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: Prisoner of the Reich

“Ever heard of what they call ‘shot while attempting to escape?'” Nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon describes his brief brush with arrest and imprisonment in early 1933

Oranienburg, Konzentrationslager

Despite his deep involvement in the radical-nationalist politics of the Weimar era, nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon was regarded with some distrust by the National Socialist government following the 1933 Machtergreifung. von Salomon was an ‘Ehrhardt man’, a follower of prominent Marine Brigade Freikorps leader Hermann Ehrhardt, whose relationship with Hitler and the NSDAP had been largely antagonistic and was probably the original source of much of the regime’s suspicion. Ehrhardt had helped stymie Hitler’s attempts to march on Berlin in 1923, had been behind the (absolutely disastrous) alliance between Otto Strasser and SA-rebel Walter Stennes in 1931, and his more prominent followers had moved fairly openly in National Bolshevik or similar circles prior to 1933. The company the writer kept following Hitler’s accession to the Chancellorship would not have helped allay any latent mistrust, considering he tended to mix with those who the new state regarded as politically unreliable. von Salomon’s reputation as a potential troublemaker was further compounded by an incident which occurred while visiting the home of writer friend Hans Fallada on 7 April, 1933, shortly after the NSDAP took power. Fallada had attempted to shock his housemaid by telling her that his guest was an “assassin”, a reference to von Salomon’s role in the Rathenau-murder and his (alleged) involvement in  the Landvolk bombings of the late ’20s. The housemaid promptly gossiped about the mysterious houseguest to Fallada’s landlords, who in turn decided to report this “assassin” to the authorities, reasoning that they had intercepted a plot to murder the Führer.  The inevitable result was both men being picked up by the police on the 12th and held without charge for a fortnight or so, a period of internment that was thankfully brief due to the intercession of friends helping clear up the misunderstanding. von Salomon’s account of this experience is transcribed below, taken from the 1954 English translation of his post-WWII bestseller Der Fragebogen

Easter of 1933 found me living at Grünheide near Erkner, a suburb to the east of Berlin. The owner of a guest-house on Lake Peetz had furnished for me a small building some distance from his pension. It consisted of one room only, but it was big enough and comfortable enough for me to be able to sleep in it and work in it as well. Rowohlt lived a hundred yards away, in a small house with a narrow garden that led down to the lake shore. I could see from the light in his sleeping porch whether or not he was at home. He usually returned exhausted and then he would throw me out by noisily lowering the bed on his veranda. One evening I went over, thinking that I might be able to discuss something with him, but he pulled down his bed; I strolled back to my own place, feeling rather depressed, worked for a little, and then went to bed. It seemed to me that I had only just fallen asleep when I was awakened by noise and a tremendous banging on my door. I cried:

“All right, Rowohlt, what is it?”

But it wasn’t Rowohlt. It was the police. I glanced at my watch and saw that it was precisely six a.m. I thought, with a certain satisfaction, that they were acting exactly according to form. I turned on the light and opened the door. Immediately the room was filled with powerfully built men, who brought with them the fresh morning air. They fell upon my bed and table, and rummaged through my trunk and my suits.

“Why didn’t you open the door at once?” one of them asked me. I replied that I had wished to check that it was really six o’clock. The man said:

“So you know all about it, eh?”

I assured him that I did know more or less all about this sort of thing. That was a mistake, for the man said at once:

“In that case I needn’t waste a lot of words on you. You’re under arrest.” 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