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Ernst Roehm

Ernst Roehm was born in Munich on 28 November, 1887. He joined the German Army in 1906 and during the First World War was wounded three times and reached the rank of major. After the war Roehm joined the Freikorps and served under Franz Epp in Munich in 1919. He remained active in right-wing politics and in 1921 he recruited Adolf Hitler to spy on the German Worker's Party (DAP), and soon thereafter Roehm also joined the GWP. The arrival of Roehm was an important development as he had access to the army political fund and was able to transfer some of the money into the party.

Roehm took part in the Beer Hall Putsch and after its failure was one of those imprisoned and put on trial. Although found guilty of treasonable acts, he was released in April 1924 and dismissed from the German Army. In 1924, after Rhm was released from prison, he worked with Hitler to refound the Nazi Party. Hitler appointed him commander of the Sturmabteilung (SA). In that capacity Rohm founded the Frontbann, a new edition of the pre-putsch Combat League. Hitler soon realised that an updated version of the Freikorps strategy would be a political dead end. In December 1924 he removed the SA from the Frontbann - and Rohm, who categorically demanded that the National Socialist movement recognise `the primacy of soldiers over politicians', felt that he had been overridden. Hence they parted ways in the spring of 1925.

Ernst Rhm was one of the most prominent of a number of early Nazi party members who was a homosexual. Rohm's homosexuality became public knowledge in 1925, when Rohm appeared in court to charge a hustler with theft. Roehm had, by contemporary standards, been remarkably candid about his homosexuality.

Michelle Scott wrote "He was also a homosexualist, an open advocate homosexuality, really one of the first militant gay activists. Rohm refused to hide his homosexuality. He was even a member of an organization that pushed for the public acceptance of homosexuality. ... macho-style butch homosexuals .., pursued a Greek/Hellenic ideal of warrior pederasty. ... The other Nazi gays ... were of the usual discreet and covert class."

Rhm resigned from the Nazi Party in 1925. When offered the post of military adviser to the Bolivian army in December 1928, he promptly accepted. The German government sponsored Rhm's position, and he was promoted to Oberst in the German Reichswehr.

In 1930, Adolf Hitler personally assumed command of the stormtroopers as the new Sturm Abteilung (SA) Oberste SA-Fhrer. In January, 1931, Hitler sent a personal request to Rhm to return to Germany, upon which Rhm was offered the position as Stabschef (Chief of Staff) of the entire Sturmabteilung. Hitler needed Rohm's military skill and could rely on his personal loyalty.

In 1931 the public prosecutor's office in Berlin began investigating Rohm for `unnatural sexual offences'. Although Rohm admitted being `bisexually inclined' and having `often had to do with young boys in that direction', he refused to admit engaging in criminal intercourse `as defined by Paragraph 175' -- the standard argument advanced by all accused men, and one that was hard to refute. The case was therefore dropped.

On March 7th, 1932, the leftwing Welt am Montag printed three letters written by Ernst Rohm. Two days later they appeared in the Munchener Post. Soon they were reprinted as a pamphlet, two of them even in facsimile form. Their authenticity seemed beyond doubt. The letters in question, which dated from 1928-29, were extremely intimate in tone. Rhm discussed his sexual affairs with men. This resulted in a national scandal. The Munich Post attacked "the disgusting hypocrisy that the party demonstrates -- outward moral indignation while inside its own ranks the most shameless practices prevail," and said that "every knowledgeable person knows that inside the Hitler party the most flagrant whorishness contemplated by paragraph 175 (defining homosexuality as a criminal offense) is widespread."

Portions of the Captain's correspondence with his medical advisers on the subject of young men are printed in Not To Be Repeated (Ray Long & Richard R. Smith - 1932 - $3). The SA acquired the reputation of a fraternity devoted to homosexual excesses. As Chancellor, Hitler initially took the position that Captain Roehm's notorious and self-admitted unnatural conduct had no bearing upon politics. But the Nazi Party had a virulently antigay policy.

As Chief of Staff of the SA, Roehm was responsible for the development of SA into a powerful organization. In just over a year Rhm expanded the SA from 70,000 to 170,000 members. By 1934 the SA had grown to 4,500,000 men. SA members were required to take a personal oath of fidelity to Roehm. Throughout the period of Hitler's rise to power, Ernst Rhm represented the militant wing of the Nazi Party.

On 01 December 1933 a law was enacted "to secure the unity of Party and State." This law provided that the Nazi Party was the pillar of the German State, and was linked to it indissolubly; it also made the Deputy of the Fuehrer (then Hess) and the Chief of Staff of the SA (then Roehm) members of the Reich Cabinet.

A series of conflicts had arisen between the more extreme elements of the National Socialist Party's uniformed Sturmabteilungen and the Reichsheer. Roehm advocated the absorption of the Reichsheer into his own uniformed force, to form an army more representative of the new National Socialist state. Hitler had to resolve the growing rift and decided in favor of the Reichsheer.

On 30 June 1934 Roehm and several score others were executed without legal process of any kind as a threat to the security of the state. All Germany knew of his bull-like philandering with effeminate young men. According to official communiques there was no one in bed with Captain Roehm when Chancellor Hitler burst in, but in the adjoining bedroom Nazi Police Chief Edmund Heines of Breslau was nabbed with a young storm trooper between the sheets.

At the time of the Purge, Captain Roehm was in Wiessee, twenty miles from Munich. He was brought back along with others who had evoked the displeasure of the Fuehrer. Heines and his male favorite were shot at once, but Hitler did not know what to do with Roehm. According to John Gunther, foreign correspondent of the Chicago Daily News, this is what happened: "He (Hitler) did not know what to do with Roehm. The chief of staff was clapped in prison and told to shoot himself. He refused, saying that if anyone shot him, it would have to be 'Adolf himself.' He was not killed till five p.m. the next day, about thirtysix hours after his arrest. No one knows the precise circumstances. Probably the jailers came to Hitler again and again, with the words, 'He won't kill himself. . . . What shall we do ... ?' And one can imagine Hitler's final irritated, desperate order to get rid somehow of the man who was his only friend, get him out of the way, shoot him, kill him. ..." After long hours of bickering delay Prisoner Roehm was shot in the back next day by a firing squad.

When Roehm's policies conflicted with those of the Nazi leaders, he was removed, murdered, and replaced by Victor Lutze. This drastic action was accomplished without revolt or dissension in the ranks of the SA, and with no change in its objectives or program. The SA remained "a reliable and strong part of the National Socialist Movement. After the elimination of the forces of the opposition, the Nazis felt it necessary to dispose of nonconformists within their own ranks. Needless to say, Hitler made use of this opportunity to rid himself of numerous political opponents as well as the embarrassing SA leaders. During the Roehm purge of 30 June 1934, many people were murdered who had nothing to do with the internal SA revolt but were just "not liked very well".

Hitler was fully apprised of Roehm's homo-erotic proclivities. Rohm was a homosexual in a time and place where such things could be expecially dangerous. As children in the late-imperial period, the stormtroopers had witnessed the first German debates over homosexuality and political life. As young adults, they verbally and physically battled over these definitions, bringing conflicts over homosexuality and masculinity into the center of Weimar Germany's most important political debates. Roehm's love for young men down into their teens allowed the fawning Himmler and Goering to use that fact to remove Hitler's protection from him. Later, under the Nazis homosexual prisoners were confined to death camps where, forced to wear pink triangles, they constituted the lowest rung in the camp hierarchy.

James Steakley wrote "For public relations purposes, and especially to quell the outrage felt throughout the ranks of the SA, Hitler justified his blatant power play by pointing to Rohm's homosexuality. Hitler, of course, had known of Rohm's homosexuality since 1919, and it became public knowledge in 1925, when Rohm appeared in court to charge a hustler with theft. All this while the Nazi Party had a virulently antigay policy, and many Nazis protested that Rohm was discrediting the entire Party and should be purged. Hitler, however, was quite willing to cover up for him for years until he stood in the way of larger plans."




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