Wehrwolf (also spelled Wehrwölfe or Werwolf) was a Nazi conspiracy that was developed to fight against the victorious powers using guerilla tactics after the defeat of the Nazi government at the end of World War II. It was named after werewolves, shape-shifting monsters.
The original plan for Werwolf was to act as a guerilla force to harry the logistic trains of Allied armies preparing to assault the Nazi's "Alpine National Redoubt". It originally had about 5,000 members recruited from the SS and Hitler Youth, and specially trained in guerilla tactics. It even went so far as to establish front companies to ensure continued funding after occupation (all were discovered and shut down within eight months). However as it became increasingly clear that the Alpine Redoubt was yet another grandiose delusion, Werwolf was converted first into a terrorist organisation, and then largely dismantled by Heinrich Himmler and Wilhelm Keitel in the last few weeks of the war. On 23 March 1945 Adolf Hitler gave a speech, known as the "Werwolf speech", in which he urged every German to fight to the death. The partial dismantling of the organised Werwolf, combined with the effects of the "Werwolf" speech caused considerable confusion about which subsequent attacks were actual Werwolf attacks, as against solo acts by fanatical Nazis or small groups of SS.
Typical Werwolf tactics included sniping attacks, arson, sabotage, and assassination although in Poland they also carried out massacres of civilians, and a few substantial attacks against Soviet troops. Their most costly single attack in the western zones of occupation was a bombing which killed 44 persons. Their most prominent victims were Dr. Franz Oppenhoff (the new anti-Nazi mayor of Aachen and most prominent democratic politician left in Germany), Major John Poston (Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's liaison officer) and (possibly) General Berzarin (Soviet commandant of Berlin). (Their radio propaganda also claimed the assassination of General Maurice Rose (the most senior Jewish US officer), though it is more likely his killers were ordinary soldiers who had no idea who he was).
One often overlooked aspect of Werwolf is that the Hitler Youth component was also responsible for developing a new political youth movement which was intended to outlast the war, and which was called "neo-Nazism". Some current German neo-Nazi groups refer to themselves as Werwolf, although the association is probably fanciful.
On 25th August 2003, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld compared the problems faced by US troops then in Iraq, to those faced by US troops in post-World War II Germany. In particular, they mentioned Wehrwolf. Subsequently former Clinton staffer Daniel Benjamin wrote an essay where he attacked these remarks and claimed "Werwolf amounted to next to nothing." Although widely quoted in the media, Benjamin's views have been rejected by several historians of the period. The more conventional view is that while Werwolf was too disorganised to provide any significant military impediment to the occupiers, it delayed economic reconstruction and democritisation by three or four years.