The Röhm Scandal

Leaked correspondence between Ernst Röhm and völkisch homosexual writer Dr. Karl-Günter Heimsoth

In late 1928, shortly before he left Europe for South America in order to take up a post as a military instructor in the Bolivian army, NSDAP politician Ernst Röhm began a correspondence with völkisch physician and writer Dr. Karl-Günter Heimsoth. Heimsoth, who had initiated contact after reading Röhm’s recently-published memoirs, did not just share Röhm’s politics; he was also, like Röhm, a homosexual, and an open and ideological one. The letters the two men wrote one another were later to cause considerable difficulty for the NSDAP after Röhm returned to Germany in 1931 to assume the role of SA Chief of Staff. Röhm’s return brought with it a proliferation of rumors and innuendo about his sexuality, with the Social-Democratic (SPD) press in particular proving especially dogged in their attempts to whip up a political scandal out of Röhm’s private liaisons. In 1931 the Berlin police, looking for material with which to charge Röhm, raided Heimsoth’s lawyer’s office and confiscated three letters Röhm had written to his friend. These were promptly leaked to the SPD, who in March 1932 – only days before the Presidential election – began disseminating the letters in pamphlet form to influential public figures. The man responsible for this act was Helmut Klotz, an ex-National Socialist (and a fairly high-ranking one; Klotz had even taken part in Hitler’s 1923 putsch) who had converted to reformist-Marxism and become a committed antifascist sometime in the late 1920s. Röhm did what he could legally to try and go after Klotz by pursuing the man through the courts, but his efforts proved fruitless. Unlike some of the previous “exposés” the SPD had published about him, the letters Klotz was printing were demonstrably real – Röhm never denied that they were (and even openly admitted their veracity to others in the NSDAP), a fact repeatedly noted by the courts, who after several failed appeals by Röhm ultimately decreed that it was within the public interest for Klotz to inform Germany about Röhm’s personal habits. By September 1932 Klotz was thus publishing and selling the ‘Röhm letters’ under the title Der Fall Röhm, and the damage had been done – Hitler had publicly defended Röhm in the scandal which the affair had whipped up, but Röhm now had many passionate, bitter enemies within the NSDAP who were dedicated to his downfall. A translation of the three letters from Klotz’s pamphlet is provided below; they offer a remarkable (perhaps even humanizing) insight into the private life of a very unique and still very controversial public figure.

Röhm’s First Letter
December, 1928

Munich, Herzogstraße 4/3.
03.12.28.

Dear Dr. Heimsoth!1

My heartiest greetings! You understand me completely! Naturally, with the paragraph on morality, I am above all attacking §175.2 But do you mean that it is not expressed clearly enough? I had a more detailed explanation of the subject in the first draft; but I changed it to the current version on the advice of friends, who assure me that this kind of writing is more effective.

You are doing me an injustice, I believe, with the accusation that I shy away from “compulsory beliefs”3 regarding marriage.

I am engaged in the fiercest conflict with Herr Alfred Rosenberg, that clownish moral athlete. His articles are also above all directed at my corner; because I make no secret of my disposition. From this you may gather that even National Socialist circles have had to get used to this criminal peculiarity of mine. Incidentally, I also work with Herr Radszuweit,4 and am of course a member of his association.

I would very much like to meet Blüher.5

I am of course extremely interested in your book, for which I would like to express my warmest thanks, as well as for your dear words. Thus far I have only been able to read a little of it; but frankly: it is a bit too difficult for me. Can’t you blasted doctors write German, why must you always use academic foreign words which a mere mortal cannot understand! Continue reading

SA and German Revolution

“A new Germany, reborn in a spiritual revolution of nationalist and socialist intent!” Ernst Röhm’s 1933 article on the SA’s role as vehicle for the ‘German Revolution’

The article by Ernst Röhm below was first published in the June 1933 edition of Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte, a monthly political and cultural journal produced by the NSDAP for the purposes of advancing the theoretical foundations of the National Socialist movement. The article constitutes an interesting, early artifact of the tumultuous early period of 1933-34, when the government was still finding its footing and when the paramilitary SA was still an untethered, unpredictable force advocating for a ‘second revolution’. The months leading up to the article had been frequently punctuated by violence on the SA’s part, engendered partly by disillusionment over the lack of rapid economic reforms (many Stormtroopers were unemployed and hoped to receive official positions in nationalized, state-run enterprises) and suspicion that the revolution had been co-opted by the same bourgeois reactionaries the Party had always so vociferously fought against. It was not uncommon at the time for bored, disgruntled, and frequently drunk SA-men to take out their frustrations on the general public (particularly the bourgeoisie) or on members of the Stahlhelm and other still-legal nationalist paramilitaries. The massive influx of new members into the SA (the organization grew from 400,000 members in 1932 to at least 4million by 1934) also led to problems, with common criminals joining a Sturm to provide political cover for looting, burglary, and other crimes. Röhm tried to reign his men in when their behaviors became too indefensible, but he also sympathized with them, and at times helped fan the flames of dissatisfaction with speeches and articles like that below. Röhm, contemptuous of the Party’s political cadres and even more dismissive of the bourgeois civil service, saw the SA as the basis for Germany’s future government administration. Such a massive transformation would not be achieved if the German Revolution stabilized and petered out, if the Bildungsbürgertum in the political offices and economic institutions were not forcefully dislodged from their positions to make way for revolutionary new blood. Röhm’s radical position, and the fear it caused in the army that he was a destabilizing element and the catalyst for a potential civil war, would ultimately cost him his life. 

SA and German Revolution
Ernst Röhm, SA Chief-of-Staff

First published in Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte, vol. 4, no. 39, June 1933

A victory has been achieved by means of the German Revolution.

The swastika banner flutters upon every bastion of state power, over every place of work, and from every business office of the economy.

The organizational forms of Marxism in Germany have been smashed. The Festival of German Labour,1 that day of mutual confession from the nation to the worker and from the worker to the nation, has sounded the death knell for the insanity of proletarian class-hatred. Adolf Hitler’s iron will has guided the thinking of the Volk with compelling force to the amalgamation of national spirit with socialist will.

A tremendous victory has been achieved. But not absolute victory!

The new state has had no need to disown the bearers of the revolutionary uprising’s will, as the November-men2 had to do with the red gangs who were the fellow-travelers of their revolt born of cowardice and treason. In the New Germany the disciplined brown storm-battalions of the German Revolution stand side by side with the armed forces.

Not as part of them.

The Reichswehr has its own clear task: it is incumbent upon it to defend the the borders of the Reich, insofar as its modest numbers and wholly inadequate armaments enable it to do so.

The police are expected to hold down lawbreakers.

Alongside them there is the new state’s third power-factor with their own specific tasks, the SA and SS.

The Führer and Chancellor of the German Volk needs them, given that the mighty work of German renewal still lies before him.

For the SA and SS are the cornerstone of the coming National Socialist state. Their state, for which they have fought, and which they will claim. The SA and SS are the militant-spiritual bearers of the will of the German Revolution! Continue reading

Monthly Fragebogen: Röhm’s Rise and Fall

Röhm triumphant, and Röhm in ruins – nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon’s experience of the rise and fall of the SA Chief-of-Staff

 Two of the most interesting sections of Ernst von Salomon’s novel Der Fragebogen recount the author’s experiences with SA Chief-of-Staff Ernst Röhm. von Salomon met Röhm at least a couple of times in his life, and associated with a number of people who were close to the Brownshirt leader; von Salomon’s Freikorps membership and his role in the Fememord of Walter Rathenau seems to have created a mutual sense of soldierly respect between the two men, even if they were not close. In the first section of Der Fragebogen reproduced below, von Salomon recounts his chance encounter with Röhm on a train shortly after the National Socialist Machtergreifung (the ‘seizure of power’). Röhm’s depiction there, triumphant and celebratory, is in stark contrast to von Salomon’s more distant depiction of him in the second excerpt. That section of the novel consists of von Salomon’s account of Röhm’s fall, his murder during the Blood Purge of ’34. In this second, longer extract, von Salomon first recounts the shock and horror he experienced at Röhm’s demise, particularly while listening to Hitler’s infamous radio address on the subject. The author then transitions into a description of a meeting with Dr. Walter Luetgebrune, with the Herr Doktor providing his own insights into Röhm’s fall and the reality behind the ‘Night of the Long Knives.’ Luetgebrune, a völkisch-nationalist lawyer who legally defended numerous members of the National Socialist, Landvolk, and national-revolutionary movements, was an intimate of Röhm’s and the chief legal adviser to the SA and SS; he was himself arrested and imprisoned on suspicion of involvement in the ‘Röhm Putsch.’

Röhm’s Rise (‘Der Fragebogen’, Section B):

…I went back to Berlin, not in order to watch the glory of the National-Socialist seizure of power, but because I wanted to talk to Rowohlt about my book, The Cadets. I’d been working at it all the time I was in Vienna. I had to, I had to give myself the counter-weight of Prussia. I’ve no idea how I ever managed to get it done. I’d sit over my manuscript in the evening, and outside the musicians would sing their sad songs… about how there’d be a Vienna and we’d be dead, there’d be girls and we’d be dead… and when I stopped writing towards dawn I could be sure that outside somebody would be singing about how one day it’ll all be over and about tombs and coffins… I had to have The Cadets as an antidote to the whole macabre atmosphere down there.

I went to Berlin by way of Munich, where I had to change trains. On Munich station I acquired a powerful escort of brown-shirts, headed by Ernst Röhm. He was going to Berlin, so I went with him. Röhm recognised me, though we had not met since August, 1922, shortly before I went to gaol.

“Where have you come from?” he asked, while his clanking escort gazed at me respectfully.

“France, Spain and Austria,” I replied smartly. He took me into his compartment and I admired the handsome overcoat he was wearing, and his brown silk shirt, and his perfectly tailored breeches.

“Yes,’ he said with satisfaction, “the days are over when we had to run about dressed like scarecrows.”

Röhm and his people were drunk with the assurance of victory. Later they became drunk on something else. Bottle after bottle was respectfully passed into the compartment with the remark: “For the chief of staff.” We knocked the necks off them and drank.

“You’ll be joining us, of course!” Röhm said. Continue reading