The Werewolf Organization

The Werwolf Organization’s assassination of the Allied appointedBurgermeister of Aachen, Dr.Franz Oppenhoff in March of 1945, is probablythe best known and most widely publicized exploit of this hapless band ofpolitically indoctrinated youngsters who hailed for the most part from theranks of the Hitlerjugend and the Bund Deutscher Maedel. CharlesWhiting (aka Leo Kessler) wrote a book named “Werwolf” (recentlyreprinted) which details this very same mission, called “UnternehmenKarneval” (Operation Carnival). The leader of the assassination team was aveteran of the German Army’s famous “Brandenburg” infiltration-specialistformation, named Herbert Wenzel, who had transferred to Otto Skorzeny’s”SS-Jagdverband Friedenthal” and who, at the time of the operation, held therank of SS-Untersturmfuhrer (2nd Lieutenant.)

According to a number of sources, the idea for a Werwolf Organizationoriginated in the fall of 1944 at a meeting attended by Reichsfuhrer-SSHimmler, Artur Axmann (HJ Jugendfuhrer), SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Hans-AdolfPrutzmann, RSHA chief Ernst Kaltenbrunner, and Waffen-SS ObsturmbannfuhrerOtto Skorzeny. At the meeting in Hohenlychen, Himmler appointed Prutzmannas plenipotentiary in charge of the recruiting and training of Werwolfagents from skilled specialists in weapons and communications from amongthe armed forces and HJ, who would then be trained beneath the aegis ofSkorzeny’s SS-Jagdverband (Hunting-teams).

Once trained in sabotage and varying forms of deadly mischief, teams ofthese Werwolf Kommandos, comprised mostly of HJ volunteers, but commanded byolder, battle-experienced hand-picked cadre from the German Army andWaffen-SS, would operate behind the enemy lines as guerrillas, creatingdeadly mishap amongst the occupying forces, and relaying usefulintelligence to a central Armed Forces entity (Supposedly in un-occupiedterritory).

Training took place at the Schloss Hulchrath, near the small Rhenish town ofErkelenz. The castle was at the time the HQ of the HSSPF-West, KarlGutenberger. Here Prutzmann set up his Werwolf Staff HQ. The first 200trainees from the HJ arrived in late November and began their Werwolftraining under the guise of W-SS volunteers. They were instructed insmall-arms and demolitions skills, radio-communications, map-reading, andsurvival skills by instructors from Skorzeny’s Jagdverband, experts fromthe Army, and agents of the SD and Gestapo. They were taught to sabotagevehicles and communications facilities, to poison wells and food supplies -large quantities of arsenic were issued to some squads. When recruits fromthe HJ or BDM arrived, most had already had preliminary training withrifles, pistols, and panzerfaust. Prutzmann’s staff set up other trainingcenters in the Berlin suburbs, and in the so-called area of the AlpineRedoubt in Bavaria.

Underground bunkers or dens in the Eifel and Bavaria were reserved forWerwolf squads, where food, munitions and other logistics were to be hiddenbefore Allied units overran them. The Werwolf would operate atnight, harassing and sabotaging, and resurface by day and mix with the civilpopulation in their area of operations protected by false passes and paperssupplied by the Gestapo. This at least, was the plan. What actuallytranspired is of course, quite different.

Despite the fanciful-mythological Werwolf name, at the outset of thisjoint SS-HJ undertaking in late 1944, a real spirit of militaryorganization and discipline permeated the training and operational goals ofthe Werwolf-organization. The Germans knew well from first hand experience,just how much damage an organized and efficient partisan force couldinflict upon an occupying army. The key feature to success in this scenariowould of course, have been a solid base of supply and support – (e.g. anun-occupied Germany). Fantastic dreams of an Alpine Redoubt re-considered -these Werwolf squads would have been the long-arm of anylogistically viable resistance undertaken by a well defended Germanpower-base in a mountain retreat, or Alpenfestung. Of course, as eventstranspired – there was very little action toward the establishment of anAlpine base of resistance by the Germans at this very late date.

And so, beyond the one efficacious Operation undertaken by a specifically-trained Werwolf hit-team at Aachen in March of 1945, where one might notethat the resources of the OKW (A B-17 of KG-200, the Luftwaffe SpecialOperations), and the SS-Jagdverband were prominently involved; the latersporadic killings and instances of resistance by so-called Werwolf units,were not intended Werwolf operations as instructed by a higher command, butonly isolated acts of last-ditch fanatical resisters, and as such cannotreally be accredited to Prutzmann’s Werwolf staff.

To explain the difference between actual Werwolf organized activity andthose incidents attributed to it by the Allied Military authorities is notalways an easy task . When Burgomeister Oppenhof was murdered in late Marchof 1945, Dr. Goebbels and Reichsleiter Martin Bormann (who were both, itmight be noted, denizens of the surreal atmosphere of the Fuhrerbunker), sawit as a great propaganda coup, and took it upon themselves to proclaim anationwide uprising of German youth against the Allied aggressor. Goebbelschristened the Werwolf-sender or Radio Werwolf with a call to allable-bodied Germans in the Reich and it’s occupied areas to “strike theenemy” from behind the lines.

Radio Werwolf promised death to traitors and a direful fate to the Alliedinvaders. As a propagandistic ploy, it pandered to a fanatical belief inlast-ditch resistance – ironically, it also bolstered a belief in theexistence of an Alpine Redoubt among the Allied forces. Bormann’s role inthis farce was that as NSDAP Chief of the Gauleiterung, he believed thathe commanded the activities of all Werwolf units originating in anyGau of the Reich. The truth was, in fact, that both Goebbels and Bormannhad nothing at all to do with the training, organization, or employment ofthe Werwolf. As a crony of Himmler, SS-General Preutzmann had very littleinterest in taking orders from either Goebbels or Bormann. So, as theAllied Armies advanced, and eventually overran his Schloss Hulcrath HQ, inApril of 1945, he seconded himself to Himmler’s Hohenlychen headquarters inMecklenberg – at this point, the Werwolf Organization, as a secret behindthe lines formation, in effect, ceased to exist.

Despite the lack of direction from a higher headquarters, examples ofspurious Werwolf activity continued well after the cessation ofhostilities:

The former HJ-Gebeitsfuhrer of Mansfeld, now an SS-Sturmbannfuhrer barelyrecovered from wounds received in the battle of Kharkov, organized 600 HJboys into Battle-Group Harz (Kampfgruppe Harz). They collected W-SSveterans from a military hospital, students from a NAPOLA, remaining membersof the Luftwaffe-HJ, and boys from a nearby anti-tank-destruction unit. Whenthe Werwolf Radio proclaimed defiance on April 1, they went into actionagainst American troops. Within twenty days, seventy combatants wereleft, reduced to fifty shortly thereafter. A desperate attempt to ambush anAmerican supplies convoy was unsuccessful. Most of these starving boys werewiped out by air-raids, when American patrols could not find them. HeinzPetry, sixteen, and Josef Schomer, seventeen, survived until 5 June, whenthey were tried as spies by American troops and executed.

North of Hamburg, toward the end of April, an entrenched group ofWerwolves and their SS commanders refused to surrender to two battalions ofthe British Eleventh Armored Division. When Admiral Karl Donitz orderedthem to lay down their arms on 1 May, they still persisted. A unit of theGerman 8.Fallshirmjager Division was finally brought in to subdue them.The German Paras found mainly dead bodies scattered around their fortifiedforest den. On the eastern side of the Elbe, isolated groups of youngstersfrom the Werwolf center at Berlin-Gatow offered feeble resistance to aswarm of Russian tanks. A few survivors remained hidden in bunkers and werelater turned in by angry and hungry civilians, whom the Russian troopsrewarded by allowing them to plunder the Werwolf food dumps.

Donitz finally made a proclamation on 5 May over Radios Copenhagen,Flensburg, and Prague: “The fact that at present an armistice reigns meansthat I must ask every German man and woman to stop any illegal activity inthe Werwolf or other such organizations in those territories occupied bythe Western Allies because this can only injure our people.”

SS-General Hans-Adolf Prutzmann, who had previously been HSSPF ofRiechskommisariat-Ukraine, and could expect no quarter from the victoriousAllies, committed suicide in May of 1945.