When the Reich was crumbling under the final onslaughts from West and East, Nazi propaganda labored to create a vision of the Southern Redoubt, an inner fortress from which in a few months Germany would strike back with terrible weapons which would snatch victory at one minute past twelve.
Here, defended by nature and by the most efficient secret weapons yet invented, the powers that have hitherto guided Germany will survive to reorganize her resurrection; here armaments will be manufactured in bombproof factories, food and equipment will be stored in vast underground caverns and a specially selected corpus of young men will be trained in guerrilla warfare, so that a whole underground army can be fitted and directed to liberate Germany from occupying forces.
It would almost seem as though the Allied Supreme Commander's Intelligence staff had been infiltrated by British and American mystery writers. At any rate, this fantastic appreciation was taken seriously at SHAEF, where Eisenhower's chief of staff, General Bedell Smith, mulled over the dread possibility 'of a prolonged campaign in the Alpine Area' which would take a heavy tool of American lives and prolong the war indefinitely.
This was the last time that the resourceful Dr. Göbbels succeded in influencing the strategic course of the war by propaganda bluff.
~Chester Wilmot The Struggle for Europe, New York, Harper, 1952
On April 1, 1945 , the German station 'Radio Werwolf' began broadcasting for the first time.
It was created by Propaganda Minister Göbbels to rally the population to suicidal resistance.
Its theme, repeated over and over again was
"Besser tot als rot"
Better dead than red
April 25, 1945: SOMEWHERE IN GERMANY
The hunt is on for Adolf Hitler. Russian troops have reached the German capital city of Berlin, but finding the Nazi leader is proving more difficult. Hitler and his elite troops are rumoured to be holed up in mountain hideaway to the south. The CBC's war correspondent Matthew Halton looks at ways of ferreting out the enemy from a fortification no one has actually seen.
Bombing raids wouldn't work, and a siege could drag on for weeks or months given the supplies the Nazis are assumed to have stockpiled in the Berchtesgaden Redoubt. But liquid fire — millions of gallons of accelerant and adhesive sprayed blazing onto the mountainsides — could burn the Nazis out.
Perhaps that would be the end Hitler would wish. The mad mystic may wish now to die there in his mountains, creating a legend.
• As it turned out, the Nazis' Berchtesgaden Redoubt, also known as the National Redoubt or the Alpenfestung (mountain fortress), didn't exist. Hitler had a personal mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden in the Alps near the Swiss border, but the Nazis never developed it — or any site — into an underground fortress in which to evade the Allies.
• According to Stephen G. Fritz in the book Endkampf: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Death of the Third Reich, rumours about Hitler's hideaway began in November 1944 with a short article in the New York Times. The paper's London correspondent reported that the Nazis had already dug a winding system of tunnels and storage spaces under the Alps and cleared out civilians from the area.
• Without any intelligence on the matter the Allies would normally have rejected the story as unreliable. But after the Allies were badly burned by faulty intelligence in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, they began to pay closer attention to rumours of an Alpenfestung.
• The Nazis had, in fact, begun fortifying sites in the Alps, but for routine military and strategic purposes. It was never their intention to build a hideaway for Hitler and half a million elite Nazis.
• German propaganda minister Josef Göbbels got wind of the Allies' belief that Nazis were building an Alpine fortress. He reinforced the faulty information by planting stories in German newspapers and leaking false rumours to neutral governments. When German soldiers were taken prisoner, rumours of the redoubt would make their way to Allied intelligence. Göbbels exerted himself to create a new Werwolf radio station, and even tried to found a newspaper. (The radio station actually operated for a few weeks.) Propaganda for and about the Werwolf were among the last products of the regime.
• The story then made its way into a newspaper in Switzerland (a neutral country) and magazines in the United States.
• According to author Stephen J. Fritz, in late February 1945 the Allied Psychological Warfare Division (PWD) concluded that the Alpenfestung didn't exist. Fritz called it "merely a dubious product of Nazi propaganda."
• But the rumours refused to die. By March 1945 the head of intelligence at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) was "receiving a continuous flow of reports that the Nazis intended to stage a final prolonged resistance" from a mountain fortress. None of the rumours could be confirmed.
In retrospect, some commentators have tended to dismiss the Werwolf as a Nazi hoax, one whose primary effect was to induce the western Allies to invade Germany on a broad front
.In World War II, the British had the best-balanced espionage. Americans had decent intelligence-gathering (especially as a result of code-cracking), but iffy analysis. The French, before they got knocked out, had superb espionage in Nazi Germany, but they lacked the political will to act on it. The Soviets also had a vast network of spies -- in the capitals of their nominal allies Britain and America. They didn't know anything about Germany and didn't seem inclined to do anything but accept the tips dutifully passed along to them by the governments in London and Washington. Their analysis was worse than the Americans'.
An intelligence agency can build up a picture that vastly over-rates an enemy's strength and capabilities without any outside political interference. In fact, it seems to be a systemic tendency.
An example of American intelligence error turns up at the end of World War II. The U.S. convinced itself Hitler was preparing a vast, impenetrable "national redoubt" in the Alps, a self-sufficient Alpenfestung where he and his most rabid followers planned to hold out for years.
The situation that led to this mistaken belief was structurally similar to the run-up to the Iraq War intelligence fiasco:
- A previous failure to perceive an enemy threat. In World War II, it was the Nazi concentration and attack in the Ardennes in late 1944 that led to the Battle of the Bulge. In Iraq, it was the realization, after the 1991 war, that Saddam was much more dangerously armed and capable than the West had suspected.
- An image consistent with the known character of the enemy. The Allies knew Hitler had sworn there never would be "another 1918" in Germany; he would fight to the last, and he had legions of fanatical followers. The mountains of Bavaria were the birthplace of Nazism and exerted a romantic, almost mystical pull on the party leaders. Furthermore, the Allies knew the Nazis had, in fact, moved some armaments factories underground in other places to escape Allied bombing. In Iraq 60 years later, Saddam did covet WMD and had gone to tremendous lengths to acquire them. His secretiveness and evasions in the face of inspections were legendary. The sanctions against him were known to be porous, and he continued to probe for a hole in them, as when he approached Niger about uranium.
- Deliberate deception. Saddam gave every indication that he had potent weapons, even while he officially denied it. He blustered like a man with a hidden arsenal -- he would have been a fool not to, given his neighborhood. In World War II, Göbbels, when he learned of the American hysteria over the Alpenfestung, set up an entire propaganda office to encourage them to think it was true.
It is not necessary to presume some coldly calculated political deception behind such a self-sustaining deception. It requires no presidential plotting. When the Alpenfestung hysteria was at its peak, in February and March 1945, America effectively had no president. FDR was dying and incapable of guiding policy, which was created instead from the rival State and Treasury departments (both heavily infiltrated by Soviet agents). Militarily, Eisenhower was on his own in Europe, brushing aside the agendas of the British and French and determining targets for the U.S. armies that by now formed the bulk of the fighting force on the western front.
The notion of a Nazi Alpenfestung arose in Switzerland, which had in fact used its natural topography to turn itself into a fortress state. The Swiss, observing across the border into the Tyrol, imagined they saw the Germans doing the same thing. In fact, the Germans had begun to scout defensive locations along the old World War I frontier of Italy as their armies in the peninsula slowly withdrew to the north. Many leading Western intelligence agents were based in Switzerland, as well as newspaper correspondents. The stories began to percolate.
The more the Americans thought about it, the more alarmed they became. A look at the map revealed the Alps as a natural focus of retreat for the hundreds of thousands of German troops still undefeated in northern Italy, Hungary, and Bohemia. There were known to be old salt mines and tunnels deep into the mountains. The prevailing weather would neutralize the Allies' great advantage in air power. It all began to make sense. Soon the stories had grown to tell of monstrous fortifications, underground factories, secret airfields, armies of slave laborers, stockpiles of supplies.
Hitler and the top Nazis and surviving generals would retreat there as the pincers closed around Berlin, and from the Alps they would lead a resistance that could hold out for years. They would hope for a split among the Allies, or gain time to develop a dreaded secret weapon. To storm the Alpenfestung would cost the Allies more casualties than Normandy, would drain vital resources needed in the Pacific, and still likely would leave behind fanatical Nazi remnants who would keep alive for generations the myth of unvanquished National Socialism.
Never mind the obvious evidence that the Nazis at this stage of the war lacked material capabilities to construct such an empire along the hundreds of miles of mountains from Lake Constance to Carinthia.
Allen Dulles, Office of Strategic Services representative in Bern, initially was skeptical of the Alpenfestung reports, but he dutifully passed them up to Washington anyhow. But by February 1945 he was writing as though the redoubt was a reality and something to be deeply concerned about, even though he admitted "it is impossible to put your finger on the particular area where the foodstuffs are being collected, or where these underground factories are being prepared."
Maj. Gen. Kenneth Strong, head of Intel at SHAEF, by March 1945 also was treating the Alpenfestung as a reality, despite the obvious paucity of real evidence. "[R]eports of deep dugouts, secret hiding-places, underground factories, and bombproof headquarters were confusing and unconvincing. No single piece of information could be confirmed." But, he added, "After the Ardennes, I was taking no more chances."
Once the idea became fixed in the minds of the U.S. military and espionage leaders, every new observation was fitted into it. Aerial observation of long trains headed south in Germany were seen as confirmation of the Alpenfestung. In fact, they were full of looted art treasures being sent south for safekeeping.
As World War Two drew to a close Hitler is said to have ordered his notorious elite Schutzstaffel (the SS), to make a last stand in the mountains of Austria, the impenetrable Alps being the perfect base from which to fight a prolonged guerrilla war..
Networks of tunnels had already been prepared. They had originally been piled high with all the war materials and supplies the SS would need, it was even rumoured that large underground arms and munitions factories had been constructed.
However, supply difficulties and the continued Allied bombing of Germany's industrial centres meant that by the time the end came all the supplies in the National Redoubt were long gone and the SS had been smashed by the approaching Allied and Soviet forces. They would never get to make their last stand in the Alpenfestung (Alpine Fortress).
Hitler's armies had spent years looting the treasuries and museums of the countries they had conquered, wealthy Jews had their possessions, property and art collections confiscated.
The Nazi high command, realising that defeat was inevitable, decided to ensure that the looted treasures would not fall into the hands of the rapidly advancing allies or soviets and hid the gold and art treasures in the tunnels of the National Redoubt.
As the saying goes, "don't put all of your eggs in one basket." The treasures were split up and hidden in many tunnel systems in the mountains, and although some of these treasure and art caches were discovered by advancing allied troops, others weren't and remain undiscovered in the Alps to this day.
A great deal of the material looted by the Nazis is still missing, that is a fact, the big question is what happened to it. Was it destroyed in allied bombing raids? Is it still hidden in a mine or tunnel somewhere? Many claim that the bulk of the missing art and gold is in Russia, removed by the Red Army under the orders of Josef Stalin. None or all of these answers may be true.
Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than the huge map that hung in Ike's headquarters, labeled "Reported National Redoubt." Every new tip and observation within the suspect area was marked with a red dot. Naturally, red dots proliferated within the space, and didn't exist outside it, and you had to get much closer to the map to see that most of them were marked "unconfirmed."In fact, the idea was never more than a lark to the Germans. Hans Gontard, the SS Sturmbannführer in the border town of Bregenz had begun feeding the hints into Switzerland. When he saw reports out of Washington taking them seriously, he laughed at the gullible Americans. He described the deception to the Gauleiter of Tyrol, who realized that this actually was a good idea, and he sent a memo about it to Martin Bormann in Berlin.
But Hitler may never have heard of it. Bormann wisely pocketed the memo, realizing that the Führer at that point still was intent on a military victory, not a defeatist retreat. Only Göbbels used the idea, and only for propaganda to terrify the Allies.
The idea of a Nazi Götterdämmerung high in the aeries of the Alps seemed to fit Hitler's self-dreams so much better than his eventual fate, to die like a rat amid the drab canals of Berlin. "Allied military officials were thinking more like the Nazis than the Nazis themselves," writes Stephen G. Fritz, who opens his Endkampf with an excellent brief account of the redoubt hysteria.
The Americans convinced themselves that the redoubt was real -- or that the likelihood of its being real was too great, and the consequences too serious, to be ignored.
The decisions had consequences. Eisenhower, by wheeling his armies southward, deprived Churchill and Montgomery of their dream of marching to Berlin. This was more a British fantasy than a realistic strategy by early 1945. But the Alpenfestung hysteria did cause Eisenhower to hold back Patton from marching on to Prague, and if he had done so Patton might have kept the Russians out and spared the one Eastern European nation that hadn't already been lost to the pleasures of a Soviet utopia.
The depletion of Western Allied forces in northern Germany also opened the door for the Russians to make a rush toward Denmark (and the rest of Scandinavia) after the fall of Berlin, which they in fact tried and might have accomplished had not Montgomery deliberately blocked them on the Lüneburg Heath. The Cold War might have been fought along a different Iron Curtain line, with different results.
Werewolf was supposedly the brainchild of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, who conceived of it as a number of partisan units operating behind enemy lines in the event of parts of Germany becoming occupied. The Nazis were of course, well aware by this point of the kind of damage that could be inflicted on an occupying army by a well organised and trained partisan force. In an Autumn 1944 meeting in Hohenlychen, at which HJ-Jugendführer Artur Axmann, SS-Obergruppenführer Hans-Adolf Prützmann, RSHA chief Ernst Kaltenbrunner and Waffen-SS Obersturrmbannführer Otto Skorzeny were present, Himmler oulined his plans for Werewolf.
Prützmann, who had been Superior SS and Police Leader of Russia-North from June until October 1941 and held the same position in the Ukraine and Russia-South until the summer of 1944, and had in September 1944 been appointed "Inspector General for Special Defence to the Reichsführer SS”, was placed in charge of the organisation and given responsibility for recruiting volounteers and organising their training - which would be carried out by Skorzeny's SS-Jagdverband.
Once trained, Werewolf units would chiefly be comprised of inexperienced Hitlerjugend (HJ-Hitler Youth) volunteers, with experienced officers - handpicked from the ranks of the German Army and Waffen SS - in charge.
Werewolf staff HQ was set up at Schloss Hülchrath; a castle near the Rhenish town of Erkelenz, at the time the HQ of the HSSPF-West, Karl Gutenberger. The first 200 trainees from the HJ arrived in late November and began their Werwolf training under the guise of Waffen-SS volunteers. They were instructed in small-arms and demolitions skills, radio-communications, map-reading, and survival skills by instructors from Skorzeny's Jagdverband, experts from the Army, and agents of the SD and Gestapo. They were taught to sabotage vehicles and communications facilities, to poison wells and food supplies - large quantities of arsenic were issued to some squads. When recruits from the HJ or BDM arrived, most had already had preliminary training with rifles, pistols, and Panzerfaust. Prützmann's staff set up other training centers in the Berlin suburbs, and in the so-called area of the Alpine Redoubt in Bavaria.Prützmann was also to set up training centres in the Berlin suburbs and Bavaria.
The assasination of the Allied appointed Bürgermeister of Aachen, Dr Franz Oppenhoff on March 25, 1945 was hailed by Göbbels and Bormann - broadcasting on 'Radio Werewolf' - as a sign of a mass uprising by the German people against the allied oppressors - signifying a great wave of resistance that would sweep the occupying forces back:
We Werewolves consider it our supreme duty to kill, to kill and to kill, employing every cunning and wile in the darkness of the night, crawling and groping through towns and villages, like wolves, noiselessly, mysteriously.
Charles Whiting (aka Leo Kessler) wrote a book named "Werwolf" (recently re-printed) which details this very same mission, called "Unternehmen Karneval" (Operation Carnival).
In reality however, the operation was undertaken by a specifically trained Werwolf hit-team, the resources of the OKW (A B-17 of KG-200, the Luftwaffe Special Operations)were involved and the leader of the assassination team was a veteran of the German Army's famous "Brandenburg" infiltration-specialist formation, named Herbert Wenzel, who had transferred to Otto Skorzeny's "SS-Jagdverband Friedenthal" and who, at the time of the operation, held the rank of SS-Untersturmführer (2nd Lieutenant.) Austrian Sepp Leitgeb was the trigger man - he was killed by a land mine as the commando made his way back to the Rhine river. The majority of the other commando members were caught and received prison sentences. Indeed, it appears that the assassination was more or less orchestrated by the Jagdverband and several other military units, detracting somewhat from the Werewolves' supposed ability to act independently from the military. The later sporadic killings and instances of resistance by so-called Werwolf units, were not intended Werwolf operations as instructed by a higher command, but only isolated acts of last-ditch fanatical resisters. Werewolf can, however, be considered a highly successful propaganda exercise; especially when considered against the background of Allied paranoia about the 'Alpine Redoubt' from which the Nazi's would allegedly make their final stand.
Allied unease about the possibility of an 'Alpine Redoubt' in Bavaria had been gradually increasing since late 1944, when OSS reports predicted that as the war neared its end, the Nazi's would transfer key government and military departments to Bavaria - which was where the Nazi party had its origins - where a final stand would be made with Adolf Hitler at the helm (Intelligence reports would continually place Hitler in this region almost right up to the date of his eventual suicide).
OSS reports painted a frightening picture: An elite, 300,000 strong force of SS troops was said to be in the area; up to five long trains were arriving in the Alpine region every week, and all manner of exotic weaponry had been (allegedly) spotted aboard them. It was believed that the Nazi's maintained an underground factory, capable of producing Messerschmitts, and that a vast underground network of tunnels and railways connected the various fortifications that had been constructed. Given the terrain, assaulting these fortifications would be difficult if not impossible, and the existence of the Werewolf organisation was proof positive that the Nazi's would not be content to sit and stew in their mountain hideaways. The broadcasts of Göbbels and Bormann attributed to the Werewolves both a central command structure and support network they did not in reality actually have. Logically, the Allies reasoned - part accepting the broadcasts - this central command would be located in the Alpine Redoubt.
By March 1945, the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) were taking the possibility seriously enough for Eisenhower to downgrade the strategic importance of Berlin, instead focusing on Bavaria. Even those who doubted the validity of the original OSS reports accepted it was wisest to act as if there were an Alpine Redoubt - just in case.
These illusions came to an embarrassing end in late April, when three German soldiers crossed the Elbe near Magdeburg and surrendered to the Allies, one of which was Lieutenant-General Kurt Dittmar. When asked about the Alpine Redoubt at his debriefing, Dittmar laughed and called it "...a romantic dream. It's a myth". Although initially sceptical, SHAEF soon came to accept the truth of his words. Meanwhile, Stalin steamrollered his way towards Berlin. The Werewolves were largely unsuccesful due to the lack of the central command structure that the Allies and Propagandists attributed to them erroneously.
Bormann and Göbbels talked as if they in some way controlled Werewolf's activities; the fact of the matter was, however, that only Prützmann exercised any kind of central control over the organisation, and the resources he had at his disposal were insufficient to establish the kind of support network the organisation needed. Bormann's role in this farce was that as NSDAP Chief of the Gauleiters, he believed that he commanded the activities of all Werwolf units originating in any Gau of the Reich. The truth was, in fact, that both Göbbels and Bormann had nothing at all to do with the training, organization, or employment of the Werwolf. As a crony of Himmler, SS-General Prützmann had very little interest in taking orders from either Göbbels or Bormann. So, as the Allied Armies advanced, and eventually overran his Schloss Hülchrath HQ, in April of 1945, he seconded himself to Himmler's Hohenlychen headquarters in Mecklenberg - at this point, the Werwolf Organization, as a secret behind the lines formation, in effect, ceased to exist.
Prützmann, who had had been traveling in the company of the Reichsführer SS and the rest of his retinue, and had been sent ahead on a "scouting expedition" during the course of which he was captured and dispatched to 31a Ulezenerstrasse, Lüneburg for "processing and interrogation," ended his own life by swallowing a cyanide capsule hidden in a cigarette lighter. Whether his suicide happened in Lüneburg, or as another account has it, at the interrogation camp at Diest in Belgium is not quite clear, but it seems certain that his date of death was May 21, 1945.
Despite the lack of direction from a higher headquarters, examples of spurious Werwolf activitiy continued well after the cessation of hostilities:
The former HJ-Gebietsführer of Mansfeld, now an SS-Sturmbannführer barely recovered from wounds recieved in the battle of Kharkov, organized 600 HJ boys into Battle-Group Harz (Kampfgruppe Harz). They collected Wafffen-SS veterans from a military hospital, students from a NAPOLA, remaining members of the Luftwaffe-HJ, and boys from a nearby anti-tank-destruction unit. When the Werwolf Radio proclaimed defiance on April 1, they went into action against American troops. Within twenty days, seventy combatants were left, reduced to fifty shortly thereafter. A desperate attempt to ambush an American supplies convoy was unsuccessful. Most of these starving boys were wiped out by air-raids, when American patrols could not find them. Heinz Petry, sixteen, and Josef Schomer, seventeen, survived until 5 June, when they were tried as spies by American troops and executed.
North of Hamburg, toward the end of April, an entrenched group of Werwolves and their SS commanders refused to surrender to two battalions of the British Eleventh Armored Division. When Admiral Karl Dönitz ordered them to lay down their arms on 1 May, they still persisted. A unit of the German 8.Fallshirmjäger Division was finally brought in to subdue them. The German Paras found mainly dead bodies scattered around their fortified forest den. On the eastern side of the Elbe, isolated groups of youngsters from the Werwolf center at Berlin-Gatow offered feeble resistance to a swarm of Russian tanks. A few survivors remained hidden in bunkers and were later turned in by angry and hungry civilians, whom the Russian troops rewarded by allowing them to plunder the Werwolf food dumps.
Dönitz finally made a proclomation on 5 May over Radios Copenhagen, Flensburg, and Prague:
The fact that at present an armistice reigns means that I must ask every German man and woman to stop any illegal activity in the Werwolf or other such organizations in those territories occupied by the Western Allies because this can only injure our people.
Buildings housing Allied and Soviet staffs were favourite targets for Werewolf bombings; an explosion in the Bremen police headquarters, in June 1945, killed five Americans and thirty-nine Germans. There is no proof of this, however. It is more likely that the bomb was simply a bomb left from an air raid that exploded by accident (not uncommon after WW 2, unexploded bombs from WW 2 are still found in German, British and Italian cities today).
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 employed - notably in the murder of three American civilians in Passau.
"The Death of Hitler" - Ada Petrova and Peter Watson
"The Werewolf Organisation" - Russ Folsom
"Werewolf" - Charles Whiting
The "National Redoubt" 1945
adapted from a map included in Seventh Army's
"Report of Operations, France and Germany, 1944-1945"
Among students of twentieth-century German history the term “Werwolf” evokes images of fanatical Nazis ringing down World War II by retreating to a so-called “National Redoubt” in the Alps for a last-ditch stand against the already victorious Allies, or sallying forth to kill those fellow-countrymen who dared show any inclination to accept defeat and “collaborate” with their conquerors. The most notorious instance of the latter behaviour was the assassination in late March 1945 of the American-appointed mayor of Aachen, the first large city in western Germany to be liberated, though Oberbürgermeister Oppenhoff had frequently been criticized for giving Nazis jobs in his administration” and only effected democratic reforms in civic government under direct pressure from an envoy of President Roosevelt.
Such ambiguities are rife in the German planning for, and haphazard implementation of guerrilla operations during the last few months of the war. The supposed “Alpine Fortress” was incomparably more significant for the influence it exercised upon the imaginations of Germany’s enemies than it ever was in reality.
The organization comprising five to six thousand Werwolves whose activities were coincidentally responsible for about the same number of violent deaths, was not of great significance in a conflict involving millions of combatants which spilled torrents of blood.
“Werwolf” had often contradictory relations with a succession of sponsors — principally the SS and the Hitler Youth — as well as other agencies that sought to absorb or exploit the radical proclivities of the membership: the Nazi Party with its mass conscripted rival, the Volkssturm (Home Guard); the Ministry of Propaganda headed by total war advocate Josef Göbbels; and the Wehrmacht (armed forces) which to the end remained in charge of the fighting fronts.
According to one historian who has focused on the subject, Alexander Perry Biddiscombe in Werwolf!: The History of the National Socialist Guerrilla Movement, 1944-1946, 1998, , after retreating to the Black Forest Area and the Harz mountains, the Werwolf continued resisting the occupation until at least 1947, possibly to 1949-50, effectively undermining the post-war peace and stability.
The postwar dimension assumed relevance over and above the narrow theme of the “Werwolf’ alone. There was its regional involvement with both domestic and external opponents (the decentralized organization fought and murdered in every wooded, mountainous, or otherwise less accessible area within the Reich, besides being engaged around its periphery) and the impact which guerrilla warfare had upon populations subjected to Nazi terror yet simultaneously victims of high-level Allied policy.
These comprised primarily the German-speaking inhabitants of what was to become a reconfigured Poland, the theater that in particular seems to have been the only point in the European war in which a civilian population was keen about a "scorched earth" strategy, and of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. They were fated to pay the steepest price for the misperception that the criminal apparatus created by Heinrich Himmler and others would not simply dissolve following the demise of the Führer, which to the astonishment of most observers is indeed what it did.
The harsh manner in which Germany itself was initially occupied also reflected fears that armed struggle would in some form continue after the nation’s formal surrender; hence, a brief period of profound psychological and social dislocation, when German society might otherwise have been most open to new influences was irrevocably lost amid decrees ordering non-fraternization, the expulsion in several locales of recalcitrant villagers from their homes, and even the summary execution of a few misguided teenaged killers by firing squads of the Allies. Berlin was allowed to fall to the Soviets because the “Werwolf”, this ultimate undertaking of the dying Nazi Reich, diverted Anglo-America attention toward the south.
Very little Werwolf activity was directed with an eye toward political survival after the complete occupation of Germany. The Nazi leadership could not bring themselves to think about the matter. Certainly Himmler could not. In the last days before his own suicide, he tried to close the Werwolf down, the better to curry favor with the western Allies.
Bizarre as it may seem, Göbbels, however, saw the collapse of the Reich as the opportunity to put through a social revolution, particularly a social revolution manned by radicalized youth. Always on the left-wing of the Party, Göbbels felt that Hitler had been mislead by the Junkers and the traditional military into bourgeois policies that had corrupted the whole movement. With Germany's cities in ruins and its institutions no longer functioning, the possibility had arisen to start again from scratch.
One often overlooked aspect of Werwolf is that elements of the movement did make some plans for after the war. The Hitler Youth branch devised a political platform for a peaceful, postwar, Werwolf political organization. They also took steps toward ensuring financing for these efforts. In the last days of the war, forward-looking Nazis scurried about Germany with funds taken from the Party or the national treasury, buying up businesses "at fire-sale prices," These enterprises prospered slightly in the months following the end of the fighting, but were wrapped up by the occupation authorities by the end of 1945.
Some current German neo-Nazi groups refer to themselves as "Werwolf" or "Wehrwolf", some of which use the Wolfsangel symbol (German for "wolf's hook") whose horizontal variant is known as "werewolf".