Ernst Röhm

Ernst Julius Günther Röhm (German: [ˈɛɐ̯nst ˈʁøːm]; 28 November 1887 – 1 July 1934) was a German military officer and an early member of the Nazi Party. As one of the members of its predecessor, the German Workers' Party, he was a close friend and early ally of Adolf Hitler and a co-founder of the Sturmabteilung (SA, "Storm Battalion"), the Nazi Party's militia, and later was its commander. By 1934, the German Army feared the SA's influence and Hitler had come to see Röhm as a potential rival, so he was executed during the Night of the Long Knives.

Ernst Röhm
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-15282A, Ernst Röhm
Stabschef of the Sturmabteilung
In office
5 January 1931 – 1 July 1934
LeaderAdolf Hitler (as Oberste SA-Führer)
Preceded byOtto Wagener
Succeeded byViktor Lutze
Personal details
Ernst Julius Günther Röhm

28 November 1887
Munich, Bavaria, German Empire
Died1 July 1934 (aged 46)
Stadelheim Prison, Munich, Germany
Cause of deathExecution
Resting placeWestfriedhof, Munich
Political partyNational Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP)
Other political
German Workers' Party
ParentsGuido Julius Josef Röhm (father)
Sofia Emilie (mother)
Ernst Röhm's signature
Military service
Allegiance German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
Branch/serviceRoyal Bavarian Army
Bolivian Army
Years of service1906–1923
Lieutenant colonel (Bolivia)
Stabschef (Sturmabteilung)
Battles/warsWorld War I
AwardsIron Cross First Class

Early career

Ernst Röhm was born in Munich, the youngest of three children—he had an elder sister and brother—of Emilie and Julius Röhm. His father Julius, a railway official, was described as strict, but once he realized that his son responded better without exhortation, allowed him significant freedom to pursue his interests.[1] Although the family had no military tradition, Röhm entered the Royal Bavarian 10th Infantry Regiment Prinz Ludwig at Ingolstadt as a cadet on 23 July 1906 and was commissioned on 12 March 1908.[2][3] At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, he was adjutant of the 1st Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment König. The following month, he was seriously wounded in the face at Chanot Wood in Lorraine and carried the scars for the rest of his life.[4] He was promoted to first lieutenant (Oberleutnant) in April 1915.[5] During an attack on the fortification at Thiaumont, Verdun, on 23 June 1916, he sustained a serious chest wound and spent the remainder of the war in France and Romania as a staff officer.[6] He was awarded the Iron Cross First Class before being wounded at Verdun, and was promoted to captain (Hauptmann) in April 1917.[7][8] Among his comrades, Röhm was considered a "fanatical, simple-minded swashbuckler" who frequently displayed contempt for danger.[9] In his memoirs, Röhm reported that during the autumn of 1918, he contracted the deadly Spanish influenza and was not expected to live, but that he recovered after a lengthy convalescence.[10]

Following the armistice on 11 November 1918 that ended the war, Röhm continued his military career as a captain in the Reichswehr.[9] He was one of the senior members in Colonel von Epp's Bayerisches Freikorps für den Grenzschutz Ost ("Bavarian Free Corps for Border Patrol East"), formed in Ohrdruf in April 1919, which finally overturned the Munich Soviet Republic by force of arms on 3 May 1919. In 1919 he joined the German Workers' Party (DAP), which the following year became the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP).[11] Not long afterward he met Adolf Hitler, and they became political allies and close friends.[12] Röhm resigned or retired from the Reichswehr on 26 September 1923.[11] Throughout the early 1920s, Röhm remained an important intermediary between Germany's right-wing paramilitary organizations and the Reichswehr.[13] Additionally, it was Röhm who persuaded his former army commander, Colonel von Epp, to join the Nazis, an important development since Epp helped raise the sixty-thousand marks needed to purchase the Nazi periodical, the Völkischer Beobachter.[14]

When the Nazi Party held its "German Day" celebration at Nuremberg during early September 1923, it was Röhm who helped bring together some 100,000 participants drawn from right-wing militant groups, veteran's associations, and other paramilitary formations—which included the Bund Oberland, Reichskriegsflagge, the SA, and the Kampfbund—all of them subordinate to Hitler as "political leader" of the collective alliance.[15]

Röhm led the Reichskriegsflagge militia at the time of the Munich Beer Hall Putsch.[a] He rented the cavernous main hall of the Löwenbräukeller, supposedly for a reunion and festive comradeship. Meanwhile, Hitler and his entourage were at the Bürgerbräukeller.[17] It was here that Röhm planned to announce the revolution and use the units at his disposal to obtain weapons from secret caches with which to occupy crucial points in the centre of the city.[18] When the call came, he announced to those assembled in the Löwenbräukeller that the Kahr government had been deposed and Hitler had declared a "national revolution" which elicited wild cheering. Röhm then led his force of nearly 2,000 men to the War Ministry,[19] which they occupied for sixteen hours.[b] Once in control of the Reichswehr headquarters, Röhm awaited news, barricaded inside.[20] The subsequent march into the city center led by Hitler, Hermann Göring, and General Erich Ludendorff with banners flying high, was ostensibly undertaken to "free" Röhm and his forces.[21]

While crowds cheered—whipped into a frenzy by Strasser—shouting Heil, the armed ragtag assembly wearing red swastika armbands accompanying Hitler and company encountered blue-uniformed Bavarian State Police, who were prepared to counter the Putsch.[22] Around the time the marchers reached the Feldherrnhalle near the city center, shots rang out, scattering the participants. Before the exchange of gunfire ended, there were fourteen dead Nazis lying in the street and four policemen; the putsch had failed and the Nazis' first bid for power had lasted less than twenty-four hours.[23]

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-00344, München, nach Hitler-Ludendorff Prozess
Defendants in the Beer Hall Putsch trial. From left to right: Pernet, Weber, Frick, Kriebel, Ludendorff, Hitler, Bruckner, Röhm, and Wagner.

Following the failed Beer Hall Putsch of 9 November 1923, Röhm, Hitler, General Ludendorff, Lieutenant Colonel Hermann Kriebel and six others were tried in February 1924 for high treason. Röhm was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen months in prison, but the sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation.[11] Hitler was found guilty and sentenced to five years' imprisonment, but served only nine months at Stadelheim Prison (under permissively lenient conditions), during which time he dictated most of the first volume of Mein Kampf ("My Struggle").[24][25]

In April 1924, Röhm became a Reichstag deputy for the völkisch (racial-national) National Socialist Freedom Party.[26] He made only one speech, urging the release of Lieutenant Colonel Kriebel. The seats won by his party were much reduced in the December 1924 election, and his name was too far down the list to return him to the Reichstag. While Hitler was in prison, Röhm helped to create the Frontbann as a legal alternative to the then-outlawed Sturmabteilung (SA). Hitler did not fully support the ambitious plans that Röhm had for this organization, which proved problematic. Hitler was distrustful of these paramilitary organizations because competing groups like the Bund Wiking, the Bund Bayern und Reich, and the Blücherbund were all vying for membership and he realized from the failed putsch that these groups could not be legitimized so long as the police and Reichwehr stayed loyal to the government.[26] When in April 1925 Hitler and Ludendorff disapproved of the proposals under which Röhm was prepared to integrate the 30,000-strong Frontbann into the SA, Röhm resigned from all political groups and military brigades on 1 May 1925. He felt great contempt for the "legalistic" path the party leaders wanted to follow and sought seclusion from public life.[11] In 1928, he accepted a post in Bolivia as adviser to the Bolivian Army, where he was given the rank of lieutenant colonel. In the autumn of 1930, Röhm received a telephone call from Hitler requesting his return to Germany.[11]

Sturmabteilung leader

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1982-159-21A, Nürnberg, Reichsparteitag, Hitler und Röhm
Röhm with Hitler, August 1933

In September 1930, as a consequence of the Stennes Revolt in Berlin, Hitler assumed supreme command of the SA as its new Oberster SA-Führer. He sent a personal request to Röhm, asking him to return to serve as the SA's Chief of Staff. Röhm accepted this offer and began his new assignment on 5 January 1931.[27] He brought radical new ideas to the SA, and appointed several close friends to its senior leadership. Previously, the SA formations were subordinate to the Nazi Party leadership of each Gau. Röhm established new Gruppe, which had no regional Nazi Party oversight. Each Gruppe extended over several regions and was commanded by a SA-Gruppenführer who answered only to Röhm or Hitler.[28]

The SA by this time numbered over a million members. Their initial assignment of protecting Nazi leaders at rallies and assemblies was taken over by the Schutzstaffel (SS) in relation to the top leaders.[29][30] The SA did continue its street battles against the communist, forces of rival political parties and violent actions against Jews and others deemed hostile to the Nazi agenda.[31]

Under Röhm, the SA often took the side of workers in strikes and other labor disputes, attacking strikebreakers and supporting picket lines. SA intimidation contributed to the rise of the Nazis and the violent suppression of right-wing parties during electoral campaigns, but its reputation for street violence and heavy drinking was a hindrance, as was the open homosexuality of Röhm and other SA leaders such as his deputy Edmund Heines.[32] In June 1931, the Münchener Post, a Social Democratic newspaper, began attacking Röhm and the SA regarding homosexuality in its ranks and then in March 1932, the paper obtained and published some private letters of his that left no doubt about his homosexuality; these letters were confiscated by the Berlin police back in 1931 and subsequently passed along to the journalist Helmuth Klotz.[33]

Hitler was aware of Röhm's homosexuality. Their friendship shows in that Röhm remained one of the few intimates allowed to use the familiar German du (the German familiar form of "you") when conversing with Hitler.[12] In turn, Röhm was the only Nazi leader who dared to address Hitler by his first name "Adolf" or his nickname "Adi" rather than "mein Führer".[34]Their close association led to rumors that Hitler himself was homosexual.[35] Unlike many of the Nazi paladins, Röhm never fell victim to Hitler's "arresting personality" nor did he come fully under his spell, which made him unique in the Nazi hierarchy.[36]

As Hitler rose to national power with his appointment as chancellor in January 1933, SA members were appointed auxiliary police and ordered by Göring to sweep aside "all enemies of the state".[28]

Second revolution

Röhm and the SA regarded themselves as the vanguard of the "National Socialist revolution". After Hitler's national takeover they expected radical changes in Germany, including power and rewards for themselves, unaware that, as Chancellor, Hitler no longer needed their street-fighting capabilities.[37] Nevertheless, Hitler did name Röhm to the cabinet as a minister without portfolio.[38]

Along with other members of the more radical faction within the Nazi Party, Röhm advocated a "second revolution" that was overtly anti-capitalist in its general disposition.[39] These radicals rejected exploitative capitalism and they intended to take steps to curb monopolies and promoted the nationalization of land and industry.[39] Such plans were threatening to the business community in general, and to Hitler's corporate financial backers in particular—including many German industrial leaders he would rely upon for arms production—so to keep from alienating them Hitler swiftly reassured his powerful industrial allies that there would be no such revolution as espoused by these Party radicals.[40]

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-14886, Kurt Daluege, Heinrich Himmler, Ernst Röhm
With Orpo Chief Kurt Daluege and SS Chief Heinrich Himmler, in August 1933

Many SA "storm troopers" had working-class origins and longed for a radical transformation of German society.[41] They were disappointed by the new regime's lack of socialistic direction and its failure to provide the lavish patronage they had expected.[42] Furthermore, Röhm and his SA colleagues thought of their force as the core of the future German Army, and saw themselves as replacing the Reichswehr and its established professional officer corps.[43] By then, the SA had swollen to over three million men, dwarfing the Reichswehr, which was limited to 100,000 men by the Treaty of Versailles. Although Röhm had been a member of the officer corps, he viewed them as "old fogies" who lacked "revolutionary spirit". He believed that the Reichswehr should be merged into the SA to form a true "people's army" under his command, a pronouncement that caused significant consternation within the army's hierarchy and convinced them that the SA was a serious threat.[44] At a February 1934 cabinet meeting, Röhm then demanded that the merge be made, under his leadership as Minister of Defence.[45]

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-14393, Ernst Röhm crop
SA leader Ernst Röhm in Bavaria in 1934

This horrified the army, with its traditions going back to Frederick the Great. The army officer corps viewed the SA as an "undisciplined mob" of "brawling" street thugs, and was also concerned by the pervasiveness of "corrupt morals" within the ranks of the SA. Reports of a huge cache of weapons in the hands of SA members caused additional concern to the army leadership.[45] Unsurprisingly, the officer corps opposed Röhm's proposal. They insisted that discipline and honor would vanish if the SA gained control, but Röhm and the SA would settle for nothing less. In addition the army leadership was eager to co-operate with Hitler given his plan of re-armament and expansion of the established professional military forces.[43]

In February 1934, Hitler told British diplomat Anthony Eden of his plan to reduce the SA by two-thirds. That same month, Hitler announced that the SA would be left with only a few minor military functions. Röhm responded with complaints, and began expanding the armed elements of the SA. Speculation that the SA was planning a coup against Hitler became widespread in Berlin. In March, Röhm offered a compromise in which "only" a few thousand SA leaders would be taken into the army, but the army promptly rejected that idea.[46]

On 11 April 1934, Hitler met with German military leaders on the ship Deutschland. By that time, he knew President Paul von Hindenburg would likely die before the end of the year. Hitler informed the army hierarchy of Hindenburg's declining health and proposed that the Reichswehr support him as Hindenburg's successor. In exchange, he offered to reduce the SA, suppress Röhm's ambitions, and guarantee the Reichswehr would be Germany's only military force. According to war correspondent William L. Shirer, Hitler also promised to expand the army and navy.[47]

Although determined to curb the power of the SA, Hitler put off doing away with his long-time ally. A political struggle within the party grew, with those closest to Hitler, including Prussian premier Hermann Göring, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, and Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, positioning themselves against Röhm. To isolate the latter, on 20 April 1934, Göring transferred control of the Prussian political police (Gestapo) to Himmler, who he believed could be counted on to move against Röhm.[48]

Both the Reichswehr and the conservative business community continued to complain to Hindenburg about the SA. In early June, defence minister Werner von Blomberg issued an ultimatum to Hitler from Hindenburg: unless Hitler took immediate steps to end the growing tension in Germany, Hindenburg would declare martial law and turn over control of the country to the army.[49] The threat of a declaration of martial law from Hindenburg, the only person in Germany with the authority to potentially depose the Nazi regime, put Hitler under pressure to act. Hitler decided the time had come both to destroy Röhm and to settle scores with old enemies. Both Himmler and Göring welcomed Hitler's decision, since both had much to gain by Röhm's downfall—the independence of the SS for Himmler, and the removal of a rival for Göring.[50]


In preparation for the purge known as the Night of the Long Knives, both Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the SS Security Service, assembled a dossier of manufactured evidence to suggest that Röhm had been paid 12 million Reichsmarks (equivalent to € 48 million 2009) by the government of France to overthrow Hitler. Leading officers in the SS were shown falsified evidence on 24 June that Röhm planned to use the SA to launch a plot against the government (Röhm-Putsch).[51] At Hitler's direction, Göring, Himmler, Heydrich, and Victor Lutze drew up lists of people in and outside the SA to be killed. One of the men Göring recruited to assist him was Willi Lehmann, a Gestapo official and NKVD spy. On 25 June, General Werner von Fritsch placed the Reichswehr on the highest level of alert.[52] On 27 June, Hitler moved to secure the army's cooperation.[53] Blomberg and General Walther von Reichenau, the army's liaison to the party, gave it to him by expelling Röhm from the German Officers' League.[54] On 28 June, Hitler went to Essen to attend a wedding celebration and reception; from there he called Röhm's adjutant at Bad Wiessee and ordered SA leaders to meet with him on 30 June at 11:00 a.m.[50] On 29 June, a signed article in Völkischer Beobachter by Blomberg appeared in which Blomberg stated with great fervour that the Reichswehr stood behind Hitler.[55]

Kurheim Hanselbauer
Hotel Lederer am See (former Hanselbauer Hotel) in Bad Wiessee before its planned demolition in 2017

On 30 June 1934, Hitler and a large group of SS and regular police flew to Munich and arrived between 06:00 and 07:00 at Hanselbauer Hotel in Bad Wiessee, where Röhm and his followers were staying.[56] With Hitler's early arrival, the SA leadership, still in bed, were taken by surprise. SS men stormed the hotel and Hitler personally placed Röhm and other high-ranking SA leaders under arrest. According to Erich Kempka, Hitler turned Röhm over to "two detectives holding pistols with the safety catch removed". The SS found Breslau SA leader Edmund Heines in bed with an unidentified eighteen-year-old male SA senior troop leader.[57] Goebbels emphasised this aspect in subsequent propaganda, justifying the purge as a crackdown on moral turpitude.[58] Hitler ordered both Heines and his partner taken outside of the hotel and shot.[59] Meanwhile, the SS arrested the other SA leaders as they left their train for the planned meeting with Röhm and Hitler.[60]

Although Hitler presented no evidence of a plot by Röhm to overthrow the regime, he nevertheless denounced the leadership of the SA.[58] Arriving back at party headquarters in Munich, Hitler addressed the assembled crowd. Consumed with rage, Hitler denounced "the worst treachery in world history". Hitler told the crowd that "undisciplined and disobedient characters and asocial or diseased elements" would be annihilated. The crowd, which included party members and many SA members fortunate enough to escape arrest, shouted its approval.[60] Joseph Goebbels, who had been with Hitler at Bad Wiessee, set the final phase of the plan in motion. Upon returning to Berlin, Goebbels telephoned Göring at 10:00 with the codeword kolibri ("hummingbird") to let loose the execution squads on the rest of their unsuspecting victims.[58] Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler commander Sepp Dietrich received orders from Hitler to form an "execution squad" and go to Stadelheim prison in Munich where Röhm and other SA leaders were being held under arrest.[61] There in the prison courtyard, the Leibstandarte firing squad shot five SA generals and an SA colonel.[62] Several of those not immediately executed were taken back to the Leibstandarte barracks at Lichterfelde, given one-minute "trials", and shot by a firing squad. Röhm himself, however, was kept prisoner.[63]

Hitler was hesitant in authorising Röhm's execution, perhaps because of loyalty or embarrassment about the execution of an important lieutenant; he eventually did so, and agreed that Röhm should have the option of suicide.[59] On 1 July, SS-Brigadeführer Theodor Eicke (later Kommandant of the Dachau concentration camp) and SS-Obersturmbannführer Michael Lippert visited Röhm. Once inside Röhm's cell, they handed him a Browning pistol loaded with a single bullet and told him he had ten minutes to kill himself or they would do it for him. Röhm demurred, telling them, "If I am to be killed, let Adolf do it himself."[59] Having heard nothing in the allotted time, Eicke and Lippert returned to Röhm's cell at 14:50 to find him standing, with his bare chest puffed out in a gesture of defiance.[64] Eicke and Lippert then shot Röhm, killing him.[65][c] SA-Obergruppenführer Viktor Lutze, who had been spying on Röhm, was named as the new Stabschef SA.[67]

While some Germans were shocked by the killings of 30 June to 2 July 1934, many others saw Hitler as the one who restored "order" to the country. Goebbels's propaganda highlighted the "Röhm-Putsch" in the days that followed. The homosexuality of Röhm and other SA leaders was made public to add "shock value", even though the sexuality of Röhm and other named SA leaders had been known by Hitler and other Nazi leaders for years.[68]

The purge of the SA was legalised on 3 July with a one-paragraph decree: the Law Regarding Measures of State Self-Defence, a step that historian Robin Cross contends was done by Hitler to cover his own tracks.[69] The Law declared, "The measures taken on 30 June, 1 and 2 July to suppress treasonous assaults are legal as acts of self-defence by the State." At the time no public reference was made to the alleged SA rebellion, but only generalised references to misconduct, perversion and some sort of plot.[70] In a nationally broadcast speech to the Reichstag on 13 July, Hitler justified the purge as a defence against treason.[71][72] Before the events of the Night of the Long Knives concluded, not only was Röhm dead, but more than 200 additional people had been killed,[d] including Nazi official Gregor Strasser, former chancellor General Kurt von Schleicher, and Franz von Papen's secretary, Edgar Jung.[73] Most of those murdered had little to no affiliation with Röhm but were killed for political reasons.[74]

In an attempt to erase Röhm from German history, all known copies of the 1933 propaganda film The Victory of Faith (Der Sieg des Glaubens)—in which Röhm appeared—were destroyed in 1934, probably on Hitler's order.[75][e]

Decorations and awards

See also


Informational notes

  1. ^ His involvement in such activities was very much in keeping with his persona, as Röhm claimed in his memoir—originally published in 1928—that "War and unrest appeal to me more than the orderly life of your respectable burgher."[16]
  2. ^ Röhm was not involved with the Sturmabteiling until after he returned from a trip to Bolivia, but he did work to create armed militia units. He was deeply involved in hoarding arms and shipping weapons into Austria in defiance of the terms of the Versailles Treaty, but was never caught. See Röhm, Ernst (1928) Die Geschichte eines Hochverräters Munich: Franz Eher Verlag; and "Homosexuals and the Third Reich", Jewish Virtual Library
  3. ^ Röhm was buried in the Westfriedhof ("Western Cemetery") in Munich. In 1957, the German authorities tried Lippert in Munich for Röhm's murder. Until then, Lippert had been one of the few executioners of the purge to evade trial. Lippert was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison.[66]
  4. ^ Rudolf Pechel—considered a reliable source—claims the number was much higher, placing the death toll at 922.
  5. ^ The Victory of Faith was long thought to have been lost until a single copy was found in storage in Britain in the 1990s. See: The Victory of Faith, Internet Archive The 1935 film Triumph of the Will (Triumph des Willens), produced in 1934, showed the new Nazi hierarchy, with the SS as the Nazis' premier uniformed paramilitary group and Röhm replaced by Viktor Lutze. but by then, the role of the SA was much less prominent than in the early years.See: Charles Hamilton (1984), Leaders & Personalities of the Third Reich, Vol. 1, p. 312


  1. ^ Hancock 2008, p. 8.
  2. ^ Hockerts 2003, p. 714.
  3. ^ Hancock 2008, p. 11.
  4. ^ Hancock 2008, pp. 18–19.
  5. ^ Hancock 2008, p. 19.
  6. ^ Hancock 2008, pp. 19–21.
  7. ^ Hancock 2008, p. 23.
  8. ^ Röhm 1934, pp. 50–51.
  9. ^ a b Snyder 1989, p. 65.
  10. ^ Röhm 1934, pp. 56–57.
  11. ^ a b c d e Zentner & Bedürftig 1991, p. 807.
  12. ^ a b Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 135.
  13. ^ Siemens 2017, p. 16.
  14. ^ Snyder 1989, p. 66.
  15. ^ Childers 2017, p. 52.
  16. ^ Childers 2017, p. 43.
  17. ^ Childers 2017, p. 57.
  18. ^ Dornberg 1982, p. 20.
  19. ^ Dornberg 1982, pp. 84, 118.
  20. ^ Childers 2017, pp. 58–59.
  21. ^ Childers 2017, p. 59.
  22. ^ Childers 2017, pp. 60–61.
  23. ^ Childers 2017, pp. 61–62.
  24. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 147, 239.
  25. ^ Bullock 1962, p. 121.
  26. ^ a b Siemens 2017, p. 29.
  27. ^ McNab 2013, p. 14.
  28. ^ a b McNab 2013, p. 16.
  29. ^ Cook & Bender 1994, pp. 17, 19.
  30. ^ Weale 2012, pp. 15–16.
  31. ^ Weale 2012, pp. 70, 166.
  32. ^ Machtan 2002, p. 107.
  33. ^ Siemens 2017, p. 173.
  34. ^ Gunther 1940, p. 6.
  35. ^ Knickerbocker 1941, p. 34.
  36. ^ Moulton 1999, p. 469.
  37. ^ McNab 2013, p. 17.
  38. ^ Snyder 1994, p. 298.
  39. ^ a b McDonough 1999, p. 26.
  40. ^ Bendersky 2007, pp. 96–98.
  41. ^ Frei 1993, pp. 10–11.
  42. ^ Siemens 2017, pp. 122–123, 187–188.
  43. ^ a b McNab 2013, pp. 16, 17.
  44. ^ Evans 2005, pp. 24–25.
  45. ^ a b Kershaw 2008, p. 306.
  46. ^ Fest 1974, p. 467.
  47. ^ Shirer 1990, p. 207.
  48. ^ Evans 2005, p. 54.
  49. ^ Wheeler-Bennett 2005, pp. 319–320.
  50. ^ a b Evans 2005, p. 31.
  51. ^ Evans 2005, p. 30.
  52. ^ Wheeler-Bennett 1967, p. 321.
  53. ^ O'Neill 1967, pp. 72–80.
  54. ^ Bullock 1958, p. 165.
  55. ^ Wheeler-Bennett 1967, p. 322.
  56. ^ Bullock 1958, p. 166.
  57. ^ Kempka 1971.
  58. ^ a b c Kershaw 1999, p. 514.
  59. ^ a b c Shirer 1960, p. 221.
  60. ^ a b Evans 2005, p. 32.
  61. ^ Cook & Bender 1994, pp. 22–23.
  62. ^ Cook & Bender 1994, p. 23.
  63. ^ Gunther 1940, pp. 51–57.
  64. ^ Evans 2005, p. 33.
  65. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 312.
  66. ^ Messenger 2005, pp. 204–205.
  67. ^ Evans 2005, pp. 32–33.
  68. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 315.
  69. ^ Cross 2009, p. 94.
  70. ^ Fest 1974, p. 468.
  71. ^ Fest 1974, pp. 473–487.
  72. ^ Shirer 1960, p. 226.
  73. ^ Moulton 1999, p. 470.
  74. ^ Klee 2016, p. 503.
  75. ^ Ullrich 2016, p. 532.
  76. ^ a b c d Miller 2015, p. 186.


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  • Machtan, Lothar (2002). The Hidden Hitler. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-04309-7.
  • Manvell, Roger; Fraenkel, Heinrich (2010). Goebbels: His Life and Death. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61608-029-7.
  • McDonough, Frank (1999). Hitler and Nazi Germany. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-52100-358-2.
  • McNab, Chris (2013). Hitler's Elite: The SS 1939–45. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1782000884.
  • Messenger, Charles (2005). Hitler's Gladiator: The Life and Wars of Panzer Army Commander Sepp Dietrich. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84486-022-7.
  • Miller, Michael (2015). Leaders Of The Storm Troops Volume 1. England: Helion & Company. ISBN 978-1-909982-87-1.
  • Moulton, Jon (1999). "Röhm, Ernst (1887–1934)". In David T. Zabecki (ed.). World War II in Europe: An Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. London and New York: Garland Publishing Inc. ISBN 0-8240-7029-1.
  • O'Neill, Robert (1967). The German Army and the Nazi Party 1933–1939. New York: James H. Heineman. ISBN 978-0-685-11957-0.
  • Röhm, Ernst (1934). Die Memoiren des Stabschef Röhm (in German). Saarbrücken: Uranus Verlag. OCLC 17775461.
  • Shirer, William L. (1960). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-72869-5.
  • Shirer, William L. (1990). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: MJF Books. ISBN 978-1-56731-163-1.
  • Siemens, Daniel (2017). Stormtroopers: A New History of Hitler's Brownshirts. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-30019-681-8.
  • Snyder, Louis (1994) [1976]. Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-1-56924-917-8.
  • Snyder, Louis (1989). Hitler’s Elite: Biographical Sketches of Nazis Who Shaped the Third Reich. New York: Hippocrene Books. ISBN 978-0-87052-738-8.
  • Ullrich, Volker (2016). Hitler: Ascent, 1889–1939. New York: Knopf. ISBN 978-0-38535-438-7.
  • Weale, Adrian (2012). Army of Evil: A History of the SS. New York; Toronto: NAL Caliber (Penguin Group). ISBN 978-0-451-23791-0.
  • Wheeler-Bennett, John (1967). The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918–1945.
  • Wheeler-Bennett, John (2005). The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918–1945 (2nd ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-4039-1812-3.
  • Zentner, Christian; Bedürftig, Friedemann (1991). The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. (2 vols.) New York: MacMillan Publishing. ISBN 0-02-897500-6.

Further reading

  • Jablonsky, David (July 1988). "Rohm and Hitler: The Continuity of Political-Military Discord". Journal of Contemporary History. 23 (3): 367–386. doi:10.1177/002200948802300303. JSTOR 260688.
  • Mahron, Norbert (2011). Röhm. Ein deutsches Leben (in German). Leipzig: Lychatz-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-942929-00-4.
  • Mühle, Marcus (2016). Ernst Röhm. Eine biografische Skizze (in German). Berlin: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Berlin. ISBN 978-3-86573-912-4.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Otto Wagener
Succeeded by
Viktor Lutze
Aircrew Badge (Nazi)

The Aircrew Badge (German: Fliegerschaftsabzeichen) was a German military decoration awarded to members of the German Air Sports Association (Deutscher Luftsportverband or DLV e. V.), an organisation set up by the Nazi Party in March 1933 to establish a uniform basis for the training of military pilots. The German Air Sports Association was a cover organization for the future German Air Force (Luftwaffe). Its chairman was the future Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe Hermann Göring and its vice-chairman Ernst Röhm. Since the Treaty of Versailles officially forbade Germany from building fighter planes of any sort, the German Air Sports Association used gliders to train men who were still officially civilians for the future Luftwaffe. It was the first qualification badge recognized by the Luftwaffe.

Anton Loibl GmbH

Anton Loibl GmbH was a company owned by the SS which was a funding source for the Ahnenerbe research branch and the Lebensborn eugenics programme. It was created to market a bicycle reflector invented by Anton Loibl, a chauffeur for Hitler. It employed slave labour.

Anton Loibl, a former long-term chauffeur for Hitler and a decorated SS-Hauptsturmführer (Ernst Röhm had obtained the driver's job for him in the early 1920s, and he had spent time in prison after participating in the Beerhall Putsch in 1923), was a part-time inventor; while working as a machinist and driving instructor, he invented a reflector for bicycle pedals which incorporated glass chips. Heinrich Himmler, who was acquainted with Loibl, ensured that he was awarded the patent in preference to an earlier applicant, and the company was established in September 1936 in Berlin by Himmler's Personal Office in order to market it. In his capacity as police chief of the Reich, Himmler had a requirement added to the traffic code on 13 November 1937 which required all newly manufactured bicycles to incorporate these reflectors. The bicycle manufacturers had to pay a licence fee, which amounted to 600,000 ℛℳ in 1939.Loibl was initially a co-director and co-owner of the company, and received 50% of the income, altogether approximately 500,000 ℛℳ; he was removed for incompetence at the end of 1939 or early in 1940. (An internal report dated June 1939 pointed out Himmler's use of his power for the benefit of the company and criticised Loibl's personally profiting from it.) Additionally, Himmler directed the company to pay substantial sums (290,000 ℛℳ a year) to the Ahnenerbe and the Lebensborn; financing these had been the primary purpose of its establishment. The Ahnenerbe had chronic financing problems for some years and in 1937 the Reichsnährstand had reduced its funding and Himmler set up a foundation to channel funds to it, including from the Loibl concern. The Ahnenerbe's share of the Loibl funds was 77,740 ℛℳ in 1938; the Lebensborn received from 100,000 to 150,000 per year from 1939 on. At the Nuremberg Trials the Loibl company was described as "still earning considerable funds for 'Ahnenerbe'".Chartered to develop "technical articles of all kinds", the company later diversified and also sold other products, such as a patented lamp.By the end of the 1930s, when Germany had achieved full employment, the SS enterprises were using slave labour, including from concentration camps. In January 1938, Loibl showed a visitor around a testing laboratory for aircraft motors at Dachau.In December 1963 the reflectors were still required on German bicycles.

Bad Wiessee

Bad Wiessee is a municipality in the district of Miesbach in Upper Bavaria in Germany. Since 1922, it has been a spa town and located on the western shore of the Tegernsee Lake. It had a population of around 4800 inhabitants in 2014. The word "Bad" means "spa" or "baths", while "Wiessee" derives from "Westsee", meaning "western part of the lake". Bad Wiessee was first documented in 1017 in the tax book of the Tegernsee Abbey, encouraged to pay goods to the abbey.

Bad Wiessee is known for its healing sulfur-fountain, discovered by the Dutch oil explorer Adriaan Stoop in 1909 while he was drilling for oil. He built the first iodine sulfur bath in 1912 after oil production had been exhausted. People spend their holidays in Bad Wiessee because of its quiet atmosphere and its location at the north side of the Alps.Tourism is one of the main sources of income for the population of Bad Wiessee. Although spa tourism has declined in the last decades, Bad Wiessee is still very popular for its casino and with wealthy people, many of them buying a second home or condo to spend their holidays or retirement there. The hotels, shops and restaurants cater for the medium-price-category traveller but traditional B&B and reasonable priced accommodations are still available all year round.

Bad Wiessee became notorious as the scene of the key events linked to the Night of the Long Knives, 30 June 1934, when Adolf Hitler and the Schutzstaffel (SS) purged the leadership of the Sturmabteilung (SA), many of whom were staying at the resort, in the Hotel Hanselbauer. The key leaders Ernst Röhm, Anton von Hohberg und Buchwald, Karl Ernst, Edmund Heines and Peter von Heydebreck were arrested and taken to Stadelheim Prison where they were later executed.

Bad Wiessee was also the retirement home, in 1939–1945, of Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg, author of "The Hitler oath". Field Marshal Kesselring is interred in the Bergfriedhof Cemetery in Bad Wiessee.

Bent (1997 film)

Bent is a 1997 British/Japanese drama film directed by Sean Mathias, based on the 1979 play of the same name by Martin Sherman, who also wrote the screenplay. It revolves around the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany after the murder of SA leader Ernst Röhm on the Night of the Long Knives.

Bund Reichskriegsflagge

The Bund Reichskriegsflagge (Imperial War Flag Society) or the Verband Reichskriegsflagge (Imperial War Flag Union) was a paramilitary organization founded by Ernst Röhm in 1923.

The Bund Reichskriegsflagge was formed from the local groups of Memmingen, Schleißheim, Augsburg and Munich of the Wehrverband Reichsflagge (Imperial Flag Combat League), which had previously been expelled for insubordination. The official leader was Joseph Seydel but Ernst Röhm was really in control. Political leadership was transferred to Adolf Hitler on September 25, 1923. It was part of the Kampfbund. The Bund Reichskriegsflagge under Ernst Röhm was instrumental in the Beer Hall Putsch—the unsuccessful attempt by Hitler and the Nazi Party (NSDAP) to seize power in Munich in November 1923. Both it and the NSDAP were banned afterwards. The Bund Reichskriegsflagge was briefly resurrected in 1925, then merged with the Tannenbergbund.

Friedrich Weber (veterinarian)

Friedrich Weber, Dr. (30 January 1892 – 19 July 1954) was an instructor in veterinary medicine at the University of Munich. In World War I he served in the Royal Bavarian 1st Heavy Cavalry Regiment "Prince Karl of Bavaria". He was the leader of the Oberland League and ranked alongside Adolf Hitler, Erich Ludendorff, Ernst Röhm and Hermann Kriebel as one of the chief conspirators of the Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923. He was convicted along with Hitler in 1925 but continued to head the Oberland League until 1929.

After his release from prison, he set up a private vet practice in Munich and continued close contact with Hitler being given a lucrative position in Berlin after Hitler's accession to power in 1933. He became an army vet late in World War II. After the war, he was heavily fined for war profiteering, but continued to practise veterinary medicine, eventually dying in reduced circumstances in 1954.

German Air Sports Association

The German Air Sports Association (Deutscher Luftsportverband, or DLV e. V.) was an organisation set up by the Nazi Party in March 1933 to establish a uniform basis for the training of military pilots. Its chairman was Hermann Göring and its vice-chairman Ernst Röhm.

Infamous Assassinations

Infamous Assassinations was a 2007 British documentary television series about high-profile murders and attempted murders of public figures. The series was narrated by actor Robert Powell. It is currently being shown on Yesterday.

Michael Lippert

Michael Lippert (24 April 1897 – 1 September 1969) was a mid-level commander in the Waffen-SS of Nazi Germany during World War II. He commanded several concentration camps, including Sachsenhausen, before becoming a commander of the SS-Freiwilligen Legion Flandern and the SS Division Frundsberg. He is known for co-murdering SA leader Ernst Röhm on 1 July 1934. In 1957, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison by a West German court for his part in Röhm's murder.

Night of the Long Knives

The Night of the Long Knives (German: Nacht der langen Messer ), or the Röhm Purge, also called Operation Hummingbird (German: Unternehmen Kolibri), was a purge that took place in Nazi Germany from June 30 to July 2, 1934, when Adolf Hitler, urged on by Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler, ordered a series of political extrajudicial executions intended to consolidate his hold on power in Germany, as well as to alleviate the concerns of the German military about the role of Ernst Röhm and the Sturmabteilung (SA), the Nazis' own mass paramilitary organization. Nazi propaganda presented the murders as a preventive measure against an alleged imminent coup by the SA under Röhm – the so-called Röhm Putsch.

The primary instruments of Hitler's action, who carried out most of the killings, were the Schutzstaffel (SS) paramilitary force under Himmler and its Security Service (SD) under Reinhard Heydrich, and the Gestapo, the secret police, under Göring. Göring's personal police battalion also took part in the killings. Many of those killed in the purge were leaders of the SA, the best-known being Röhm himself, the SA's chief of staff and one of Hitler's longtime supporters and allies. Leading members of the leftist-leaning Strasserist faction of the Nazi Party, including its figurehead, Gregor Strasser, were also killed, as were establishment conservatives and anti-Nazis, such as former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher and Bavarian politician Gustav Ritter von Kahr, who had suppressed Hitler's Munich Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. The murders of SA leaders were also intended to improve the image of the Hitler government with a German public that was increasingly critical of thuggish SA tactics.

Hitler saw the independence of the SA and the penchant of its members for street violence as a direct threat to his newly gained political power. He also wanted to conciliate leaders of the Reichswehr, the German military, who feared and despised the SA as a potential rival, in particular because of Röhm's ambition to merge the army and the SA under his own leadership. Additionally, Hitler was uncomfortable with Röhm's outspoken support for a "second revolution" to redistribute wealth. In Röhm's view, President Hindenburg's appointment of Hitler as Chancellor on January 30, 1933 had brought the Nazi Party to power, but had left unfulfilled the party's larger goals. Finally, Hitler used the purge to attack or eliminate German critics of his new regime, especially those loyal to Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen, as well as to settle scores with old enemies.At least 85 people died during the purge, although the final death toll may have been in the hundreds, with high estimates running from 700 to 1,000. More than a thousand perceived opponents were arrested. The purge strengthened and consolidated the support of the Wehrmacht for Hitler. It also provided a legal grounding for the Nazi regime, as the German courts and cabinet quickly swept aside centuries of legal prohibition against extrajudicial killings to demonstrate their loyalty to the regime. The Night of the Long Knives was a turning point for the German government. It established Hitler as the supreme administrator of justice of the German people, as he put it in his July 13 speech to the Reichstag.

Before its execution, its planners sometimes referred to the purge as Hummingbird (German: Kolibri), the codeword used to send the execution squads into action on the day of the purge. The codename for the operation appears to have been chosen arbitrarily. The phrase "Night of the Long Knives" in the German language predates the killings and refers generally to acts of vengeance.

People's Court (Bavaria)

The People's Courts of Bavaria (Volksgerichte) were Sondergerichte (special courts) established by Kurt Eisner during the German Revolution in November 1918 and part of the Ordnungszelle that lasted until May 1924 after handing out more than 31,000 sentences. It was composed of two judges and three lay judges. One of its most notable trials was that of the Beer Hall Putsch conspirators, including Adolf Hitler, Erich Ludendorff, Wilhelm Frick, Friedrich Weber, and Ernst Röhm, which lasted from 26 February 1924 until 1 April 1924.Initially established in each court district by the Order of 16 November 1918 (Verordnung vom 16 November 1918) by the government of Kurt Eisner, it was furthered by the government of Johannes Hoffmann in the Law on the Establishment of People's Courts in Civil Disturbances of 12 July 1919 (Gesetz über die Einsetzung von Volksgerichten bei inneren Unruhen vom 12 Juli 1919). An agreement between the federal government and the government of Bavaria had fixed the deadline for the abolition of the courts on 1 April 1924. In this form they remained until May 1924 after handing out more than 31,000 sentences. Initially intended as a short-term solution for events surrounding the German Revolution, they became seen as part of the Ordnungszelle.


Stabschef ([ʃtaːps.ʃɛf], "Chief of Staff") was an office and paramilitary rank in the Sturmabteilung (SA), the paramilitary stormtroopers associated with the Nazi Party. The rank is equivalent to the rank of Generaloberst in the German Army and to General in the US Army.

Stadelheim Prison

Stadelheim Prison (German: Justizvollzugsanstalt München), in Munich's Giesing district, is one of the largest prisons in Germany.

Founded in 1894, it was the site of many executions, particularly by guillotine during the Nazi period.


The Sturmabteilung (SA; German pronunciation: [ˈʃtʊɐ̯mʔapˌtaɪlʊŋ] (listen)), literally Storm Detachment, was the Nazi Party's original paramilitary. It played a significant role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s. Its primary purposes were providing protection for Nazi rallies and assemblies, disrupting the meetings of opposing parties, fighting against the paramilitary units of the opposing parties, especially the Red Front Fighters League (Rotfrontkämpferbund) of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), and intimidating Romani, trade unionists, and, especially, Jews – for instance, during the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses.

The SA were also called the "Brownshirts" (Braunhemden) from the color of their uniform shirts, similar to Benito Mussolini's blackshirts. The SA developed pseudo-military titles for its members, with ranks that were later adopted by several other Nazi Party groups, chief amongst them the Schutzstaffel (SS), which originated as a branch of the SA before being separated. Brown-colored shirts were chosen as the SA uniform because a large number of them were cheaply available after World War I, having originally been ordered during the war for colonial troops posted to Germany's former African colonies.The SA became disempowered after Adolf Hitler ordered the "blood purge" of 1934. This event became known as the Night of the Long Knives (die Nacht der langen Messer). The SA continued to exist, but was effectively superseded by the SS, although it was not formally dissolved until after Nazi Germany's final capitulation to the Allies in 1945.

The Vengeance of Rome

The Vengeance of Rome (2006) is a novel by Michael Moorcock. It is the fourth in the Pyat Quartet tetralogy. In this novel, Colonel Pyat, an incarnation of the Eternal Champion, goes to Italy and Germany, where he becomes involved in Fascism and Naziism, including sexual encounters with Ernst Röhm and Adolf Hitler and a sojourn in Dachau. Mrs Cornelius, the mother of Jerry Cornelius, is another major character. The end of the novel sees Pyat confronted with his ambiguous heritage and his own unreliability as a narrator.

The Victory of Faith

Not to be confused with the 1829 oratorio "Der Sieg des Glaubens" composed by Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838) to libretto by Johann Baptist Rousseau (1802-1867).Der Sieg des Glaubens (English: The Victory of Faith, Victory of Faith, or Victory of the Faith) (1933) is the first propaganda film directed by Leni Riefenstahl. Her film recounts the Fifth Party Rally of the Nazi Party, which occurred in Nuremberg from 30 August to 3 September 1933. The film is of great historic interest because it shows Adolf Hitler and Ernst Röhm on close and intimate terms, before Röhm was shot on the orders of Hitler during the Night of the Long Knives on 1 July 1934. All known copies of the film were destroyed on Hitler's orders, and it was considered lost until a copy turned up in the 1990s in the United Kingdom.

The form of the film is very similar to her later and much more expansive film of the 1934 rally, Triumph of the Will. Der Sieg des Glaubens is Nazi propaganda for the Nazi Party, which funded and promoted the film, which celebrates the victory of the Nazis in achieving power when Hitler assumed the role of Chancellor of Germany in February 1933.

Uniforms and insignia of the Sturmabteilung

The uniforms and insignia of the Sturmabteilung (SA) were Nazi Party paramilitary ranks and uniforms used by SA stormtroopers from 1921 until the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945. The titles and phrases used by the SA were the basis for paramilitary titles used by several other Nazi paramilitary groups, among them the Schutzstaffel (SS). Early SS ranks were identical to the SA, since the SS was originally considered a sub-organization of the Sturmabteilung.

Victims of the Night of the Long Knives

Victims of the Night of the Long Knives (German: Nacht der langen Messer) – the Nazi purge in which Hitler and the Nazi regime used the Schutzstaffel (SS) to deal with the problem of Ernst Röhm and his Sturmabteilung (SA) brownshirts (the original Nazi paramilitary organization), as well as past opponents of the party – numbered at least 85 people murdered. It took place in Germany between June 30 and July 2, 1934.

Although most of those killed in what came to be known as "The Night of the Long Knives" were members of the SA, other victims included close associates of Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen, several Reichswehr (German Army) generals – one of whom, Kurt von Schleicher, was formerly the Chancellor of Germany – and their associates; Gregor Strasser, Hitler's former competitor for control of the Nazi Party; at least one person killed in a case of mistaken identity; and several innocent victims killed because they "knew too much."

The total number of victims is heavily disputed between historians; some estimates put the number in the hundreds.

Viktor Lutze

Viktor Lutze (28 December 1890 – 2 May 1943) was the commander of the Sturmabteilung ("SA") succeeding Ernst Röhm as Stabschef. He died from injuries received in a car accident. Lutze was given an elaborate state funeral in Berlin on 7 May 1943.

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