The first The Edelweiss Pirates appeared in the 1930’s as a youth rebellion against the Hitler Youth movement of National Socialism. The groups often had different names depending on the city or neighborhood. The “Traveling Dudes” (Essen); the Navajos (Cologne). Regardless of their name, they were a natural reaction to the stringent oppressiveness of National Socialism.


The groups usually consisted of middle or working class youths (many groups also included girls) usually between the ages of 15 and 18. They often identified themselves with checkered clothing, Lederhosen adorned with pins or badges, although, unlike the Hitler Youth, they were not particularly militaristic.


Hitler Youth Propaganda Poster

Hitler Youth Propaganda Poster

While they would occasionally clash with the hated “Hitler Youth”, the majority of their energies was spent on passive resistance, such as refusing to partake in Hitler Youth activities, camping trips in violation of travel restrictions and singing the Negro Jazz and Blues songs instead of the Party Songs.


Certain groups went further and actively defaced government property, spread anti-Nazi propaganda or aided military deserters.


Surprisingly they were largely tolerated, if not loved, by Hitler’s police for many years. As the War progressed, they came under more scrutiny from the Gestapo. Many hundreds were brutally beaten, threatened or had their heads shaved.


In some instances members who actively attacked the state were imprisoned or executed.


A certain level of courage was required to be a Edelweiss Pirate.


Execution of Pirates - Cologne

Execution of Pirates – Cologne