Ernst Röhm

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Ernst Röhm
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-15282A, Ernst Röhm.jpg
Full Name: Ernst Julius Günther Röhm
Origin: Munich, Bavaria, German Empire
Occupation: Commander of the Sturmabteilung (1931 - 1934)
Goals: Have the SA become the primary military force in Nazi Germany (failed)
Crimes: War crimes
Arms trafficking
Type of Villain: Nazi Soldier

I am still today a soldier and only a soldier.
~ Ernst Röhm

Ernst Julius Günther Röhm (November 28th, 1887 – July 1st, 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, also known as the "Röhm Purge".

Röhm was openly gay, which was very rare among members of the Nazi Party.


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.

A soldier from 1906, Röhm was wounded three times in World War I, during which he attained the rank of captain. Following the armistice on 11 November 1918 that ended the war, Röhm continued his military career as a captain in the Reichswehr. 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). Not long afterward he met Adolf Hitler, and they became political allies and close friends. Röhm resigned or retired from the Reichswehr on 26 September 1923.

Throughout the early 1920s, Röhm remained an important intermediary between Germany's right-wing paramilitary organizations and the Reichswehr. 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.

Röhm helped Hitler win the support of the army in Bavaria and made available to him his private strong-arm force, which in October 1921 became the SA. For his part in the Beer Hall Putsch of November 8–9, 1923, in Munich, Röhm was briefly imprisoned.

Röhm wanted the SA to absorb or supplant the Reichswehr (regular army) and to secure equality with the Nazi Party, contrary to Hitler’s wishes. In 1925 Röhm went to Bolivia, but he returned late in 1930 at Hitler’s request to reorganize the SA.

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. The SA did continue its street battles against the communists, forces of rival political parties and violent actions against Jews and others deemed hostile to the Nazi agenda.

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 rival 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. 

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.

After Hitler became chancellor in 1933, he temporized by including Röhm in his cabinet but then subordinated the SA to the party and the army. Persuaded by Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler, Hitler finally decided to purge the SA chief. Röhm was taken by Hitler personally from a hotel near Munich on the pretext that he and the SA were preparing a putsch. Röhm was shot without trial the next day. The Sturmabteilung was gradually phased out and superseded by the Schutzstaffel.

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.