ABC was the only Spanish newspaper that covered this strange Nazi terrorist group shortly before the end of World War II. He had been trained in hiding when the Third Reich had lost everything and survived in the shadows committing some murders after the death of Hitler and the signing of the peace. The first reference is found hidden on page 10 of our Seville edition, on April 3, 1945. “The German Werwolf movement in the occupied regions,” announced the headline.
The newspaper picked up a note from the Efe agency, which read: «In the German regions occupied by the allies and the Bolsheviks in the west and east of the Reich, the National Socialist fighters have formed a movement called Werwolf, whose mission is to fight in all parties and by any means against the occupying forces. His headquarters has issued a proclamation saying that he will never bend the enemy and that he will oppose him with all his might regardless of sacrifice. The Werwolf has its own court that will judge the opponents of the movement and those who betray the German people. “Our mission is based on the will for freedom of our nation, of which we are ardent guardians,” adds the proclamation.
Who formed this resistance group and how did they escape from the authorities after the end of the war? How was it really organized and what were its actions? The initial idea was put forward by Martin Borman, head of the Nazi Party in 1944, when the defeat of Germany seemed clear. In particular, after the Normandy landings and Operation Bagration, the mass offensive of the USSR Army during the summer of that same year. While the climax of this sentiment was the apocalyptic Battle of Berlin.
At the end of the year, the propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, created a radio station and a newspaper which he called “Werwolf”, both dedicated to spreading Nazi propaganda under the slogan “Who is not with us, is against us! ! ». Hitler was still obsessed that his empire would hold out, but some members of the Third Reich began to think about what they would have to do after the Allied occupation took effect. It was there that Heinrich Himmler seconded Borman’s idea and Borman, in turn, finally managed to convince the “Führer.”
They decided to baptize this clandestine guerrilla army with the same name as the newspaper and the radio. The denomination arose from a novel by Hermann Löns entitled “Der Wehrwolf” (“werewolf”), published in 1910. It recounts the struggle of the peasants during the devastating Thirty Years’ War (1618 and 1648) and its more of seven million dead in the German territories. The protagonist is one of those peasants, Harm Wulf, whose possessions are razed and his family savagely murdered by foreign soldiers. After losing everything, he organized a kind of local self-defense group that would end up bringing together hundreds of neighbors to take revenge on the invaders.
The novel made a deep impression among the Nazi hierarchs, who soon found the parallels with their cause to designate this group integrated into the combat section of the Waffen-SS. In mid-September 1944, a senior SS commander who had been Chief of Police in Ukraine was appointed as director, Hans Prützmann. His mission was to resist the Allied advance using guerrilla tactics that he had learned from the Bolsheviks in that country and that he himself perfected for use by commandos made up of groups of three to six men, women and children. Furthermore, many of those who volunteered belonged to the Hitler Youth, who quickly turned into potential terrorists and who dedicated themselves, in the first place, to painting threats on the country’s walls: “Traitor, behold, Werewolf! he watches you! ».
In his instruction the book «Wolfman. Notice for hunting units». According to documents seized from the organization, the training programs included sabotage techniques with empty soup cans filled with explosives and raincoats with explosive linings. They were taught to kill sentries with a rope, a silenced Walther pistol, or to shoot like real snipers. And they were urged to steal weapons, food and ammunition or to start fires and all kinds of sabotage.
On April 1, 1945, Goebbels radioed the following appeal to the Werwolf: “All means are correct to harm the enemy. Our cities in the west, destroyed by cruel air terrorism, and the starving women and children along the Rhine, have taught us to hate the enemy. The blood and tears of our murdered men, our raped women and our slaughtered children in the occupied territories in the East, cry out for vengeance. The Werwolf movement declares its firm and resolute decision, indifferent to a possible death and taking revenge for every outrage that the enemy commits against a member of our people, killing him. Every Bolshevik, English and American becomes a target of our movement. Wherever we have the possibility of ending their lives, we will do so with pleasure and without concern for ours. Any German, whatever his profession or social position, who puts himself at the service of the enemy or collaborates with him, will feel the weight of our avenging arm. For us there is only one motto: ‘Conquer or die’ ».
One of the first attacks committed by these “werewolves” was Operation Carnival, targeted by Franz Oppenhoff. He was a Catholic lawyer who had been appointed mayor of the border city of Aachen by the Allies and who was also the most respected opposition politician to Nazism in Germany. Two young men named Herbert Wenzel and Josef Leitgeb infiltrated US-occupied territory and, upon reaching the US home, pretended to be airmen shot down behind enemy lines. As they were told what had happened, Leitgeb drew his pistol and shot him in the head. Just a month after that, Hitler can be seen on film, just days before committing suicide, greeting a group of Werwolf children outside their shelter in Berlin.
Other mayors assassinated
On September 9, 1945, after the peace agreement was signed, ABC reported that “in order to investigate his relationships with the Werwolf underground movement, Otto Skornezy has been transferred to the Allied Headquarters in Berlin. As you will recall, he was the man who rescued Mussolini from imprisonment by the Allies and then carried out an anonymous campaign against Rundstedt’s failed offensive in the Ardennes. ‘ And at the end of April 1946, this newspaper still reported on a major operation in Germany against the organization: “Eighty former German officers have been arrested in Upper Bavaria for participating in a plot to assassinate Dr. Wilhem Hoegner, Minister President of Bavaria. . This story first appeared in a Landshut newspaper, which said that a Werwolf group had compiled a list of more than 400 people, including Hoegner. ‘
Six more mayors lost their lives at the hands of these “werewolves” and it was impossible to find substitutes for the terror they caused. Some sources claim that the group committed other high-profile crimes such as that of General Maurice Rose, the oldest Jewish officer in the United States Army; that of General Nikolai Berzarin, Soviet commander in Berlin, and that of Major John Poston, liaison officer to Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery. They also attribute other actions that have fallen within the myth, such as the explosive that killed 44 people in Bremen (five Americans and 39 German civilians) and that apparently was actually caused by the accidental explosion of an unexploded bomb.
Historian Alexander Perry Biddiscombe defends in his work Werewolf! The History of the Guerrilla of the National Socialist Movement, 1944-1946 » (University of Toronto Press, 1998) who continued to act against the occupation from their last refuges in the Black Forest and the Harz Mountains until 1947 and even 1950. And that their actions had important consequences for the future of Germany, although not managed to provoke a true spirit of national resistance.
Other authors such as the British Antony Beevor and the American Earl F. Ziemke they tend to underestimate their impact, arguing that they were no threat to the victorious powers. They speak of a work of intimidation of civilians, but of fewer crimes. It was more about frightened children, some of whom were massacred by French and Soviet troops who did not care about their age. “Others took the opportunity to go home when their superiors sent them to prepare terrorist acts,” says Beevor in his book “Berlin, the fall: 1945” (Critic, 2002). In his “History of Germany since 1789”, Golo Mann claims that German civilians were more willing to collaborate with the occupiers than with the Werwolf.