The Edelweiss Pirates

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jerrytug
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May 8 2004 14:24
The Edelweiss Pirates

Did you ever hear about the Edelweiss Pirates? They were loose bands of renegade youths during the Nazi era in Germany,objecting to the harsh drill of the Hitler Youth.Some of them were outright Hitler Youth drop-outs,others came from the "Bundische Jugend" (a scout-like movement),whiich had been a melting pot for young people with very different backgrounds before Hitler took power.Those kids were`nt exactly left-wing or politically conscious resistance in any way,though most of them were working-class kids.With conditions in Germany deteriorating through the war,they found more and more loopholes in the system,especially in the big cities alongside the Rhine river.Living in bombed-out houses,stealing and looting goods from freight trains and defending themselves against the Gestapo,Hitler Youth and normal police with knives and guns they made a miserable but Nazi-free living.What you see with the Edelweiss Pirates is a strange mix of pre-beat Hippiedom,traits of an autonomous youth culture(they even styled a certain look to recognize each other!),political resistance and dare devil mentality.In the end there must have been thousands of them.They had to pay heavily for their dissent.Many of them were tortured by the Gestapo,sent to concentration camp-like compounds,and even killed.On October 27th,1944,for instance,eleven of then were hanged by the Nazis in Cologne,the youngest being 16.Normal people despised then as criminals,cranks, and they had very few friends beside their own kind.After the war this perception of the Edelweiss Pirates didn`t change substantially,and I know of only one small plaque in Cologne reminding of them(especially of the hanging).

I think one reason why they`re loooked upon with contempt and suspicion is that they made everybody else look so bad.They were only kids and yet they confronted people like Heinz Schmitz,The Gestapo Chief of Cologne,who for all the terror he inflicted on others was sentenced to one year and seven months in prison(served 1yr 2mnths).

Maybe the Edelweiss Pirates used tactics we would frown upon under normal conditions.Maybe they just had nothing to lose.Yet they were brave to an almost unbelievable extent.And I think they deserve respect from what they did.

This is my first post on this forum.I hope some of you find it interesting. It certainly brought tears to my eyes. What do you think?

Regards Jerry.

AlexA
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Joined: 16-09-03
May 8 2004 14:33

A great first post, Jerry! Welcome to the boards smile

I don't suppose you'd like to write a short history of them (<2000 words) for our history page would you? Or know of such a text which exists already?

www.enrager.net/history

Kalashnikov_Blues
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May 8 2004 14:46

once again pirates are proving thier superiority...

The Blast
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May 9 2004 10:32
Quote:
I don't suppose you'd like to write a short history of them (<2000 words) for our history page would you? Or know of such a text which exists already?

Check out issue 53 of Organise. There's an excellent article about them there.

AlexA
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May 10 2004 16:27

Damn no. 53's not online yet!

Mystic
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May 11 2004 10:49

I remember learning about them for GCSE History. An awesome, brave bunch of kids smile.

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Spartacus
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May 11 2004 11:49

they also held underground jazz gigs, as jazz was banned by the nazis as it was a non-aryan influence or something. so they obviously had far better musical taste than the anarchist movement of today...

Kidda
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May 11 2004 23:50
GenerationTerrorist wrote:
so they obviously had far better musical taste than the anarchist movement of today...

i know mate

but one day you'll get over all this punk stuff and embrace proper music

tongue

butchersapron
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May 14 2004 18:27
GenerationTerrorist wrote:
they also held underground jazz gigs, as jazz was banned by the nazis as it was a non-aryan influence or something. so they obviously had far better musical taste than the anarchist movement of today...

Nah, that was the Swing Kids - a middle class version of the working class Pirates - best info on the EP in English is the Chapter on youth opposition to the Nazis in 'Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition and Racism in Everyday life' by Detlev Peukert.

blueporta
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May 14 2004 21:48

yeah, extremely brave boys given the circumstances. i hear a film about the group who were hung in cologne in 1944 is being made, which should be fascinating. i sometimes wonder wether i would have the guts to stand up against the nazis were i in germany in the 30's, dont really know to be honest.

Wellclose Square
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Oct 17 2008 19:21

Bit late joining this thread, but here goes. I read a paperback years ago, by Thomas Wiseman, called Children of the Ruins, 'the chilling novel of resistance among the dispossessed'. The blurb on the back sets the scene:

'They grew their hair long, wore British clothes and imitated all things American. Dispossessed and hunted like wild animals by the police, they lived by their wits in the harsh, twilight world of war-torn Cologne.

From a gang of petty thieves and vandals in 1939 they developed, as the conflict deepened, into a marauding, murderous band, waging continuous war against the corrupt petty officials of the Nazi regime.

As Cologne disintegrated under bombs and the Allied armies closed in, Otto, Rolf, Theo, Benno, Kurt and Franzi prepared to avenge themselves upon their persecutors - The Gestapo and the dreaded SS.

For the Wolf Children of Hitler's tottering Reich, it would be a fight to the death...'

I enjoyed reading it at the time, but my memory of it is pretty patchy now. The author was born in Vienna 'and came to England at the age of eight in 1939 after a year of living under Nazi oppression', which would make him a contemporary of his characters. I've got the 1988 Pan edition (pub. 1986 by Jonathan Cape).

Battlescarred
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Oct 20 2008 13:06

Latest Organise! has an article on the Schlurfs- Vienna's version of the French Zazous and German Edelweiss Pirates and Swing Kids rolled into one. They were predominantly working class.

julio27
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Oct 22 2008 11:54

Movie from Glasow

http://us.cinemotions.com/modules/Films/fiche/29492/Edelweiss-Pirates.html

Wellclose Square
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Nov 11 2011 19:34

This in Thursday's Independent

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/jean-jlich-one-of-the-edelweiss-pirates-who-resisted-the-nazis-6259542.html?origin=internalSearch

'In West Germany, the courts ruled that wartime teenage criminal convictions recorded by the Gestapo counted as part of their criminal record... "The old Nazi judges used after the war upheld the criminalisation of what we had done and who we were."'

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Railyon
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Nov 11 2011 21:19

If that's true (and I have no reason to doubt that), it's quite disgusting if you relate that to convicted Nazis going unpunished, even after they actually got a sentence. They went on to become businessmen and lawyers* and shit and the rebels were treated as criminals? Something smells fishy.

*as described by Günter Wallraff in "13 unerwünschte Reportagen", no idea if that was ever translated to English

Wellclose Square
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Nov 11 2011 22:11
Railyon wrote:
If that's true (and I have no reason to doubt that), it's quite disgusting if you relate that to convicted Nazis going unpunished, even after they actually got a sentence. They went on to become businessmen and lawyers* and shit and the rebels were treated as criminals? Something smells fishy.

*as described by Günter Wallraff in "13 unerwünschte Reportagen", no idea if that was ever translated to English

Railyon, your disgust about the disparity in treatment of Edelweiss Pirates after the war as 'common criminals' and the 'rehabilitation' of 'respectable' Nazi professionals is not misplaced, but there's more here that allows a fuller picture, particularly of the inspiring actions of the Pirates themselves, but also of the need of the authorities - Nazi, democratic and Stalinist - to uphold a respectable social order.

Quote:
Jean Jülich tramped the hills south of Bonn with his guitar, singing attheir secret meetings. He had lived with his grandparents from the age of seven, after seeing his communist father badly beaten by SS men and jailed for high treason. In a deserted bomb-disposal bunker, the Navajo group of the Ehrenfeld district of Cologne supplied black market food and shelter to runaway forced labourers, concentration camp escapees, fugitive Jews and German army deserters. They attacked Hitler Youth patrols, derailed ammunition trains, catapulted bricks through the roof of a munitions factory and sabotaged machinery.

Their plan to blow up the Gestapo headquarters in Cologne, using detonators extracted from unexploded British bombs, was discovered after a 24-year-old Edelweiss Pirate had shot dead a Nazi informer.

Jülich was arrested at the age of 15, held in solitary confinement without trial and tortured for four months. His 16-year-old friend, Barthel Schink, was hanged with 11 other Pirates on a public gallows at Ehrenfeld railway station, without trial, on orders from Heinrich Himmler. Jülich survived a year of beatings, starvation and typhus in a concentration camp until liberated by American tanks in 1945.

In "year zero", after the defeat ofGermany, feral surviving Pirates living on their wits in the ruined cities were frequently arrested by Allied military police. One Pirate was sentenced to death, though later reprieved, by amilitary court in Lower Saxony in April 1946 for his "very active part in carrying out the nefarious schemes of the Edelweiss Piraten. An organisation such as this might well threaten the peace of Europe."

In the Soviet zone Edelweiss Pirates routinely received sentences of 25 years.

I couldn't read this without thinking of the 'feral rats' despised by a gentrifying shopkeeper in London in the aftermath of the August riots. It also speaks of way that established power can accommodate established power (the shared language of professionalism, legality, social peace), while violently crushing the social indiscipline of the lower orders.

Battlescarred
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Nov 12 2011 11:25

and the same happened with the Schlurfs in Austria., courageous youth who had fought the Nazis and continued to be persecuted under the new regime of Social Democracy.