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 Socialist 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] A similar leak would later occur by the Social Democrats during the 1932 elections, this time detailing letters pertaining to Röhm and a male doctor regarding their mutual homosexual natures, which likewise created massive scandal for Hitler and the Nazi Party as a result.[7] According to the historian Louis Snyder, largely because of Röhm's homosexuality, he also had ambitions of projecting a new social order where homosexuality, akin to Sparta, would be regarded as human behavior of high reputation, and as such often flaunted his homosexuality in public and insisted his SA minions do the same. Indeed, an openly gay lifestyle that defied bourgeois and middle class convention was one of the main attractions and recruiting tools of the Nazi party. He also believed that homosexuals had more aptness for bullying and aggression than heterosexuals, and thus tended to promote homosexuals into the high ranks of the SA. Contemporaneous accounts from polite society characterized the open homosexuality of Nazis as crude and a throwback to a less civilized era. On a similar note, he also tended to promote his homosexual friends to high posts, and helmed homosexual parties.

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). In particular, Röhm, a noted anti-Capitalist and hardline Socialist, desired for permanent, continuous revolution[8] (in a manner similar to Trotskyist ideology). The army, which by that point only had 100,000 members, 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.[9] Hitler had Röhm killed as well, for fear that he would be a rival in the near future, with Rohm arrogantly demanding that Hitler deal the killing blow when told to commit suicide via revolver in 10 minutes, only for two SS officers, including Dachau commander Theodor Eicke, to shoot him point blank, with Rohm's alleged last words being a declaration of Hitler as the Fuhrer, only for Eicke to angrily tell Rohm that it's too late for that.[10] Himmler and his SS gained enormously from the killings; the SS became its own branch and Himmler reported only to Hitler.[11]

Despite his explicit practice and promotion of homosexuality as well as his adherance to socialism, various leftists, similar to their treatment of the Nazi Party as a whole as being of the far-right in politics, often falsely list him as being on the far-right, mostly because of his fighting against the German Communists via the SA. Ironically, the same leftists also claimed that Hitler arranging for Rohm's arrest and later execution made the former a right-winger, despite the fact that Hitler not only was firmly aware of Rohm's homosexuality, but that he also rejected Himmler's suggestion that they purge homosexuals from the ranks of the SA, and that he only arrested Rohm to get rid of a potential threat to his power, with his sexuality playing little role other than as a convenient excuse.

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. http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/runs.htm
  8. Shirer, William L. Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. "The Nazification of Germany: 1933-34; 'No Second Revolution'"
    "A tremendous victory has been won. But not an absolute victory! The SA and the SS will not tolerate the German revolution going to sleep and being betrayed at the half-way stage by non-combatants. Not for the sake of the SA and SS but for Germany's sake. For the SA is the last armed force of the nation, the last defense against communism. If the German revolution is wrecked by the reactionary opposition, incompetence, or laziness, the German people will fall into despair and will be an easy prey for the bloodstained frenzy coming from the depths of Asia. If these bourgeois simpletons think that the national revolution has already lasted too long, for once we agree with them. It is in fact high time the national revolution stopped and became the National Socialist one. Whether they like it or not, we will continue our struggle - if they understand at last what it is about - with them; if they are unwilling - without them; and if necessary - against them."[1]
  9. Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: A Biography (2008).
  10. http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/triumph/tr-roehm.htm
  11. Weale, Adrian. The SS: A New History (2010).

See also