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IPFS News Link • History

Unheralded Resisters in Nazi Germany: The Edelweiss Pirates, Part 1

• https://www.fff.org, by Wendy McElroy

Hitler's power may lay us low,
And keep us locked in chains,
But we will smash the chains one day,
We'll be free again
We've got fists and we can fight,
We've got knives and we'll get them out
We want freedom, don't we boys?
We're the fighting Navajos!

— song of the Cologne
Edelweiss Pirates

Everyone has heard of the Hitler Youth — the organization in Nazi Germany that indoctrinated young males into becoming good National Socialists. Far fewer people have heard of the Edelweiss Pirates (Edelweißpiraten) — a loose but large network of young Germans who rejected Nazism and attacked the Hitler Youth, sometimes physically so. (Edelweiss, or "noble white," is a white flower known for growing in tough alpine conditions.) Compared to smaller youth resistance groups, such as the White Rose of Sophie Scholl fame, the Edelweiss Pirates received little attention until recently. Former pirate Gertrud Koch, who lost her father to a concentration camp, offered an explanation of why this happened. "We were from the working classes. That is the main reason why we have only now been recognized," Koch stated. The Edelweiss Pirates deserve better from history.

Resistance is for everyone

Everyone today needs to remember that ordinary people — in this case, working-class teenagers from 14 to 18 years of age — can successfully resist even the most tyrannical state. In fact, tyranny cannot exist without the cooperation or compliance of average people. The Edelweiss Pirates are dramatic proof that ordinary people can resist and that resistance is a creative venture, ranging from pranks like putting sugar in gas tanks to derailing trains, from playing outlawed jazz to assassinating Gestapo officials. The motives of the Pirates have been debated — were they freedom fighters or thugs? — but one thing is sure: Try as they may, the Nazis could not stop the Edelweiss Pirates, although some of the teenagers paid a terrible price.


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