The Warwolf


of an extended commentary on the book

The Warwolf

A Peasant Chronicle of the Thirty Years War

by Hermann Löns

as translated by Robert Kvinnesland

(Westholme, 2006)

Figure 13, rabble of farmers turned around

Incursions by units of armies moving through and sending out raiding parties to bring supplies to the main force continued, as did frequent bands of marauders without any links to armies. Deserters, perhaps living off the land by violent means as they made their way to wherever they were heading. Also, unfortunately, there were bans of displaced farmers and peasants roaming the area seeking the means to survive. The Warwolves stayed very busy. And the territory defended grew by adjoining farm communities being added in to the brotherhood. But to cut down on their killing business they posted warning signs at the periphery of their township that said:

The Warwolves are we,

Three-hundred and thirty-three,

Interlopers, beware our might,

We don’t bark first, we just bite!

They also, at the periphery, set up large hanging sites with interlopers hung for the crows to feast on, all to warn off interlopers.

Then came a group of 60 men and 40 women, farmers running away from hostilities and violence. The Warwolves did not want to kill them, so their leader in the field, Drewes,now quite old, went to try to persuade them to not enter their township saying: “People, I give you good advice! Stay away from here . . .the world is big enough!” The leader of the group answered him: “Then make way for us!” and shot Drewes in the abdomen. At that point the hidden Warwolves came into the open and killed a third of them, uncharacteristically allowing the other two-thirds to escape. Drewes was taken home by Harm and nursed back to health by his wife Johanna.

Johanna was now often weak and sickly, so while Drewes was slowly recuperating they brought his youngest daughter, Wieschen, in to help tend to him and also to help Johanna with the babies who were now playful and active children. Wieschen is a girl who had been smitten with Harm since childhood. Johanna figured this out. The girl paid special attention to the baby boy who looked like Harm, that was one clue to Johanna. The girl stammered and looked down and her ears turned red whenever she was near Harm, was another clue for Johanna. Johanna spoke with the girl. She asked Wieschen to take her place as the two babies’ mother, because she would die soon of a heart ailment that had almost taken her several times already. Johanna never told Harm, but she told the new preacher that had come to town of her request, and also Harm’s previous father in-law, with whom she had developed a sound father-daughter relationship.

The day came very quickly thereafter that Johanna died. Harm was despondent and the girl, Wieschen, remained as the babies’ caretaker. He treated her as a special member of the household staff in charge of his children, nothing more, until almost two years had passed and they began to move toward becoming more than just employer and employee.

Figure 14, preacher and everyone in their finest but outdoors

During this time regular church services had been restored to the community, but they were held outdoors at Harm’s farmstead. At the first service there was much emotional release as this sign of a return to normalcy struck home to the people. The preacher relived his audience greatly by emphasizing that scripture justified them in picking up their weapons of war in self-defense. Women reacted differently than the men to this, but the net result is that both felt somewhat relieved of some of the guilt burden they had been carrying.

After a relatively short time with outdoor services, Harm and the preacher started a building fund for making a church, and people donated from the stash of riches they had taken off dead soldiers and others in such a plentiful manner, further reliving guilt, that artisans were hired from some distance away and the church was finished in a very short time. It was not a grand edifice by any means, but it was a church, with a roof.

On its corners the a double wolf-rune, one turned 90 degrees and placed on top of the other (an early swastika!) was placed between two wolf-runes. These shapes were carved into stone as a permanent reminder of these war years and their self-defenses. They saw this church lasting much longer than the war, in other words.

Figure 15, Harm marries third wife

Several weddings occurred, with no fanfare or wild parties because of the nature of the times. The one of most interest and with the largest attendance was the marriage between Harm and Wieschen. The preacher made over this wedding as a symbol, as a promise for the brighter future that was sure to come.

Figure 16, ambush of cavalry with armor

But just as the wolf-rune in the sky foretold, there were more bad days ahead. The Swedish king had died and apparently the Swedes now lacked the semi-discipline from before and had become marauders, robbers, rapists and killers rather than an army with a purpose. The Swedes sent an unusually large unit to wipe out the by now renowned local militia and take whatever supplies they were defending. The Warwolf spy network reported their strength and marching path, and an ambush was quickly set up with 4-way crossfire and the bulk of the Warwolves ready to enter the fray at the right moment. That right moment came when the Swedes’ cavalry broke through and were about to turn up behind the defenders’ lines. Then the bulk of the Warwolves entered in meeting both soldiers and hastily-returning cavalry. Many Swedish soldiers were in full armor, and carried long swords, and pistols (pistols are not very useful in a melee of one-on-one fighting). In the end the Warwolves prevailed, killed them all. They knew this exploit would earn them a really large force to reckon with.

But they had been preparing for this day, they had built a wooden fort, with a deep moat with sharply pointed vertical poles standing under the water.

Figure 17, routing the Swedes, with bees, at the fort

They came home and started taking provisions to the fort, and then when the spies sent the signals meaning a large force was coming, and that this time it was mostly uniformed professional soldiers, they evacuated everyone into the fort. The Swedes lost several persons right away when they jumped into the moat to swim across and found themselves impaled. They immediately started chopping down trees and building a floating bridge. As the bridge was made longer it was pushed across the water. When it reached the fort, sharp shooters among the defenders picked off the attackers as the came onto the bridge, sending them onto the watery stakes if they fell off the bridge.

But there were so many Swedes that this was not a sustainable defense, and Swedish riflemen were cutting down any defenders that looked for more than a few seconds over the row of tree trunks that was the fort’s wall. So Harm ordered the beekeepers to don their black protective gear and had his best thrower use a long pole to lob angry bees, angry because a sharp end of the pole had just intruded into their hive, across the moat at the attackers. It took some time before they heard angry buzzing and cries of pain rather than guns discharging. The Swedes’ horses panicked and broke free and ran, leaving the painfully afflicted Swedish troops to retreat on foot .

About this time the horn-blowing signals from Warwolf forces who had been alerted in towns farther away came into hearing range and the Swedish force was summarily decimated.

The Warwolves rued the loss of their entire honey crop, and started talking about what would happen next. Surely the entire Swedish army would now come their way!

But instead they heard of the peace agreement signed in Westphalia. The war was over and they could hang their weapons back over their hearths and pay attention to having and rearing children again! And this they did, with many births after the war, including Harm’s and Wieschen’s two, coming as twins.

The world would never be the same again. The Duke awarded a medal to Harm for his organizing an effective resistance.

The Kvinnesland translation of Löns then follows Harm’s offspring into the days of the creation of a unified country called Germany.

Now I can see why the Löns book was a bestseller. It showed the realistic side of war, the local suffering under whatever side was winning locally at the time. It also showed the very unfortunate but understandable extension of self-defense to incursions by their peers. When having enough food to live becomes the concern, any person seeking to take away food becomes a mortal enemy. But even when there is enough food, hordes of starving refugees are still potentially overwhelming and are also, sadly, considered enemies to turn away by persuasion, or by force if that doesn’t work.

The Löns story is not particularly hate promoting toward Jews, in fact it paints them as victims of cruelty by invaders. But it does promote hatred of Gypsies big time. As already noted there may have been some revenge taken by Gypsies against their tormentors by informing for whatever army was invading, and in some cases as being complicit with, or even being themselves, robber bands? Many laws were passed against Gypsies after this war, so maybe there was some truth to these accusations, or at least there was a general perception of truth in these types of accusations.

So why did Hitler like this book and its author so much that he named his first external headquarter complex in the Ukraine the Wehrwolf. Löns was buried in a mass soldiers’ grave by the German army. His family and friends wanted to rebury him in his beloved heath. Hitler personally encouraged this reburial.

Why was he so popular with the National Socialists [Nazis]? Because his tale was a celebration of the bravery and prowess of the noble German peasant in defense of his hearth, home and family against violence and injustice. The treatment of Germany after World War I was an unqualified injustice: punishing a whole nation for its ruling class’ aggressions. Maybe this book fueled the Nazi passion for seeking "justice" in the way Harm Wulf sought it, by dealing death to all perceived enemies, and seeking to pay back those who aided and abetted the injustices dealt Germany after World War I?

Why did Himmler find inspiration in this book when he began to sense that the end of the war would see an invasion and occupation of Germany? He proposed organizing a resistance movement before that day came, and calling it the Warwolves!

And why did Schmidt, the Nazi in charge of the Dutch occupation, kill himself not long after passing out an abridged version of the Wehrwulf story? He was being ordered to face Himmler on his resistance to the severe response to an active Dutch resistance.

In my non-historians’ opinion, passing this book out to the soldiers of an occupying force would NOT enthuse those soldiers about their work. In fact it may have made them more sympathetic to the Dutch resistance. Maybe that is what Schmidt wanted to achieve, and maybe that is why he jumped out of a moving train headed to see Himmler for a dressing- down or worse over his attitude toward what had been ordered by Himmler.

My father, when I asked him what this book was all about, said it had been given him by a German soldier. He thought it was supposed to make the German soldier aware that any amount of cruelty or mayhem in service to the German nation was justified.

I don’t think so. Not after reading it. It strongly suggests that any force that takes away your food and livelihood is an adversary worthy of death. The Germans were sending Dutch foodstuffs to Germany by the trainload, with large banners on the cars saying these were ‘love gifts’ from the Dutch people. My mother swore to me she saw these trains and their banners herself while she was crossing the tracks to go to local farms to trade her meager possessions for food to keep her young son alive while her husband was a slave laborer in Germany. I was conceived when he was home on a 1 week furlough between slave- labor assignment (a story I tell elsewhere on this web site).

My point is that anyone in the German army with eyes open could see that the population they were dealing with was being brought close to starvation, very close: tulip bulbs were being eaten along with cats and dogs! Pets disappeared everywhere as the war dragged on.

So if you were a soldier enforcing this situation and were given this book, would you feel all heroic and inspired? Not if you had half the brain of a dog! No wonder Schmidt killed himself after being ordered to return to Germany and report to Himmler, after having passed out this book out to his occupation-enforcing soldiery in the Netherlands!

Go BACK to Part One of Six

Go BACK to Part Two of Six

Go BACK to Part Three of Six

Go BACK to Part Four of Six

Go BACK to Part Five of Six

 Go to the Wehrwolf story pages for which this series of pages is an extended commentary

 Go Back to the Page on Single Books Reviewed

Go Back to 2011 Yearbook Page

Go Back to ThoughtsandPlaces.Org Home Page