Wolfsangel

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Heraldic designs known in German as Wolfsangel.
Heraldic design known in German as Wolfsangel.
Heraldic design known in German as Wolfsangel.

The Wolfsangel (German pronunciation: [ˈvɔlfsˌʔaŋəl]) is a German term for certain heraldic charges:

  • the design also known as hameçon or hameçon de loup, a half-moon shape with a ring, also known as Wolfsanker ("wolf-anchor")
  • the design known as cramp or crampon in English, also called Doppelhaken "double-hook"
  • a crampon with a ring at the center
  • a crampon with a transversal stroke at the center

All of these symbols are still found in a number of municipal coats of arms in Germany. The crampon is also found as a mason's mark in medieval stonework.

The name means "wolf-hook" and is taken to be a stylized representation of a kind of iron hook historically used as a wolf trap.[1]

In English, the term mostly refers to the latter symbol, mainly due to its use in Nazi symbolism. The association with Nazism is possibly due to the occurrence of the symbol in Hermann Löns's 1910 novel Der Wehrwolf, where the protagonist, a resistance fighter during the Thirty Years' War, adopts the symbol as his personal badge.

While the symbol itself bears a parallel to the Eihwaz rune, none of the modern symbols now called the Wolfsangel are historically part of any runic alphabet.

Heraldry[edit]

The name Wolfsangel appears in a 1714 heraldic handbook, Wappenkunst, associated with a symbol distinct from the one now known under this name:

Wolffs-Angel, frantz. hamecon, lat. uncus quo lupi capiuntur, ist die Form eines halben Mondes und hat inwendig in der Mitte einen Ring.
"Wolffs-Angel, French hamecon, Latin uncus quo lupi capiuntur ("hook with which wolves are caught"), is the shape of a crescent moon with a ring inside, at mid-height"

The above quote, although, written for the Wolfsangel is referring to the Anchor (see below) for the Wolfsangel and not the Wolfsangel or "Wolf's-hook" proper.

In modern German-language heraldic terminology, the name Wolfsangel is de facto used for a variety of heraldic charges, including

  • the hameçon described above, a half-moon shape with a ring (also called Wolfsanker and Wolfshaken).
  • the cramp or crampon, a Z shape or double-hook symbol (also called Mauerhaken or Doppelhaken)
  • a Z or double-hook symbol with a ring or transversal stroke at the center. It is only this symbol that also goes under the name "Wolfsangel" in the context of Neo-Nazism and occultism.

The crampon symbol is found comparatively frequently in municipal coats of arms in Germany, where it is often identified as "Wolfsangel". The "crampon with central stroke" design is more rare, but is still found in about a dozen contemporary municipal coats of arms. The French town of Wolfisheim, in the Alsace region of France has a "Wolfsangel" in its coat of arms.

As boundary marker and "forestry symbol"[edit]

The Wolfsangel on an old field boundary stone in the Deister in Lower Saxony.

In a 1616 boundary treaty concluded between Hesse and Brunswick-Lüneburg was the Brunswick boundary marker called Wulffsangel. It was used not only on landmarks, but there is also evidence of its use in correspondence from the Forest Services in 1674.

Later the Wolfsangel was also used as a symbol on forest uniforms. In a document of 1792 regarding new uniforms, chief forester Adolf Friedrich von Stralenheim suggested a design for uniform buttons including the letters "GR" and a symbol similar to the Wolfsangel, which he called Forstzeichen.

Later the Wolfsangel was also worn as a single badge in brass caps on the service and on the buttons of the Hanoverian forest supervisor. In Brunswick it was prescribed for private forest and gamekeepers also as badge on the bonnet.[2]

The Wolfsangel is still used the various forest districts in Lower Saxony as a boundary marker, and it is part of the emblem of the state of Lower Saxony and the hunters' association Hirschmann, dedicated to the breeding and training of Hanover Hounds.

As a nationalist or Nazi symbol[edit]

Der Wehrwolf[edit]

In 1910, Hermann Löns published a classic fiction book titled Der Wehrwolf (later published as Harm Wulf, a peasant chronicle and The Warwolf in English) set in a 17th-century German farming community during the Thirty Years' War. The main character of the book, Harm Wulf, adopts the wolfsangel as a badge against the occupying forces of the ruling princes. Some printings of this book, such as the 1940 edition, showcase a very visible wolfsangel on the book cover.It also features on his gravestone.

Nazi Germany[edit]

The emblems of the National Socialist movement in the Netherlands (1931–1936) and the 34th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Landstorm Nederland (1943–1945)
Nazi politician from Erdmannsdorf in Sachsen with wife and 12 children dressed in uniforms 1943. The youngest girls have Wolfsangel symbols on their dresses; a sign for members in NS-Frauenschaft's Deutsche Kinderschar for children 6–10. Other uniforms are from Wehrmacht, Reichsarbeitsdienst, Hitlerjugend and Bund Deutscher Mädel.

In Nazi Germany, the Wolfsangel was used by:

Post-WWII use[edit]

After World War II, the symbol was used by some Neo-Nazi organizations, but public exhibition of the symbol is illegal in Germany if a connection with one of these groups is apparent.[4][5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ No surviving specimens of such hooks were known prior to 2009, when excavations at the Falkenburg ruin in Detmold yielded more than 25 wolf hooks dated to the 13th century. Press release of the Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe, 30 October 2009.
  2. ^ Gerhard Große Löscher: Die Wolfsangel als Forst- und Jagdzeichen in Niedersachsen. In: Jürgen Delfs u. a.: Jagd in der Lüneburger Heide. Beiträge zur Jagdgeschichte. Celle 2006, ISBN 3-925902-59-7, 238–239
  3. ^ Watt, Roderick (October 1992). "Wehrwolf or Werwolf? Literature, Legend, or Lexical Error into Nazi Propaganda?". The Modern Language Review 87 (4). "A study of the iconography of German nationalist groups between the wars and then of Nazi party, military, and paramilitary organizations from 1933 to 1945 proves beyond doubt that the 'Wolfsangel' symbol was widely, even indiscriminately used by them long before the formation of the Nazi Werwolfmovement at the end of the war. Wolfsangel, if at all translatable, means, or at least originally meant, 'wolf trap', an instrument which is a threat to the wolf. Yet both Lons and the Nazis used it as a menacing symbol of intimidation representing the savage and relentless ferocity of the wolf… In the late summer or early autumn of I944, when it was clear that Germany was committed to a European land war on two fronts, Reichsfiihrer-SHSe inrich Himmler initiated UnternehmeWn erwolf,o rdering SS-ObergruppenfiihrPerru tzmann to begin organizing an elite troop of volunteer special forces to operate secretly behind enemy lines. As originally conceived at this stage, these Werwoluf nits were intended to be legitimate, uniformed military formations, trained to engage in clandestine operations behind enemy lines in support of the normal front-line activity of the regular army. Recruiting and training proceeded for several months, but the operational impact of these units seems to have been minimal. This Himmler-Priitzmann Werwolfwas never envisaged as an underground resistance group dedicated to the use of terrorism, subversion, and intimidation for keeping Nazi idealogy alive after an Allied victory. By March 1945, faced with imminent defeat, the party hierarchy, in the persons of Martin Bormann andJoseph Goebbels, was becoming increasingly frustrated at the failure of Priitzmann's Werwolft o achieve any significant military results, and they decided to usurp the name of the formation, if not the actual troops themselves. Bormann seems to have been the organizational force behind this development, while Goebbels provided the ideological propaganda for the new movement. The first intimation that the German public and the Allies received of this differently conceived Werwolfwas the inflammatory radio appeal with which Goebbels inaugurated his new Werwolf-Sendeorn I April 1945. With obvious relish and calculated rhetorical appeal he employed bloodthirsty slogans such as 'HaB ist unser Gebet und Rache unser Feldgeschrei' to incite the party faithful to a frenzy of terrorist activity against enemies of the Reich, be they the occupying Allied forces or the internal enemies Goebbels saw in his fellow Germans who did not share the party's diehard fanaticism.16 With this Werwolf-AufrufofI April I945 Goebbels deliberately, successfully, and irrevocably identified the term Werwolfin the public mind with a fanatical, politically inspired resistance group pledged to sustain Nazi values and ideology at all costs, if necessary even after an Allied victory. The original Himmler-Priitzmann conception of a legitimate, albeit clandestine, military formation was now superseded by that of a publicly proclaimed, politically motivated, and, under international law, criminal terrorist organization." 
  4. ^ "In Deutschland verbotene Zeichen und Symbole". Informations- und Dokumentationszentrum für Antirassismusarbeit in Nordrhein-Westfalen. 
  5. ^ "Gruppierungen auf dem Index". Programm Polizeiliche Kriminalprävention. 

Sources[edit]

  • K. von Alberti, Die sogenannte Wolfsangel in der Heraldik, Südwestdeutsche Blätter für Familien und Wappenkunde 1960, p. 89.
  • H. Horstmann, Die Wolfsangel als Jagdgerät und Wappenbild, Vj. Bl. d. Trierer Gesellschaft für nützliche Forschungen, 1955.

External links[edit]