Bless my homeland forever
March 9, 2005 8:58 PM   Subscribe

The Edelweiss Pirates - Not all German kids joined the Hitler Youth in the 1930's and 40's. A loosely-knit group of thousands of working-class teenagers called the Edelweiss Pirates existed in Cologne and nearby towns. Growing out of a youth hiking group (rather than swing dancing), they created their own anti-Nazi subculture through clothing and protest music. Many were arrested for tagging the city with anti-Nazi graffiti and working with the Underground--and they eventually killed the head of the Cologne Gestapo in 1944. Orders to root them out came from Himmler himself, and some were hung in the streets or killed in the camps. Their story is now being told in a film playing at film festivals around the world, including its European premiere in Berlin a few weeks ago. But the surviving members' criminal records officially remain on the books in Germany.
posted by Asparagirl (42 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
There's a emi-official homepage for the group, which I should have linked to. And Jean Jülich, one of the Edelweiss Pirates, is still involved with the pro-freedom movement even today, and his memoirs are out (in German), as are Fritz Theilen's. One of their songs is available online here (automatically-playing music warning), with lyrics on the side of the page.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:12 PM on March 9, 2005

That should be semi-official. And a hat-tip to the blog The Rhine River, whose author is writing his dissertation on Cologne, for making me aware of the group's existence in the first place.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:17 PM on March 9, 2005

Damn, already a band with the same name
posted by destro at 9:23 PM on March 9, 2005

[this is cool]
posted by notsnot at 9:51 PM on March 9, 2005

Great links! See also the White Rose group.
posted by scody at 10:15 PM on March 9, 2005

So any knowledge on whether they are related at all to the song from the Sound of Music?
posted by Ironmouth at 10:35 PM on March 9, 2005

"But the surviving members' criminal records officially remain on the books in Germany."

So? So what?

So do the records of criminals in this country who refused to keep their protests inside Designated Free Speech Zones during the Clinton and Bush II presidencies, and at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, and those Christian fundamentalists who said mean things at the Philadelphia Gay Pride Day.

You commit the crime, you keep the record, otherwise social order would completely break down.

And don't give me any of that crap about "higher law", whether you're invoking the Constitution, John Locke, or God. Those are just excuses made by right wing militia men, domestic terrorists both left and right, and lefty clowns who actually tell their followers that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.

This contempt for law and order and following rules and established authority is un-American and destroying our country. Did you know one of our national holidays actually celebrates a rabble rouser who spent time in the Birmingham Jail?

Should his record be expunged? I don't think so!

So STFU you weak on crime libruls.
posted by orthogonality at 10:38 PM on March 9, 2005

this is way cool, asparagirl.
posted by 3.2.3 at 10:45 PM on March 9, 2005

wow. i'd never heard of the Edelweiss Pirates before. awesome.
posted by ella minnow pea at 10:48 PM on March 9, 2005

What tremendous courage these men had. Insanely great post, Asparagirl!
posted by LarryC at 11:07 PM on March 9, 2005

Pretty much the very definition of "the kids are all right."

Great post.
posted by Drastic at 11:15 PM on March 9, 2005

Good good post. Fascinating, serious subject...
but I just can't help asking if this means we'll have to do German accents on this year's Talk Like a Pirate Day (an Official MetaFilter Holiday).
posted by wendell at 11:21 PM on March 9, 2005

In an odd bit of serendipity, I recently finished reading Günter Grass' The Tin Drum, and was wanting to know more about the Edelweiss Pirates of Cologne. Thanks Asparagirl!
posted by Ritchie at 11:51 PM on March 9, 2005

Heeey, I was going to mention Grass, and that the Pirates had probably inspired the fictional Dusters. But Grass was from Danzig, not Cologne, and the book takes place in Danzig too; maybe they had their own local version of a similar group there?

(I have not actually read the book...yet. But damn, can I Google!)
posted by Asparagirl at 11:58 PM on March 9, 2005

[this is rocks]

thank you.
posted by dorian at 12:24 AM on March 10, 2005

There is a city named Cologne?
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:51 AM on March 10, 2005

Excellent post, excellent topic - thanks Asparagirl.
posted by madamjujujive at 3:14 AM on March 10, 2005

TwelveTwo - The German name for it is Köln.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:45 AM on March 10, 2005

There is a city named Cologne?
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:51 AM PST on March 10 [!]

Yes, named after an unsuccessful Cologne named City.
posted by Shane at 8:49 AM on March 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

Some were hanged.
posted by bardic at 8:52 AM on March 10, 2005

but I just can't help asking if this means we'll have to do German accents on this year's Talk Like a Pirate Day (an Official MetaFilter Holiday).

Yar-wohl, mein captain!
posted by y2karl at 9:05 AM on March 10, 2005

The picture of three of the boys who were hanged on the Wikipedia link is heartbreaking. The one on the right especially looks like just a little boy.

Fascinating look into a little known aspect of German history, Asparagirl.

I can't imagine that their criminal records have really handicapped them. All they would have had to do was show the records stating they committed "crimes" against the Nazi order. But yes, they should have been cleared.
posted by orange swan at 9:05 AM on March 10, 2005

excellent post -- thanks, Asparagirl
posted by matteo at 9:07 AM on March 10, 2005

I'm always amazed by partisan organizations carrying out operations under friendly fire. Particularly under the withering fire of a thousand British visitors. No time for headaches, boys!

Thank you for the links, asparagirl. I'm looking forward to the movie.
posted by breezeway at 9:20 AM on March 10, 2005

Excellent post, thank you. Note the last paragraph in the first article:

The rehabilitation of the Edelweiss pirates has once again touched upon the sense of collective post war guilt in Germany. While many argue that it’s important to regain a stronger sense of self consciousness by acknowledging that there was a resistance against the Nazis, others caution against a tendency to focus on those exceptions at the risk of forgetting the greater proportion of the population who did nothing.

...Although we all tend to identify with the courageous resistance, it's important to remember that the stronger human tendency is to social conformity. Resisters are the exception (and thus, really worthy of study and remembrance).

Can't pass up the opportunity to mention the Zazous, a group of French kids who used their interest in swing as a form of resistance to Nazi occupation,
posted by Miko at 9:27 AM on March 10, 2005

It's great to see that not all the Germans of that period were "good little Nazi citizens."
Fighting fascism and nationalism in their midst makes these kids true heroes.
I bet they refused to stand in the classroom and salute Der Fuerher! :-) (but did the teacher dump them out of their chair?)
posted by nofundy at 9:28 AM on March 10, 2005

Second the book by Grass as worth reading.
posted by nofundy at 9:29 AM on March 10, 2005

More history I did not know.

Which is always cause for thanks
posted by IndigoJones at 9:44 AM on March 10, 2005

This is very cool. All I can say to this is

Swing Heil!
posted by dios at 9:49 AM on March 10, 2005

Thank you, Asparagirl. That song, in particular, cuts me to the quick.
posted by jann at 10:13 AM on March 10, 2005

Did anyone else read the Umberto Eco short story in the March 7 New Yorker? It's sort of related - it's about people working against Fascism in Italy during WWII. I would expect that there was a similar movement (or several) in every fascist country of the time. Fascinating stuff.

swing heil!
posted by salad spork at 10:48 AM on March 10, 2005

great, inspiring, view-of-history-affecting post - thanks!
posted by freebird at 10:59 AM on March 10, 2005

This is really interesting. I can't believe I'd never heard of them before reading this post.
posted by Kellydamnit at 12:02 PM on March 10, 2005

Shall we consider branding the similar group that will oppose the emerging american fascist regime...
I vote for "The Aspen Slackers"

[awesome post]
posted by badkarmaboy at 12:54 PM on March 10, 2005

The Rhine River, the blog where I first read about the Edelweiss Pirates, has apparently noticed all the traffic to his blog from this page and has written a very informative new post about the group.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:23 PM on March 10, 2005

Absolutely cracking post. Thanks Asparagirl. I remember the Swing Kids from GCSE History, but not the Pirates.

(Not entirely unrelated: I was at a rockabilly nightclub recently, and there was a crew of Glaswegian girls done up in Zazou style, right down to the brollies. God knows where they got that from.)
posted by jack_mo at 5:49 PM on March 10, 2005

I would love to have seen that (the Zazou girls). It's time for a comeback.
posted by Miko at 6:03 PM on March 10, 2005

First class post. While visiting Cologne last year, I learned that one of the few buildings left standing after the Allied bombing was the cathedral, shown in the picture on the Rhine River page. It was used as a navigational aid and was spared.
posted by fixedgear at 3:31 AM on March 11, 2005

This is an awesome post. I enjoyed reading. I only knew about die Weisse Rose, and hadn't heard about die Edelweisspiraten.
posted by yueni at 9:19 PM on March 11, 2005

Just wanted to give my thanks too -- this was excellent, Asparagirl.
posted by melissa may at 11:01 PM on March 11, 2005

I can't believe orthogonality's take on this.
Asparagirl's wonderful post is talking about expunging public records of people who actively resisted THE nazi regime - you know... that one with HITLER at the helm? The pedestrian stunts carried out by citizens in the world's biggest democracy aren't comparable. In any event there was no hollering by the poster or in the linked articles in that direction.
Sheesh! Talk about preemptive scuttlebutt.

if you try to kill all the people you're bound to wound your enemies
posted by peacay at 8:24 AM on March 13, 2005

I've only just gotten through all this. Excellent post, Asparagirl. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by .kobayashi. at 2:54 PM on March 14, 2005

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