Sturm Abteilung (SA) is German for "storm section." This organization, also called the Brownshirts or Stormtroopers, was the Nazi Party's para-military arm. It played a major role in the Nazi movement during the 1920s and early 1930s. In 1921 the Sturmabteilung or SA was founded, with Hitler at its head, as a private paramilitary force, which allegedly was to be used for the purpose of protecting NSDAP leaders from attack by rival political parties, and preserving order at NSDAP meetings, but in reality was used for fighting political opponents on the streets.
The Nazi Party expanded rapidly, and to provide security for its spokesmen, the party formed the so-called "Sport and Gymnastic Section" from which the toughest members were selected as bodyguards. This section soon developed under Ernst Röhm as an independent body with a new name: "Sturmabteilung" (SA or Storm Troops). This title referred back to the Great War I, during which the German Army created special trained storm troops to break through the Allied lines. While Hitler spent nine months of 1923 in jail because of his failed attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government, the SA grew from 2,000 to over 30,000 members during this time. In March 1923, the Herman Goering was appointed head of the SA. Göring reorganized the SA according to military lines and divided it into standarten, sturmbannen and hundertschaften.
In the early days of the Nazi movement the storm troopers of the SA acted as the "strong arm of the party." They took part in the beer-hall feuds and mere used for street fighting in battles against political opponents. The SA was also used to disseminate Nazi ideology and propaganda and placed particular emphasis on anti-Semitic propaganda, the doctrine of "Lebeasraum," the revision of the Versailles Treaty, and the return of Germany's colonies.
The SA was organized on military lines. Its members wore their own uniforms and had their own discipline and regulations. After the Nazis had obtained power the SA greatly increased in membership due to the incorporation within it of certain veterans organizations. In April 1933, the Stahlhelm, an organization of 1.5 million members, was transferred into the SA, with the exception of its members over 45 years of age and some others, pursuant to an agreement between their leader Seldte and Hitler. Another veterans organization, the so-called Kyffhauserbund, was transferred in the same manner, together with a number of rural riding organizations. Until 1933, there is no question but that membership in the SA was voluntary. After 1933 civil servants were under certain political and economic pressure to join the SA. Members of the Stahlhelm, the Kyffhauserbund and the rural riding associations were transferred into the SA without their knowledge.
After the Nazi advent to power, and particularly after the elections of 5 March 1933, the SA played an important role in estab- lishing a Nazi reign of terror over Gerinany. The SA was involved in outbreaks of violence against the Jews and was used to arrest politi- cal opponents and to guard concentration camps, where they subjected their prisoners to brutal mistreatment.
The elevation on 1 December 1933 of SA Chief of Staff Roehm to cabinet rank on a par with the war minister, General Werner von Blomberg, came as a shock. It did not challenge the privileged position of the Reichswehr in the same way establishment of a cabinet-level secret police authority would. But it was serious, nonetheless, because of the danger that the professional military establishment might be engulfed by the plebeian horde of party storm troopers. In February 1934, Reichsminister Roehm proposed to the cabinet that the SA be used as the basis for swift expansion of the army and that this expansion program be carried out under the aegis of a single minister (obviously himself), who would be in charge of the regular armed forces as well as the paramilitary and veterans organizations. Hitler himself fully grasped its implications. Roehm's brownshirts had been indispensable during the years he was storming the gates, but now he had no need for brutal street fighters.
On June 29th 1934, Hitler ordered the SA leadership to appear for a meeting at the Hotel Hanselbauer. Without warning, the SS burst in, beginning 48 hours of bloodshed in which 1000 of the leading SA, including Ernst Roehm, were rounded up and slaughtered. This murderous deed became an omen of what was to come. On June 30th and July 1st and 2d, 1934, a purge of SA leaders occurred - the "Night of the Long Knives". The story goes that Hitler personally not only shot Roehm but shot Roehm's boyfriend — Hitler told Roehm to commit suicide and Roehm said, “If you want me dead, you must shoot me yourself." Which Hitler did.
The Blood Purge was a consolidation of power and a settling of accounts, not a moral cleansing. The pretest which was given for this purge, which involved the killing of Roehm, the chief of staff of the SA, and many other SA leaders, was the existence of a plot against Hitler. Allegedly Roehm and his "accomplices" had been caught red-handed in the process of staging a coup d'état. This was untrue. While Roehm and many of his supporters were dissatisfied with the government, they were not trying to overthrow it but rather to gain greater influence within it. Scores of others who obviously had nothing to do with the fictional "Roehm revolt" were simultaneously murdered in a nationwide settling of old accounts that took perhaps two hundred lives, possibly many more.
Scores of others who obviously had nothing to do with the fictional "Roehm revolt" were simultaneously murdered in a nationwide settling of old accounts that took perhaps two hundred lives, possibly many more. Among the victims were Father Bernhard Stempfle, a former editorial reader of Hitler's Mein Kampf, Undersecretary of Transportation Erich Klausener, the head of Catholic Action, and Hitler's predecessor as chancellor, General Kurt von Schleicher, together with his wife, as well as one of his close associates, General Kurt von Bredow. The law by the cabinet on 3 July 1934 retroactively condemned to death as traitors the victims of the purge. What he claimed, after having blatantly exercised it) was unbridled authority to order executions without due process of law or even the most peremptory of formal convictions.
The killings had largely been carried out by Heinrich Himmler's SS (Schutzstaffeln, defense echelons) and Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei, secret state police). On 20 July 1934, exactly one week after his unequivocal pledge to the Reichswehr, Hitler rewarded the SS for its "great services in connection with the "Roehm revolt" by severing its affiliation with the SA, of which it had been a subdivision initially charged with the personal protection of the Fuehrer.
Until the purge beginning on June 30, 1934, the SA was a group composed in large part of ruffians and bullies who participated in the Nazi outrages of that period. The purge resulted in a great reduction in the influence and pomer of the SA. After the purge, the SA was reduced to the status of a group of unimportant Nazi hangers-on. After 1984 it rapidly declined in political significance. By the end of 1933 the SA mas composed of 4.5 million men. As a result of changes made after 1934, in 1939 the SA numbered 1.5 million men. After 1934 the SA engaged in certain forms of military or para-millitary training. The SA continued to engage in the dissemination of Nazi propaganda.
The SA was gradually merged into the framework of the military system and became more closely connected with the Regular Army. By 1935, more than 100 divisions (called brigades) of SA troops had been organized, including men over 45 years old. The regiments were named after old pre-Versailles units, and carried on their traditions. Only a few units were technically a part of the armed forces, and the main function of the SA was to provide continuous and effective military training for a large mass of the civilian population, outside the regular 2-year service of conscripts in the Regular Army.
The SA Standarte Feldherrnhalle was authorised in 1936. In principle the Feldherrnhalle was supposed to undertake special guard and protection duties for high officials of the Party and the SA that were not already being undertaken by the SS. In fact sometime before the official establishment of the Feldherrnhalle special SA elite guard units were in existence.
By 1939 the SA had been organized to provide specialist training in such lines as cavalry, signaling, engineers, medical service, and navy. One of its important jobs was to give military training to men over 21 who had not received any training in the pre-Hitler years when Germany's Army had been restricted to a small standing Army (Reichswehr). It was estimated that 13,400 Reserve officers and 30,000 Reserve NCO's were among its members. The SA gave a coveted Sports Medal on a basis which showed very well how everything in their program was pointed toward military service. The examinations for this medal include (aside from running and swimming tests) rifle shooting, camouflage, hand-grenade target throwing, marching 25 km. with a 25-pound pack, a 200-meter dash in gas mask, etc.
In 1939, Hitler made this function of the SA even clearer by prescribing that all men who had received the regular 2 years of military training should enter the SA. Regulations were drawn up which required 110 hours of. training a year, and a US observer, in 1939, said that this training equalled that received in pre-war years by the U. S. National Guard units. By 1939, the Sports Medal had been acquired by 800,000 men outside the SA ranks. As the observer noted, an important aspect of the SA control of reservists was the fact that all these men would remain completely under the influence of Nazi party doctrines and controls.
With the approach of war, the SA members were largely called into the regular armed forces (as individuals rather than by units). Enough of the leaders remained, however, to continue the work with the Hitler Youth and with older civilians not yet called out. According to one estimate, 1,500,000 men were receiving SA training, largely on Sundays and evenings, in the spring of 1940.
The work done by the SA provided a great mass of partially trained men, in all age groups, who could be' quickly organized and used in regular divisions on the outbreak of war. A large part of German military training had been accomplished with men who were technically in a civilian status. As a result, a German division during the war could be sent into combat with a minimum of training. A US observer, in April 1940, visited the camp of a division which had been called in November 1939. It had received 2 months' training in the school of the soldier and company, and then had had coordinated exercises for battalion and division operations. By May 1940, the division expected to be in the combat zone. Another observer states that at present the basic instruction lasts about 6 weeks and is followed by 4 to 8 weeks of training in large units.
Isolated units of the SA were involved in the steps leading up to aggressive war and in the comission of war crimes and crimes against humanity. SA units were among the first in the occupation of Austria in March 1938. The SA supplied many of the men and a large part of the equipment which composed the Sudeten Free Corps of Henlein, although it appears that the corl;s mas under the jurisdiction of SS during its operation in Czechoslovakia. After the occupation of Poland, the SA group Sudeten mas used for transporting prisoners of war. Units of the SA mere employed in the guarding of prisoners in Danzig, Posen, Silesia, and the Baltic States. Some SA units were used to blow up synagogues in the Jemisli pogrom of the 10th and 11th of November 1938. Groups of the SA mere concerned in the ill-treatment of Jews in the Ghettos of Vilna and Kaunas.