Monday, December 12, 2005

Minutemen of the Third Reich: History of the Nazi Werewolf Guerrilla Movement

Minutemen of the Third Reich: History of the Nazi Werewolf Guerrilla Movement. The fighting in Germany did not end when World War Two was finished. Nazi partisans, known as Werewolves, continued to harass and kill Allied soldiers for years to come. This article by Perry Biddiscombe from a 2000 issue of the New Republic gives details.

In addition to killing soldiers, the Werewolves also damaged the infrastructure and killed civilians. The article noted, "Although the Werewolves originally limited themselves to guerrilla warfare with the invading armies, they soon began to undertake scorched-earth measures and vigilante actions against German `collaborators' or `defeatists'. They damaged Germany's economic infrastructure, already battered by Allied bombing and ground fighting, and tried to prevent anything of value from falling into enemy hands. Attempts to blow up factories, power plants or waterworks occasionally provoked melees between Werewolves and desperate German workers trying to save the physical basis of their employment, particularly in the Ruhr and Upper Silesia. "

Although the guerilla movement got started during the war, it continued for years afterwards. It helped delay the first democratic election under occupation for four years. World War Two is seen as a successful war that was worth fighting. Even a successful war like this resulted in a guerilla movement, allied deaths, and years of political instability.

The current situation in Iraq has a lot in common with the historical period in Germany after World War Two. Islamic terrorists and local insurgents are acting like the German Werewolves. Is the difference in public perception now and sixty years ago the current media coverage? Would 24 hour news television, skeptical commentators, and constant surveying have undermined the will of the allies to successfully reconstruct Germany and led to a revisionist view that World War Two was an Allied failure? There also was not a huge anti-war movement prior to World War Two in the Allied nations either. That may also be a significant difference between 1946 and 2005.

From the site:

AS WORRIES INCREASE about neo-Nazi and skinhead violence in Germany, it is worth remembering that this type of terrorism is a nasty constant in the history of the German radical-right. A case in point is the Nazi Werewolf guerrilla movement founded by Heinrich Himmler in 1944, which fought the occupying forces of Britain, America and Russia until at least 1947.

The Werewolves were originally organised by the SS and the Hitler Youth as a diversionary operation on the fringes of the Third Reich, which were occupied by the Western Allies and the Soviets in the autumn of 1944. Some 5,000 -- 6,000 recruits were raised by the winter of 1944-45, but numbers rose considerably in the following spring when the Nazi Party and the Propaganda Ministry launched a popular call to arms, beseeching everybody in the occupied areas -- even women and children -- to launch themselves upon the enemy. In typical Nazi fashion, this expansion was not co-ordinated by the relevant bodies, which were instead involved in a bureaucratic war among themselves over control of the project. The result was that the movement functioned on two largely unrelated levels: the first as a real force of specially trained SS, Hitler Youth and Nazi Party guerrillas; the second as an outlet for casual violence by fanatics.

The Werewolves specialised in ambushes and sniping, and took the lives of many Allied and Soviet soldiers and officers -- perhaps even that of the first Soviet commandant of Berlin, General N.E. Berzarin, who was rumoured to have been waylaid in Charlottenburg during an incident in June 1945. Buildings housing Allied and Soviet staffs were favourite targets for Werewolf bombings; an explosion in the Bremen police headquarters, also in June 1945, killed five Americans and thirty-nine Germans. Techniques for harassing the occupiers were given widespread publicity through Werewolf leaflets and radio propaganda, and long after May 1945 the sabotage methods promoted by the Werewolves were still being used against the occupying powers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The period from 1945 to about 1949 or 1950 is a black hole when it comes to U.S history. Particularly the occupation of Germany and Japan. You can count the popular movies made about that period on one hand without using your thumb. Novels, TV shows and documentaries about that era, with the possible exception of the Berlin Airlift, are almost non-existent. Perusing the shelves of the local library, the history section kind of jumps from WWII to anti-McCarthy writing and from there into the Gary Francis Powers - Berlin Wall - Cuban missile history.

But there's something about the occupation era that doesn't invite much scrutiny. Maybe it's a fear of having to portray the Americans as the good guys and the Russians as bad guys that deters historians. You could get drummed out of your professional organization for publishing such a view these days.