Thursday, 24 March 2011

Remembering the Wandervogel

The Fashionable Rent Boy Gangs That Terrorized the Nazis

by Jon Savage, from Vice Magazine.

Edelweiss Pirates
You thought that youth culture began after the Second World War, but it didn’t. In fact, the story goes back to the late 19th century, when urban gangs in American and Northern Europe began to attract outraged press attention through their behavior and dress: the Hooligans in London, the Apaches in Paris, the Scuttlers in Manchester, and the Hudson Dusters in Manhattan...

After the First World War, the Wandervogel split into many different groups and factions, ranging from the proto-hippies of the Ascona commune to the proto-fascist White Knights...

The Nazi regime had been at its weakest in the German industrial heartland, the Rhine-Ruhr region, and in the early war years neighborhood gangs in those big cites began to form with the express intention of avoiding Hitler Youth service. They were given the generic name of Edelweiss Pirates—like the Ring gangs, they had taken edelweiss badges as their insignias—and had fabulous names like the Shambeko Band (Düsseldorf) or the Navajos (Cologne)...

Inevitably, the Edelweiss Pirates came into conflict with the Hitler Youth, and when they did, they would clobber them. In 1941, a youth worker noted that “they are everywhere. There are more of them than there are Hitler Youth. And they all know each other, they stick close together. They beat up the patrols, because there are so many of them. They never take no for an answer.”

Read On....

See also 1939-1945: The Edelweiss Pirates at

We march by banks of Ruhr and Rhine / And smash the Hitler Youth in twain / Our song is freedom, love and life / We’re the Pirates of the Edelweiss.


  1. This is such an interesting subject, but so hard to really get an accurate picture of. The subject always seems to be in some way mediated. In this case Savage's article is essentially a fickle and romantised fashion/youth culture piece and the libcom article is ideological and almost polemic. It does give some enlightening context though, particularly in relation to the labour market and the Hitler Youth.
    And it's impossible not to be moved and reassured by the idea that young people actively stood up the National Socialism in Germany in the 30's and 40's, and died doing so.

  2. Whilst I cannot comment on the German gangs, I do know that the British criminal gangs/secret societies of the 18th Century, e.g. the Mohocks, Damned Crew and the Demoniacs, were a bunch of drunken dysfunctional 20yr olds (often those who had returned from travelling and could not reintegrate into society) who pretty much picked on anyone and would not infrequently beat people to death, just for the hell of it - but never robbing anyone and leaving victims in a pool of blood with all their belongings still intact. This type of criminality provoked a Christian church lobby backlash, that resulted in what we see today as the modern police force - prior to that, the police did not really exist in this form at all. This drive by Christian churches also resulted in Freemasonry adopting some Christian symbols and practices, to make itself seem more acceptable and to distance itself from these secret societies. There may be parallels to these German gangs of the 20th Century but at the end of the day they are still hooligans who did not just beat up Hitler Youth. Beating up people you don't like is very similar to today's bonehead Neo-Nazis. Not particularly clever imo. I am not sure beating up Hitler Youth really achieved anything politically but I am sure the people concerned enjoyed it!!

  3. I'm sure had it existed back in the day of the Mohocks et al they too would have listened to neofolk. Nasty business!

  4. The White Rose, anyone?


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