village. They were questioned about the events of September 5, then lined up in front of the local cafe. One by one, they were led to an open door and as they entered a shot rang out. An SD man, positioned just inside the door, fired point blank into the victims neck and with a kick sent the body hurtling into the open cellar.
After twenty had been killed this way, it was the turn of 21 year old Leon Praile who decided to make a run for it. With bullets flying around him, he escaped into the woods. Meantime the executions continued until all 34 men had been killed.
On January 10, 1945, the village of Bande was liberated by British troops and the massacre was discovered. A Belgian War Crimes Court was set up in December 1944.
One man, a German speaking Swiss national by the name of Ernst Haldiman, was identified as being a member of the execution squad. He had joined the SS in France on November 15, 1942 and in 1944 his unit was integrated with other SD units, into No. 8 SS Commando for Special Duties. Haldiman was picked up in Switzerland after the war and brought to trial before a Swiss Army Court. On April 28, 1948, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison. He was released on parole on June 27, 1960, the only member of the SS Commando unit that has been brought to trial.