Rohm, Ernst

(1887-1934)
   soldier; influential leader of the SA.* Born in Munich to a railway official, he was raised in a monarchist milieu before de-ciding upon a military career in 1906. Assigned to Bavaria's* Regiment Konig Ludwig, he served on the Western Front, where he received multiple wounds and was promoted to captain in 1917.
   Brutalized by his frontline experience, Rohm returned to Germany eager for adventure and battle. Convinced of the superiority of a military life, he cultivated a violent hatred of the Republic. A piece of his ideology appears in a book published in 1928: "Army and politics so act and react upon one another that a separation of one from the other is absolutely impossible." He served in early 1919 as an adjutant with Franz von Epp's* Freikorps,* and helped liquidate Munich's Raterepublik before returning to the Bavarian army as a liaison with the region's paramilitary units. Unexcelled at avoiding the Versailles Treaty's* disarmament* clauses, he was also a gifted organizer. Still maintaining links with Epp, he helped create Bavaria's Einwohnerwehren while training and pro-visioning other paramilitary units.
   Already in contact with Hitler* when the latter worked with army intelligence, Rohm was also an early member of the German Workers' Party (precursor to the NSDAP). For two years he funneled money to the NSDAP while affording it connections with Bavaria's military authorities. Disenchanted with the army's failure to profit from instability, he took his discharge late in 1922, left the Einwohnerwehren in February 1923, and began developing the SA, led at the time by Hermann Goring.* Possessed of enormous energy, he also created his own organization, the Reichskriegsflagge. More than anyone else, Rohm sparked the revival of Bavaria's paramilitary activity in 1923. Prevailing on Hitler to use the SA, he set the stage for November's ill-prepared Beerhall Putsch.* After the coup's collapse he was sentenced to fifteen months' confinement. Gaining early release in April 1924, he reorganized the outlawed SA as the Frontbann. During May-December 1924 he represented the National Socialist Freedom Movement (the NSDAP was banned) in the Reichstag.*
   Rohm's relationship with Hitler was strained by friction within the volkisch movement and Hitler's ambivalence toward the Frontbann after his own release from prison. Finally, after Hitler initially prevailed upon Rohm to lead the SA, disputes over its subordination to the NSDAP provoked Rohm's resignation in April 1925. While the men remained on close terms, Rohm left for South Amer-ica and served almost three years as an advisor to the Bolivian army. He returned to Germany in 1930 and recovered his position as Oberster SA Fuhrer (OSAF or Supreme SA Leader) in January 1931. Paralleling the NSDAP's breakthrough into national politics, he helped expand the SA from a force of 77,000 to one of almost 500,000 by 1933.
   Hitler's decision to gain power legally was distasteful to Rohm and irritating to many SA subalterns. Yet despite tactical disputes and Rohm's well-known homosexuality, a warm relationship was sustained (Rohm was the only Nazi whom Hitler addressed with the familiar "du"); Rohm always respected Hitler's superior vision and rhetorical talents. But after Hitler seized power, he came to appreciate the threat that the SA represented to the army. To gain the army s loyalty, the SA was purged and Rohm was executed on 1 July 1934.
   REFERENCES:Bessel, Political Violence; Diehl, Paramilitary Politics; Jablonsky, "Röhm and Hitler"; Orlow, History of the Nazi Party; Stachura, Political Leaders.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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