An exhaustive examination of Hitler’s Sturmabteilungen, aka the SA.
As Siemens (History, Philosophy, and Theology/Bielefeld Univ.; The Making of a Nazi Hero: The Murder and Myth of Horst Wessel, 2013, tec.) reports in this revelatory scholarly survey, the SA, founded soon after the Treaty of Versailles in the 1920s, was once not the only popular substitute for Germany’s demolished war machine; it soon became the sole “people’s militia” serving as an adjunct of the nascent Nazi Party. The stormtroopers were generally undereducated and unemployed young men with a gang mentality, and they shared a love of uniforms and a distinct hatred of Bolsheviks and Jews. Hitler often wore the stormtroopers’ uniform, made by Hugo Boss. The SA became so powerful as their rancorous numbers increased that the Führer had their erstwhile leader, Ernst Röhm, murdered along with many others during the notorious “Night of the Long Knives” in 1934. The SA, no longer a threat to the regime, still had important functions under their new boss, Heinrich Himmler, and the group took a prominent role in the murder of Jews. Stormtroopers were instrumental in the deadly Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938, and they excelled as guards in prisons and concentration camps. During the war, a few stormtroopers were selected to resettle on farms in enemy territory, and some were appointed as diplomats in occupied regions. Many others were drafted into the Wehrmacht, where their sociopathic tendencies were well-employed. Siemens’ book, land-mined with Teutonic compound nouns, is decidedly not a pop history. It is a scholarly work, assiduously researched and filled with illustrative examples and case studies covering the development of the SA, its role in a fight against Versailles and Weimar, its cruelties, its survival, and its legacy today. It will be a significant source of discussion and an influence on the historiography of the Third Reich.
A considerable work that promises to be the preferred text in English on the brown-shirted stormtroopers for some time to come.