By 1944, Germany’s war was faltering. So in a last-ditch attempt to turn things around, Henrich Himmler came up with a plan. Himmler had studied Soviet sabotage tactics earlier in the war and was confident that he could now apply them to Germany’s advantage. So he set up squads of young assassins that were sent beyond enemy lines into former German-held territories to erode the Allies’ authority.
This group of last-minute assassins was known as Hitler’s Werwolves. Himmler recruited them from 5,000 elite volunteers from the Hitler Youth and the Waffen SS. The Werwolves were hastily trained up in covert activities. They were taught to make makeshift explosives, create diversions with arson and move with stealth. They also learned unarmed combat, including how to strangle a target with a piece of string.
The most remarkable and shocking aspect of the Werwolves was that many of them were children- some as young as ten. Indoctrinated with Nazi ideals in the Hitler Youth, these young operatives were easy to manipulate- and had the advantage of blending in smoothly with the general civilian population.
Operation Werewolf, as it was known began in early 1945. Operatives started hiding weapons caches around their regions for future use. They also began to take out critical official targets in Allied-held towns. One of the most famous assassinations was of Franz Oppenhoff; a German lawyer put in charge of the town of Aachen on the German border with Belgium and the Netherlands.
However, overall, the operation was not a success. The assassinations achieved little and Allied forces discovered the weapons caches before the Werwolves could put them to use. The Werwolves were just too little too late. Ill-prepared, poorly trained and too young and inexperienced, they were little more than a last-minute desperate measure by a failing regime.