By 1944, Cologne, and especially the Ehrenfeld district, had been in many parts reduced to rubble by the Allied bombing campaign. This provided ample opportunities for resistance members fighting Hitler or other refugees to hide out from the authorities. One of these was Hans Steinbrück, an escaped concentration camp prisoner. He allied himself with a group of local youths who were part of the so-called Edelweißpiraten, a loosely knit youth-group that had been organised to oppose the predominance of the Hitler Youth.
The group gathered weapons and started doing food raids and also engaged in firefights with Nazi authorities. They were however quickly apprehended, and by October 15, all members of the group had been arrested. Thirteen of those members, including several teenagers and Hans Steinbrück, were executed without trial in a public hanging next to the Ehrenfeld train station on November 10, 1944.
Today, the Edelweißpiraten from Ehrenfeld are remembered here by memorial plaques and murals next to the train station. But maybe even more important is the annual Edelweißpiratenfestival, a music and culture festival held in the Friedenspark in the south of the city. One of their song lyrics, sung then and now goes:
The power of Hitler makes us small;
we still lie bound and chained.
But one day we will be free again,
we are about to break the chains.