Ernst Röhm

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Adolf Hitler with Ernst Röhm.

Ernst Röhm (November 28, 1887-July 1, 1934) - was a friend of Adolf Hitler and an early member of the Nazi Party. He was co-founder of and later became Supreme Commander of the Sturmabteilung ("Storm Battalion") or SA.[1] He was also one of the many homosexuals who made up the higher echelons of the Nazis.[2]

Röhm had been in the military since 1906. During World War I he was twice wounded in combat and later was awarded the Iron Cross First Class. After World War I he was a member of the Socalist terror organization known as the Iron Fist. In 1919, Röhm joined the German Workers' Party, which soon became known as the Nationalsozialistche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Worker's Party - Nazi Party).[3] Many of the first party meetings took place in a beer hall that catered to homosexuals, the Bratwurstgloeckl.[4]

Röhm also formed a para-military nationalist group known as the Reichskriegsflagge (Imperial War Flag). In November 1923, the Reichskriegsflagge, in which Heinrich Himmler was a member, joined with the Nazi Party in the Beer Hall Putsch—the unsuccessful attempt by Hitler to seize power in Munich. In the aftermath, Röhm, Hitler and several others were tried, and convicted of treason.[5] However, Röhm's sentence was suspended. In 1927, German Communists leaked some of Röhm's letters which revealed his sexuality to the public and caused some loss of popularity for the Nazis at that time.[6]

During the early 1930s, Röhm's SA, with 2.9 million members, was a much larger and more powerful part of the Nazi Party than Himmler's SS ("blackshirts"). That suddenly changed in June 1934 as a result of a power struggle between the SA, which had a more radical vision than Hitler would tolerate, and a coalition of Himmler, Hermann Göring, the army and big business (see Military industrial complex). The army feared the SA would absorb it into its ranks; which is what Röhm wanted to do. Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich prepared the list of Röhm's SA associates who were executed or imprisoned in the "Night of the Long Knives" which took place between June 30 and July 2, 1934.[7] Hitler had Röhm killed as well, for fear that he would be a rival in the near future.[8] Himmler and his SS gained enormously from the killings; the SS became its own branch and Himmler reported only to Hitler.[9]

Notes & sources

  1. The SA was also known as ("brownshirts") in reference to the color of their uniforms.
  2. Lively, Scott & Abrams, Kevin. The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, 4th Edition.
  3. Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: A Biography (2008).
  4. Lively, Scott & Abrams, Kevin. The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, 4th Edition.
  5. Weale, Adrian. The SS: A New History (2010).
  6. Lively, Scott & Abrams, Kevin. The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, 4th Edition.
  7. Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: A Biography (2008).
  8. Lively, Scott & Abrams, Kevin. The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, 4th Edition.
  9. Weale, Adrian. The SS: A New History (2010).

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