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I discovered this interesting bit of history on a web site 
called Outlaw History and Theory 

(, which examines the 
practice of illegality among the exploited classes from an 
anarchist perspective. What drew me to this article was not 
any sort of knee-jerk liberal antifascism, that gets all warm 
inside at any talk of resistance to fascism no matter what the 
source, but rather the description of resistance by youth 
largely from the exploited classes attacking the domination 
under which they lived with audacity even when it took the 
form of a genocidal totalitarian police state of the most 
extreme form. The actions these youth took were direct action, 
and in the case of the Edelweiss Pirates, seem to have been 
largely autonomous. The Meuten were apparently connected 
with communist groups, and I wish the article had gone into 
differences between the practice of the Pirates and the Meuten, 
since this could have been a fruitful area for practical analysis, 
but of course an article like this is just a beginning. 

To be clear, I am not interested in antifascism by itself. 
Without a clear revolutionary perspective, the struggle against 
fascism all too easily degenerates into the struggle for liberal 
values and the democratic state. Thus, I agree with Alfredo 
Bonanno's statement: "I have never liked fascists, nor 
consequently fascism as a project. For other reasons (but which 


when carefully examined turn out to be the same), I have never 
liked democratic, liberal, republican, Gaullist, labour, marxist, 
communist, socialist or any other of those projects. Against them 
I have always opposed not so much my being anarchist as my 
being different, and therefore anarchist." I publish this article in 
that spirit, desiring and working for a struggle against all 
states, regardless of their political form like that of the 
Edelweiss Pirates against the Nazi state in Germany between 
1938 and 1945. 

-Wolfi Landstreicher 


Venomous Butterfly Publications 
818 SW 3rd Ave., PMB 1237 
Portland, OR 97217 USA 

this edition was redesigned and republished by 

after the fall distribution and press 

frederick, maryland 

anti-copyright 2009 
copy and distribute at will 




Within months of coming to power in Germany in 1933 the 
Nazis had effectively smashed what was perceived to be one of 
the best organized working classes in the world. The 
Communist and Socialist parties and their trade unions, 
militias and social organizations had been banned: the activists 
had been executed, imprisoned, exiled or had gone 
underground. Working class districts were sealed off and 
subjected to terror raids and house to house searches. 

The Nazi programme of creating a National Community and 
silencing opposition through the use of terror was to intensify 
over the next twelve years. 

Involvement in the Hitler Youth and National Socialist 
education policies were intended to ensure that the young 
became active (or at least passive supporters) of the Nazi state. 
Behind the propaganda of the 'National Community' the reality, 
especially in working class areas, was very different. The more 
the state and the Hitler Youth intruded into the lives of the 
young, the more clearly visible acts of non-conformity and 
resistance became. 



Thousands of young people declined to take part in the 
activities of the Hitler Youth and instead formed groups and 
gangs hostile to the Nazis. 

From 1938, until the destruction of the Nazi state, the 
authorities (especially the Hitler Youth, the police and the 
Gestapo) became increasingly concerned about the attitudes 
and activities of 'gangs' of working class youths who were 
collectively known as 'Edelweiss Pirates'. 

The activities of these groups encompassed a whole range of 
resistance to the regime (absenteeism from work and school, 
graffiti, illegal leaflets, arguing with authority figures, 
industrial sabotage and physical violence). 

One Edelweiss slogan was "Eternal war on the Hitler Youth". 
Attacking Hitler Youth hiking and camping groups in the 
countryside end Hitler Youth patrols and Nazi dignitaries in 
the towns and cities was a favored activity of Edelweiss Pirate 

The activities of many young people were so problematic for 
the Nazis that the Reich youth leadership were driven to 
declare "The formation of cliques, i.e. groupings of young 
people outside the Hitler Youth, was on the increase a few 
years before the war, and has particularly increased during the 
war, to such a degree that a serious risk of the political, moral 
and criminal breakdown of youth must be said to exist." (1942) 

It is important to remember that there activities were not 
taking place under a 'liberal' regime but in the years just before 
and during the Nazi's total war on 'Bolshevism' and the West 
and after almost a decade of National Socialist education and 
propaganda in the schools. The gang members were from the 



On the 25th October 1944 the situation was so serious that the 
national leader of the SS (Heinrich Himmler) issued an 
ordinance for the 'combating of youth cliques' at the end of a 
long series of actions aimed at defeating the youth and protest 

Apart from 'ringleaders' the Nazis did not execute large 
numbers of German youths involved in or sympathetic to the 
Pirates in the way they executed Jews and Poles. This was 
partly because they didn't know who all of the Pirates were 
(despite the massive surveillance and repression machinery 
and volumes of files held by the authorities on known Pirates) 
and partly because the Pirates were potential workers in 
armament factories and future soldiers. National Socialist 
ideological concepts such as the 'healthy stock of German 
youth' is likely to have also have played a part in the state's 

Involvement in the Pirates and the Meuten meant that many 
members moved from non-conformity through to open protest 
and political resistance against the Nazi state. The history of 
everyday life in Nazi Germany is often forgotten against the 
backdrop of the Second World War and successful Nazi 
propaganda of a nation united behind Nazi ideology. The fact 
that there was defiance and resistance by thousands should 
not be forgotten, and the activities of the Edelweiss Pirates and 
the Meuten, should be of inspiration to anti-fascists 

generation on which the Nazi system had operated 

Although most Pirates had no explicit political doctrine, their 
everyday experience of encounters with National Socialist 
authority and regimented work and leisure led them into 
conflict with the Nazis and into anti-Nazi activity. 

The group members were almost exclusively working class 
being mainly unskilled or semi-skilled workers and most 
members were aged between 14 and 18 years (most males 
over 18 were conscripted into the army) and had grown up 
and been educated in schools and homes under National 
Socialist rule. 

The gangs usually consisted of about a dozen young men and 
(some) women who belonged together because they lived or 
worked in the same area. The Pirates relied on informal 
structures of communication for support and "developed a 
remarkable knack for rewriting the hit songs inserting new 
lines". The songs often expressed a thirst for freedom and calls 
to fight the Nazis. 

The different groups and their structures arose spontaneously 
and their understanding of the problems they were facing was 
formed by the day to day realties of Nazi society. Gang activity 
revolved around meeting up, socializing, and confronting the 
regime in different ways. 

In the working class districts such as Leipzig, youth gangs 
emerged in the former red strongholds that, while broadly 
similar to the Edelweiss Pirates, had a more politicized class 
identity and drew on the communist and socialist traditions of 



their neighborhoods. These gangs were known as 'Meuten' 
(literally 'Packs'). 

Gestapo reports on the Leipzig Meuten estimated their 
numbers at 1500 between 1937 and 1939. The Meuten, 
probably because of their clearer political position, were 
subject to more detailed state attention and suffered more 
massive and ruthless repression than some of the other youth 

Reports of brawls with members of the Hitler Youth (especially 
the disciplinary patrols), of assaults on uniformed personnel, of 
jeers and insults on Nazi dignitaries, are widespread and 
documents from the time give a flavor of what was going on. 

"I therefore request that the police ensure that this riff-raff is 
dealt with once and for all. The HJ [Hitler Youth] are taking 
their lives in their hands when they go out on the streets". (SA 
Unit report 1941). 

"For the past month none of the Leaders of 25/39 Troop has 
been able to proceed along the Hellweg or Hoffestrasse 
(southern part) without being subject to abuse from these 
people. The Leaders are hence unable to visit the parents of 
Youth members who live in these streets. The Youth 
themselves, however, are being incited by the so called 
bundisch (youth movement) youth. They are either failing to 
turn up for duty or seeking to disrupt it." (Hitler Youth report 
to the Gestapo 1942). 

"It has recently been established that members of the armed 
forces are to be found among them (the youth gangs), and they 
exploit their membership of the Wehrmacht to display a 
particularly arrogant demeanor. There is a suspicion that it is 

these youths who have been inscribing the walls of the 
pedestrian subway... with the slogans 'Down with Hitler', 'The 
OKW (military high command) is lying', 'medals for murder' 
and 'Down with Nazi brutality' etc. However often these 
inscriptions are removed, within a few days new ones appear 
on the walls again." (National Socialist Party Branch report to 
the Gestapo 1943). 

It appears that the authority's response to the Pirates was 
confused at the start, some seeing them as "delinquents who 
would grow out of it". However as confrontations and incidents 
(and Hitler Youth casualties) increased, the authorities took 
the situation more seriously and repression of the Pirate 
groups escalated. 

Against the sophisticated terror of the Nazi state the only 
advantage that the gangs had were their numbers and their 
ability to retreat into "normal" life. Despite this thousands of 
Pirates were rounded up in repressive measures which for 
some ended in the youth concentration camps or public 

For example, on the 7 December 1942 the Gestapo bloke up 
twenty-eight (28) groups with a total of some 130 members. 
However, the activities of the Pirates continued (and in some 
cases escalated). 

The Cologne Pirates had joined an underground group which 
sheltered army deserters, concentration camp prisoners and 
forced laborers. They made armed raids on military depots and 
took part in partisan fighting. The chief of the Cologne Gestapo 
fell victim to the Pirates in the autumn of 1944. In November 
1944 the Nazi's publicly hanged members of the Cologne 
Edelweiss Pirates.