Name: The Wehrwolf
Author: Alma Katsu
Number of Pages: 79 (Kindle)
Published: September 29th 2022 by Amazon Original Stories
Genre: Short Story, Horror, Historical
Germany, 1945. In the waning days of World War II, the Nazis have been all but defeated. Uwe Fuchs, never a fighter, feels fortunate to have avoided the front lines as he cared for his widowed mother.
But Uwe’s fortune changes when Hans Sauer, the village bully, recruits him to join a guerilla resistance unit preparing for the arrival of Allied soldiers. At first, Uwe is wary. The war is lost, and rumor has it that Hans is a deserter. But Hans entices him with talk of power, brutality, and their village’s ancestral lore: werewolves.
With some reluctance, Uwe joins up with the pack and soon witnesses their startling transformation. But when the men’s violent rampage against enemy soldiers takes a devastatingly personal turn, Uwe must grapple not only with his role in their evil acts but with his own humanity. Can he reclaim what this group of predatory men has stolen from him?
Or has he been a monster all along?
The Wehrwolf is a short story by Alma Katsu. I don’t tend to read many short stories but I’m glad I picked this one up as it’s introduced a new-to-me author whose works I would certainly be interested in discovering.
Katsu packs a lot into a short number of pages.
The story plays out in a vividly created setting of a village community where the inhabitants are living in fear, suspicion and uncertainty.
Rumours about what is to come fuels fear, which spreads among the people, making usually mild-mannered, decent folk make choices they would never otherwise have made.
Events in the village only serve to heighten this fear.
The issue of choices and consequences is explored here as Uwe ends up personally affected by his choices, but there are also repercussions for those he cares about.
Uwe is a well-developed character, a decent man in a seemingly impossible situation with a great desire to defend his family and his home. His peers put pressure on him, and he’s deceived until the last moment as to exactly what is going on, at which point he doesn’t really have the option to just walk away.
Hans Sauer is a bully and is driven by nothing but ill-intent. He’s the leader of a group who claim to be defending their homes and families, and it becomes hard for Uwe to resist, even though it’s clear there’s more to what is going on than the group first claim.
And, of course, there are werewolves, given an origin story here that I’d never come across before, although I’ve probably not read that many werewolf stories.
So, a lot going on in this engaging read which is perfect for the darker nights of autumn. Glad I picked this one up and I’d like to read another Alma Katsu book in the future.