Operation Werwolf commenced in late 1944 and involved the establishment of a guerilla troop of volunteer, Nazi forces brought together to operate secretly behind Allied enemy lines. The units were made up of uniformed troops who remained behind when German-occupied territories fell to the Allies. Once initiated, the Werwolves would draw weapons and equipment from pre-arranged caches and conduct campaigns of sabotage, ambush, and assassination against the vulnerable Allied forces.
The Werwolves included as many as 5,000 volunteers drawn from the Nazi party, the Waffen SS and the Hitler Youth. Recruits learned infiltration, sabotage and demolition techniques and were taught to kill silently, evade capture and to improvise their own explosives using ordinary household items.
Following the activation of the Operation in early 1945, the Werwolves made attempts to bury explosives, ammunition and weapons around the country. But the stockpiles of equipment were located and captured by the advancing Allies before Werwolf formations could use them. In fact, despite their training, few units knew where the materials were or how to use them. The Werwolves were crippled by the same supply, manpower and logistical problems suffered throughout the whole of the Third Reich. They were also limited by lack of troops, morale and coordination. German frontline commanders were unwilling to commit their bravest and best remaining men for the sake of an organization whose actual strategic value was doubtful.
However, Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels continued to hail the exploits of the Werwolves. Although most accounts of sabotage or assassination were wildly exaggerated, falsely attributed to the resistance movement, or completely fabricated. For example, the Werwolves were incorrectly credited with the murder of United States general Maurice Rose who was actually killed in action on the frontlines.
Despite the fact that no serious uprising ever emerged, the threat of one plagued the Allies. Allied intelligence warned commanders to brace for German insurgency as British and American forces drove deeper into Germany. In response, United States operations turned away from Berlin and instead headed south. British, French and American armies detained tens of thousands of German soldiers and civilians they suspected of being insurgents and held many of them in appalling conditions. In the east, the Soviets summarily executed hundreds of young men it considered to be Werwolves and sent others to camps. Civilian prisoners held by the United States climbed from 1,000 to 30,000 in late June 1945, and more than 100,000 by the end of 1945.
Although operations were sporadic at best, some Werwolves did carry out their orders. Werwolf trainees murdered the Allied appointed mayor of Aachen in March 1945 shortly after the occupation of the town. Werwolves were also blamed for a number of random attacks over the course of the war.
Some claim the Werwolves intended to continue fighting after the surrender of the Nazi government and the German military. In fact, no effort was ever made by the Nazi leadership to continue fighting in the event of defeat, mostly because Adolf Hitler, as well as other Nazi leaders, refused to believe that German defeat was possible, and regarded anyone who discussed the possibility as traitors.
Historians Antony Beevor and Earl F. Ziemke have argued that Werwolves never amounted to a serious threat, and furthermore propose that the Operation barely existed. This view is supported by the RAND Corporation. Perry Biddiscombe offered a different view and asserts that the Werwolves continued resisting the occupation until at least 1947.
In conclusion, it is widely accepted that the Werwolves failed to mobilize a spirit of popular national resistance, that the group was poorly led, armed, and organized, and that it was doomed to failure given the war-weariness of the populace and the hesitancy of young Germans to sacrifice themselves for the war effort. Some claim the only significant achievement of the Werwolves was to spark distrust in the Allies as they occupied Germany. An alternative view is that as a result Goebbels’ propaganda efforts, the Werwolves had a mythological reputation as having been an underground Nazi resistance movement, with some claiming that Werwolf attacks continued for years after the end of the war.
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