Monday, November 11, 2013

Edelweiss Pirates

By Lisa Karon Richardson

As a teenager I loved the movie Swing Kids. The idea of finding ways to be free even as terrible things were happening to the society. The courage to be different. Sigh. Plus there was dancing and handsome heroes. I still like that movie. It’s right up there next to Newsies. But I digress. The point is that not everyone in Germany was thrilled about the power grabs made by the National Socialist party when it came to power. But in a society where civil disobedience could get you sent to a concentration camp, resistance to the Nazi ideal was mostly subtle.

The Edelweiss Pirates were a loose group of young people who quietly (and not so quietly) rebelled. Mostly between 14-17, they loved their German heritage and in the face of the Nazis co-opting their culture, they embraced it fiercely. Boys and girls both adopted variations on traditional costumes like lederhosen and dirndls. They carried around guitars and accordions and loved to sing folk songs.

It would be easy to dismiss them as first generation hipsters. But that would be a disservice to them and to ourselves because there was so much more to the story. Don't forget that there was a whole lot more going on in their country and in their world than some political policies that they didn't particularly care for.

After 17, the young men would be conscripted into the army. By leaving school at 14, when they would have had to join the Hitler Youth, they achieved a few glorious years of freedom. Many of them made the most of their freedom assisting army deserters and others who were hiding from the Nazi regime. Others took their resistance even further and actively attacked Nazi leaders. Because the Edelweiss Pirates were more a subculture than an organized group, they have never really been recognized as an official resistance movement, but many of these young men and women paid for their stand with the lives.

I so admire the courage of these young people. It reminds me of other civil disobedience campaigns such as the suffragettes in 1917, or the civil rights movement in the 1960s. I've often wondered if I would be heroic if there ever comes a time when I must take a stand for something I believe in. I guess there's really no way of knowing in advance. I can only pray that I will have the same strength of conviction.

 Do you have a personal hero?

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, LISA KARON RICHARDSON’S early stories were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now, even though she’s (mostly) grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Vanishing Act, the second in the Charm and Deceit, series co-authored with Jennifer AlLee, released in September 2013 as did “Midnight Clear,” part of the Mistletoe Memories collection.


  1. Thanks for sharing about the Edelweiss Pirates--I am familiar with the White Rose movement which distributed anti-nazi leaflets and were martyred. Today our freedom of speech is becoming more and more under attack. So maybe it's getting time to get out the lederhosen...or something...

  2. Hey Cheryl! I know what you mean. Seems like all our rights are being redefined. Sophie Scholl, one of the White Rose members, was incredible. Think I might take a pass on the lederhosen though...

  3. I confess I wasn't familiar with the Edelweiss Pirates. Fascinating! I have the book on Bonhoeffer by Metataxas on my TBR pile...amazing story of another who took a stand.

  4. fascinating topic. amazing to think they were so young and were able to stand for something so important to them. i've never heard of them, but they deserve for people to hear about them. thanks for sharing.

  5. Susie, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is fascinating. I have a couple of his books. I think he was sent to Dachau, but it may have been one of the other camps.

  6. Hi DebH, I agree with you. Their story deserves to be told. Goes to show that age doesn't mean all that much. There was a movie made about them in 2004, but it's in German. I wonder if there are English subtitles? I'm off to Google.

  7. Wow, I have never heard of them, Lisa. Fascinating history. Did you find any estimates at the number of youth who might have identified themselves as Edelweiss Pirates? And how many died? wow. That photo is quite something.

    I havent thought so far as to pick heroes but I'd have to say Corrie Ten Boom. (that's pretty obvious, so I'll keep searching)

  8. I think that there's a novel in this story.

  9. Fascinating. Lisa agree with Dina. There's a story here. I have never heard this, and I'm also not familiar with the musical you mentioned. I wonder if its on DVD. I must watch it. Thanks for educating me! :)

  10. That is an amazing story. Wow.
    And I keep thinking of Edelweiss (the song) from the Sound of Music now. Earworm. :)


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