- the most menacing of the Republic's paramilitary groups. The NSDAP founded its "Sports Section" (Turn- und Sportabteilung)inNo-vember 1920 under the direction of Emil Maurice, a Munich watchmaker. By August 1921, when Hitler* seized Party control, the Sportabteilung had evolved into a paramilitary institution whose members were dubbed the "Brownshirts"; the group's initial uniforms came from a surplus consignment intended for sol-diers serving in Africa. In converting the SA into a powerful organization, Hitler was assisted by Hermann Ehrhardt.* Ehrhardt loaned officers and contributed money for its development, while the dissolution of several Freikorps* units after the campaign in Upper Silesia* (May-June 1921) brought recruits. Because it was deemed a political tool, not a veterans' group, Hitler aimed membership appeals at "our German youth"—males seventeen and older. In November 1921, after a battle with socialists at Munich's Hofbrauhaus, the organization was renamed Sturmabteilung (Storm Section). Although Hermann Goring* be-came formal leader in 1922, a fundamental redesign of the SA came only after Ernst Rohm* joined its command structure in February 1923. Through Rohm's training and enlistment campaigns, the SA helped radicalize Bavarian politics.After the November 1923 Beerhall Putsch* the SA and the Party were banned. Rohm, released from prison in April 1924, revived the SA as the Frontbann. But by forming an organization that conformed with Bavaria's other military associations, Rohm broke with Hitler's aspirations. When Hitler reestablished both the NSDAP and the SA in February 1925 (the ban on both having been lifted), he informed Rohm that the Frontbann had no future with the Party and that the SA would thereafter be less a military association than a political action league. Rohm resigned in April.Dictating that members henceforth belong to the NSDAP, the SA evolved a propaganda mission and flourished at the expense of other paramilitary units. Its prosperity was attributed to Captain Franz Pfeffer* von Salomon, appointed Oberster SA Fuhrer (OSAF or Supreme SA Leader) in September 1926. Work-ing with Hitler, Pfeffer recast the SA's structure and formalized its propaganda role for the remaining years of the Republic. By the fall of 1930 it was a well-trained force of 60,000. Yet tension with Hitler, centered on the SA's objection to gaining power legally, intensified as the SA expanded its membership. The quarrel finally brought Pfeffer's resignation in August 1930. After briefly leading the SA himself, Hitler passed command to Rohm in January 1931.Hitler's decision to blend military and political activism in the wake of the September 1930 elections (when the Nazi Reichstag* faction jumped to 107 members) helped dilute SA-NSDAP discord. Moreover, growth was phenome-nal. Numbering 77,000 in January 1931, the SA stood at 260,000 twelve months later; in January 1933, when Hitler assumed power, it exceeded 500,000 (the numbers were quite fluid, with turnover as great as 25 percent in a single month). Such growth, fostered by unemployment (the SA had a larger plebeian com-ponent than the Party at large), was linked to increased political violence. This, in turn, led Heinrich Brüning* to ban the SA on 13 April 1932; two months later Franz von Papen* bartered removal of the ban. From 16 June, when the prohibition was lifted, until 1 July, seventeen demonstrators were killed, five Communists* and twelve Nazis (a higher toll than in any prior month). Another eighty-six men were killed in July, of whom thirty were Communists and thirty-eight Nazis (see "Bloody Sunday").With membership reopened in February 1933 to non-Party constituents, the SA burgeoned to about 3 million by January 1934. Yet despite the pretense of harmony, friction between Hitler and the SA intensified until the June 1934 Rohm purge neutralized the organization's power. Thereafter, under the direc-tion of Viktor Lutze, a chastened SA was reduced to collecting Winter Relief (Winterhilfe), parading, or smashing Jewish shop windows. Membership was marked by steady decline. Meanwhile the SS (Schutzstaffeln), organized in the summer of 1925 and officially subordinate to the SA until July 1934 (it gained substantial autonomy in November 1930), displaced the parent organization.REFERENCES:Bessel, Political Violence; Brecht, Prelude to Silence; Childers and Weiss, "Voters and Violence"; Diehl, Paramilitary Politics; Conan Fischer, Stormtroopers; Merkl, Making of a Stormtrooper; Reiche, Development of the SA in Nürnberg.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.