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Ernst Roehm-Hitler's Loyal Friend and Homosexual Paramilitary Leader Leader

Updated on September 8, 2017
John Everette profile image

While I was in the Arny, this history buff, spent a total of 9 years in Germany, where I gained a curiosity about its historic figures.

Ernst Roehm Leader of the Nazi Party's paramilitary SA (Stormtroopers)
Ernst Roehm Leader of the Nazi Party's paramilitary SA (Stormtroopers) | Source

Ernst Roehm

Above everything in his colorful homosexual life Ersnt Roehm was a military man who loved turning country bumpkins into professional soldiers and had an attitude toward superiors that often got him into trouble in that he tended to go out of his way to let superiors know that he considered them inept.

Unlike many, if not most of his superiors, Roehm was not part of the aristocracy. He was born in Nov of 1887 into a family of civil servants. Still, he always wanted to be a soldier and first entered the military at the age of 19. He soon entered the 10th Regiment named after Prince Ludwig of Bavaria. He later went to the war college and quickly rose in rank. His first assignment was to supervise the training of new recruits. Somewhere along the line he showed an ability to handle administrative work which was believed to have been noticed by Reich Ludendorff who. At that time, had a reputation for being a difficult administrative genius of the German Army.

Like many Germans, Roehm welcomed World War I and served at the front where half of his nose was shot off. He was hospitalized and after returning to the front in 1916/1917 he was injured again, this time, in such a way that it made him unfit for combat.

In 1918, like many ,other bitter and beaten soldiers returning to civilian life and angered by Germany’s defeat, he joined a dozen or so postwar paramilitary organizations. At the same time he was engaged in secret work for the Army in that he was clandestinely storing weapons in Bavaria.

Hitler and Roehm in Better Days
Hitler and Roehm in Better Days | Source

Roehm and Hitler

In 1919 he met a 39 year old, fellow veteran of the front lines who had an odd mustache and gave him his first job-Adolf Hitler. In a short time they became friends to the point that Roehm was Hitler’s most trusted friend leading Hitler to use the German familiar form of address when they talked. It was an honor than no one else in Hitler’s entourage earned, not even Martin Borman, the “Watchdog of the Inner Chamber”.

In 1923 Hitler led a failed coup attempt in Munich to take over that Bavarian city’s government-The Beer Hall Putsch. For this the two men were arrested. Roehm was briefly imprisoned and then placed on probation. Hitler spent one year in prison where he not only wrote Mein Kampf but was treated more like a celebrity than a convict.

In 1924/1925, despite reports of Roehm’s rather notorious homosexual exploits, Hitler gave Roehm the responsibility to rebuild the SA (Sturmablerluny-Storm Detachment, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party. This organization was responsible for:

  1. Protection at Nazi rallies
  2. Disrupt meetings of opposing political parties
  3. Fight with the paramilitary groups of opposing political parties, especially the Red Front Fighters League which belonged to the Communist Party of Germany.
  4. Intimidate Slavic and Romani citizens, unionists, and Jews

In defense of the SA Hitler once wrote-[The SA] is not an institute for the moral education of genteel ladies, but a formation of seasoned fighters. The sole purpose of any inquiry must be to ascertain the SA officer…is performing his duties…His private life cannot be an object of scrutiny unless it conflicts with the basic princples of National Socialist ideology.”

At the same time the two quarreled but not because of Roehm’s notorious homosexual lifestyle. Roehm, himself did not have is first homosexual experience until he was 37 (1924). In fact Roehm’s notorious homosexual activity always occurred outside the SA. Nevertheless, this quarrel led him to resign from his post. Roehm’s sexual orientation and lifestyle did tend to make him, and the SA an easy target for his critics as the ranks of SA quickly gained a reputation of being filled with homosexuals. One of his critics was a military man by the name of Heinrich Himmler who was already building his SS partially within the ranks of the SA. Being Roehm, the man was quick to let people know his beliefs, namely that a brave homosexual was to be preferred to a cowardly heterosexual.

In 1929 a party squabble threatened to tear the SA apart causing Hitler to reinstate Roehm who did not hesitate to return to Germany from Bolivia where he was training that country’s army. Against taunts that Roehm’s SA was a bunch of “sissies in frilly underwear who couldn’t order their boys around” from the party’s then paramilitary wing under the command of Walter von Sternes, Roehm, and his boys quickly suppressed Sternes and his boys. He then went on to preside over the expansion of the SA as thousands of adoring, unsophisticated young men loyal to him, were recruited.

As Roehm succeeded in recruiting thousands of German men for the SA, the regular military became steadily uncomfortable and critical of Roehm’s indiscretions and lack of discipline, not to mention his tendency to slander and denounce people, especially military officers with ranks above his. They feared more and more that Roehm would eventually succeeded in replacing them with the SA.

Since his return to Germany and Hitler, Roehm nursed a growing desire to bring together the SA and the regular army into one fighting force under his command for the sake of guaranteeing the purity of the Nazi Revolution. He gradually came to see Hitler’s apparent leanings towards the old order as a betrayal of the original ideals of the Nazi Revolution. He did not know that Hitler was already formulating plans for war and to that end Hitler needed the leaders of industry and the regular military. He also needed the thousands of soldiers under Roehm’s command. Soldiers who, under the Versailles Treaty of 1918, were not able to enlist in the regular army.

Friends Become Enemies

In February 1934 Hitler announced his timetable for war, he had been thinking about for a long time, in a meeting of the army high command and SA executive officers. At that same meeting Hitler announced that the regular army was to be the only legitimate military force in Germany. At first Roehm did not react to the announcements but then later let his feelings known about Hitler and the East Prussian generals in charge of the army.

It was not until June 4, that Hitler made an attempt to reason with Roehm in a five hour meeting that resulted in Roehm and the SA going on vacation during the months of July and August. In the mean time Roehm publishe a paper announcing that “The SA is and will remain the destiny of Germany” two days later and Hitler was pressed into taking action against Roehm as Himmler, Heydrich, and Goring “cook up” proof that Roehm was planning a coup.

Around June 27th or 28th, acting on the assurance that Hitler would meet with SA leadership July 1, Roehm moved his vacation spot to the Pension Hanselbaur on Wiessee in Bavaria. The meeting, at the Pension, was believed to be one last attempt to iron our problems between Hitler and the SA. (Roehm). At the same time military troops in Munich were put on alert to occupy the railroad station where SA leaders would be arriving for the meeting.

On the night of June 28, with SA troops scattered throughout Germany on vacation, the “Night of the Long Knives” began as Hitler led troops into the pension to personally arrest Roehm and any SA officers there. Other arrests of the SA’s “homosexual pigs”, as well as some people who were not associated with the SA but still posed a problem, conducted in other parts of Germany. Most, if not all those arrested taken to Staddleheim prison.

On July 1, an officer at the prison handed Roehm a revolver allowing him to decide his fate. Roehm is said to have responded with “Let Adolf do it himself. I’m not going to do his job.” Later in the day two SS hitmen entered his cell and shot him. Victims of the “Night of the Long Knives” (the purge) at the prison, were taken away in a butcher’s tin-line truck.

Two weeks later Hitler addressed the Reichstag. Part of the address concerned the purge that occurred during the “Knight of the Long Knives”. He said-“If anyone reproaches me and asks why I did not resort to regular court of justice, then all I can say is. In this hour I was responsible to the fate of the German people. I became the supreme judge of the German nation…Everyone must know for all future time that if he raises his hand to strike the state, then certain death is his lot.”

As a result of the purge Hitler succeeded in:

  1. Bolstering his image as a strong leader capable of imposing high moral standards and discipline
  2. Eliminating Roehm and the SA
  3. Resolving old political and paramilitary leadership problems
  4. Removing all potential and embarrassing rivals
  5. Gaining greater support from army (military) generals
  6. Setting Himmler free to seek unlimited authority in his campaigns to purify the German/Nordic race through the elimination of “contragenics” (inferiors) of all kinds.

Probably the greatest and longest lasting impact of the purge was the legalization of murder in the name of the state for on June 28, the anniversary of the “Night of the Long Knifes”, Himmler launched his campaign to more specifically eliminate homosexuals and Jews from Germany.

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