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SA (Sturmabteilung) (Storm Troopers)
The Nazi party's main instrument for facilitating Adolf Hitler's rise to power
Hitler conceived of the organisation's structure, role, and social composition as being similar to those of the urban street gangs known as "shock troops" and Benito Mussolini's Blackshirts. The SA was characterised by virulent anti-Semitism, antidemocratic illegal military activities, the rejection of bourgeois law and order, a lower middle-class mentality, corruption, and bids for personal power. The SA "spirit" was unified not so much through a clear ideology as by the prevailing conditions of widespread unemployment and low wages, by barroom camaraderie, romantic quasi-military outdoor drill, and campfire talk. The problems of alienation from urban life and the decline of agriculture also drew people to the SA.
During the 1920s
Following the failed Munich Putsch (the Beer-Hall Putsch) of November 9, 1923, the SA, together with all the other Nazi organisations, was outlawed. After it was legalised once more in 1924, Hitler never again risked an open confrontation with the organs of the state. He developed the concept of SA terror by means of street fights between the storm troopers and their political enemies. This strategy did not always satisfy the impatient members or the Oberste SA Fuehrer (Supreme Commander of the SA; OSAF), Reichswehr captain Ernst Roehm. When his semi-independence was rejected by Hitler, Roehm left Germany, and another army captain, Franz Felix Pfeffer von Salomon, took his place. Pfeffer was forced to step down in 1930, after the Berlin SA launched an aborted revolt against the party because of its desire for greater independence and its impatience with the party's tactics against the Weimar Republic. Following the Nazi electoral breakthrough of 1930, Hitler invited Roehm to serve as chief of the SA High Command again. 1930-1932. Roehm divided Germany into twenty-one military-like SA districts. He also created flying squads, the Nationalsozialistisches Kraftfahrkorps (Nazi Motor Corps), and reorganised the SA High Command. Membership in the SA grew enormously between 1930 and 1932. In its propaganda, the SA presented itself as an alternative to the 'mechanical, competitive, and alienating modern world of the liberal-conservatives or Communists,' putting forward the Jew as a symbol of these menaces. In his strategy for undermining the Weimar Republic, Hitler had to find a way to restrain the SA, while at the same time brandishing it as a threatening weapon.
From Hitler's Rise to Power to the "Night of the Long Knives."
With Hitler's rise to Chancellor on January 30, 1933, the SA gained access to key positions and perceived of itself as the dominant power in the country. In particular, SA men were drafted into the auxiliary police, and as such they arrested, tortured, and terrorised political, ideological, and personal enemies in what came to be concentration camps. It also made Jews its target of attack. Hitler, however, was not interested in the social revolution envisioned by the SA. When Roehm openly expressed disappointment and gave the impression that he intended to take over the army, he and the SA leadership were massacred by Himmler's SS. The night of June 30, 1934, called the Nacht der langen Messer ("Night of the Long Knives") resulted in the SA's losing its position of predominance in the Third Reich to the SS. However, the organisation was allowed to continue to exist, and Hitler used it as a potential revolutionary threat that could be unleashed against the upper classes, the banned working-class parties, and the unions to secure co-operation with the Nazi regime.
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