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Ernst Röhm

Ernst Röhm (or Roehm) (November 28, 1887, Munich; July 1, 1934, Munich-Stadelheim prison, murdered) was a German military officer and commander and co-founder of the Nazi Sturmabteilung or "stormtroopers".


Early Nazi years

Röhm served as a career officer with the Bavarian Army during World War I. He held the rank of Oberleutnant with the Bavarian 10th Infantry Regiment and was severely wounded in the face in September of 1914 at Lorraine, France. He later was promoted to Hauptmann.

Following the end of the war in 1918, he joined the Epp Freikorps, one of the many private militias that had formed in Munich as a reaction against the Weimar Republic. In 1920, he became a Nazi-party member and helped organize the Sturmabteilung (SA). In 1923, after the failed Beer Hall Putsch, Röhm spent 15 months in prison during which time he became a close, personal friend of Adolf Hitler.

In 1924, after Röhm was released from prison, he worked with Hitler to rebuild the Nazi Party, but several intense differences developed between the two. Röhm resigned from the Nazi Party in 1925 and went to Bolivia to serve as a military advisor. The German government sponsored Röhm's position, and he was promoted to Oberst in the German Reichswehr.

Stormtrooper commander

In 1930, Adolf Hitler personally assumed command of the stormtroopers as the new Oberster SA-Führer. Hitler sent a personal request to Röhm to return to Germany, offering Röhm the position of Stabschef (Chief of Staff) of the entire Sturmabteilung. Röhm accepted the offer in 1931, introducing radical new ideas into the SA and staffing the senior SA leadership with his close friends and personal associates. Rumors also abounded that the SA command staff sponsored homosexual parties, and Röhm's conduct as the Stabschef was soon under heavy criticism. Eventually he was outed by the leftist press.

Denouncement and death

The main function of the SA was to protect the party leadership and to attack political opponents such as their nemesis organization, the communist Red Front. Through violence and intimidation, the SA helped the Nazis become more powerful than the other political parties in Munich. However, when Hitler began to campaign for the chancellorship of Germany, he began to marginalize the SA in order to improve his image and in response to criticisms by establishment conservatives. While Hitler had been personally rather fond of Röhm, he came under pressure to reduce Röhm's influence. German military leaders were unhappy with Röhm's proposal that the German army be absorbed into the larger SA, and the industrialists that supported Hitler were concerned over Röhm's socialist leanings.

In spite of the pressure applied on him, Hitler postponed his decision to do away with his favourite right-hand man to the very end. He appealed desperately to Röhm not to press for a socialist 'revolution' that would lead to an upheaval of Germany at all levels. Only when the differences were irreconcilable and things were getting dangerously out of hand did Hitler finally make up his mind that Röhm must go.

The final straw came in 1934, just before President Hindenburg's death. As the president lay dying, many groups began to plot in order to place their own respective candidates in the presidential seat. According to William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a strong group of conservatives wanted the return of Crown Prince Wilhelm, the son of Kaiser Wilhelm II, to Germany as President. Hitler, wanting to avoid this, met with the main military chiefs on the "Pocket Battleship" Deutschland and promised to begin rearming Germany in exchange for their support of his candidacy as president. As a bonus, he also promised them to get rid of Röhm. This led to Röhm's execution without trial during the purge of the SA (the so-called Night of the Long Knives (30 June-1 July, 1934)), which execution was legalized after the fact in the Law Regarding Measures of State Self-Defense on 13 July.

One of Röhm's famous quotations is "All revolutions devour their own children".

See also

Preceded by:
Chief of Staff of the SA
Followed by:
Viktor Lutze
da:Ernst Röhm

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