Franz Pfeffer von Salomon

Franz Pfeffer von Salomon

Franz Pfeffer von Salomon was born in Düsseldorf on 19th February, 1888. He joined the Prussian Army and saw action in the First World War. He developed right-wing nationalist views and after the war was active in the Freikorps and took part in the Kapp Putsch. Pfeffer also organized resistance groups during the French occupation of the Ruhr. (1)

Pfeffer joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) and was appointed Gauleiter in Westphalia. On 14th February 1926 he attended the Bamberg Party Congress where Hitler attempted to settle to Nazi Party program. There had been a clash of opinion between northern and southern leaders about future policy. Ernst Röhm, Gregor Strasser and Joseph Goebbels represented the urban, socialist, revolutionary trend, whereas Gottfried Feder reflected rural, racialist and populist ideas. At the conference Hitler made a two-hour speech where he opposed the socialism of Röhm and Strasser. He argued that the NSDAP must not help Communist-inspired movements. (2)

Goebbels was initially appalled by the speech and noted in his diary: "I feel devastated... Hitler a reactionary? Amazingly clumsy and uncertain... Italy and England natural allies... Short discussion. Strasser speaks. Hesitant, trembling, clumsy, the good honest Strasser. God, how poor a match we are for those swine... Probably one of the greatest disappointments of my life. I no longer believe fully in Hitler." (3)

Goebbels and Strasser finally accepted these arguments and in return they received promotion. Strasser was appointed as Propaganda Leader of the NSDAP and Goebbels became Gauleiter of Berlin. However, Röhm made it clear that he still retained his faith in socialism. As a result Hitler removed him as leader of the Sturm Abteilung (SA) and replaced him with Franz Pfeffer von Salomon.

According to Michael Burleigh, the author of The Third Reich: A New History (2001): "Franz Felix Pfeffer von Salomon... brief was to check its aspirations to quasi-military status by firmly subordinating it to the Party's political and propaganda goals. The SA was to perform two functions: to rough up opponents during elections, a practice Hitler seems to have admired across the Atlantic, and to assert the Nazi presence on the streets." Hitler wrote to Pfeffer: "We have to teach Marxism that the future master of the streets is National Socialism, just as one day it will be master of the state." (4)

It has been argued: "Pfeffer added orderliness and traditional army drill to SA formations to try to give parade-ground impressiveness and the glamour of a military appearance. His object was to make the SA an instrument of propaganda rather than a gang of bullies. It was Pfeffer who trained the SA in the mass parades and salutes with the raised arm, and the massed shout Heil Hitler! that became a feature of Party rallies." However, Pfeffer found Hitler difficult to work with as he was unable to discuss issues: "Hitler gets a cue to something he is interested in - but that's something different every day... then he takes over the conversation and the point of the discussion is shelved." Pfeffer gradually lost respect for Hitler and began describing him as "that flabby Austrian." (5)

Alan Bullock, the author of Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962) has argued that Pfeffer became just as difficult as Röhm had been. "Whatever steps Hitler took, however, the S.A. continued to follow its own independent course. Pfeffer held as obstinately as Röhm to the view that the military leadership should be on equal terms with, not subordinate to, the political leadership. He refused to admit Hitler's right to give orders to his Stormtroops. So long as the S.A. was recruited from the ex-service and ex-Freikorps men who had so far provided both its officers and rank and file, Hitler had to tolerate this state of affairs." (6)

On 2nd September 1930 Hitler relieved Pfeffer of his command. Hitler assumed temporary leadership of the Sturm Abteilung but decided to forgive Ernst Röhm for past indiscretions. A telegram was dispatched from Munich to La Paz. By the end of 1930 Röhm had returned to his native Germany, and in January 1931 he was named Chief of Staff of the SA. However, as one historian, Toby Thacker, points out, at the same time Hitler was negotiating with Röhm's enemies, industrialists and leaders of the German Army. (7)

Franz Pfeffer von Salomon died in Munich on 12th April, 1968.

In November 1926, Hitler reformed the S.A. and found a new commander in Captain Pfeffer von Salomon, but the ex-officers still thought only in military terms. The S.A. was to be a training ground for the Army and the height of their ambition was to hand it over lock, stock, and barrel to the Army, with jobs for themselves in the higher ranks. Both the Berlin and Munich S.A. leadership had to be purged. The Munich S.A. had become notorious for the homosexual habits of Lieutenant Edmund Heines and his friends: it was not for his morals, however, or his record as a murderer, that Hitler threw him out in May 1927, but for lack of discipline and insubordination. Such was the elite of the new Germany.

Whatever steps Hitler took, however, the S.A. was recruited from the ex-service and ex-Freikorps men who had so far provided both its officers and rank and file, Hitler had to tolerate this state of affairs. These men were not interested in politics; what they lived for was precisely this "playing at soldiers" Hitler condemned - going on manoeuvres, marching in uniform, brawling, sitting up half the night singing camp songs and drinking themselves into a stupor, trying to recapture the lost comradeship and exhilaration of 1914-18. In time Hitler was to find an answer in the black-shirted S.S., a hand-picked corps d'elite (sworn to absolute obedience) very different from the ill-disciplined S.A. mob of camp followers.

Having seen off volkisch challengers, Hitler was confronted by north-south tensions within the Party. In northern and western Germany, dynamic leaders such as Gregor Strasser and the Elberfeld journalist Joseph Goebbels wanted to concentrate on breaking into the urban socialist vote. They were both sceptical of Hitler's strategic talents, and antagonistic to the clique surrounding him in Munich. These men espoused a Prussian socialism. Whereas Hitler had recently vented his animosity towards Russia, they regarded it "as the socialist nationalist state for which consciously or unconsciously the younger generation in all countries long". Their socialism may have brought them into the same orbit as Othmar Spann or Oswald Spengler, but it does not mean that they forfeited every commonality with socialist parties, whose own heterogeneous historical roots included artisanal-utopian and statist tendencies.

At a hastily convened conference in Bamberg in early 1926, Hitler quashed plans to support SPD and KPD initiatives to expropriate the holdings of Germany's former ruling dynasties, and forbade any further discussion of first principles. Having reasserted his grip, Hitler appointed Gregor Strasser to the Party leadership with responsibility for propaganda, with Heinrich Himmler as his factotum, and promoted his new admirer Goebbels as Gauleiter of "Red" Berlin. Having created something which was more than a volkisch sect or a conventional political party, Hitler also checked the independence of the movement's paramilitary wing. In mid-1926, he replaced Ernst Röhm as SA chief by Franz Felix Pfeffer von Salomon, whose brief was to check its aspirations to quasi-military status by firmly subordinating it to the Party's political and propaganda goals. The SA was to perform two functions: to rough up opponents during elections, a practice Hitler seems to have admired across the Atlantic, and to assert the Nazi presence on the streets...

The SA continued to have attitudinal problems. These would eventually be corrected, with their blood on cell walls, by a smaller force that multiplied under their aegis but grew apart from them in terms of their focused fanaticism: Hitler's SS (Schutzstaffeln) praetorian guard consisted of men who were better educated, leaner, taller and older than the eighteen-year-olds, if not the pot-bellied middle-aged bullies, who comprised the SA. The SS included bullies too, but they were superior, academically educated examples of the type.

He might have thrown half of the S.A. after him. While Röhm peddled his books or sat around with his friends, the S.A. was led by a man who at heart was no National Socialist at all, Captain Pfeffer von Salomon. He used his power like a hired captain in the Renaissance; he had exacted the condition that Hitler should have no right to interfere. Pfeffer knew that he could not, on Sundays and Saturday afternoons, make a serviceable military troop out of these students, white-collar workers, and sons of peasants. But the S.A. could be a Preparatory school for the army; as many S.A. men as possible should enter the Reichswehr and flood it with rebellion. Hitler trembled at the slightest thought of illegality; they would deport him at once, of that he was certain. Pfeffer ordered the S.A. to engage in military manoeuvres; Hitler issued counter-orders. Pfeffer's orders were not valid, he declared, unless countersigned by him, Hitler. Violent scenes ensued; mask-like and immobile behind his pince-nez, Pfeffer listened to Hitler's violent outbreaks. Afterwards he said to others, "You can't take orders from this slovenly, terrified Austrian!" It was impossible to make those S.A. captains understand that the purpose of the S.A. was expressly not military. They held to a statement Hitler had once made himself: that "An army cannot be trained and taught the highest self-respect unless the function of its existence is preparation for warfare. There are no armies for the preservation of peace, but only for the victorious waging of war."

In the eyes of these former lieutenants and captains, the storm troops were a piece of the future army "waging a victorious war". They must be ready to slip into uniform at once and shoulder arms when the Reichswehr called them. leaders had changed their views about Seeckt's army. Rossbach, for example, who had previously been so sceptical, said: "The Reichswehr in a superhuman struggle of infinite perseverance has step by step achieved an inner elevation, as we old soldiers today can perceive with seeing eyes". Consequently, the old soldiers must forget their old rancour and revise the faulty judgments. Pfeffer desired nothing more, and would have liked best to hand over the whole S.A. to the Reichswehr, calculating that he himself would then become a general, and Hitler, if necessary, could go to the devil. He led the S.A. back to the drill-grounds of the Reichswehr and trained them to bear arms; it was beginning to be a repetition of 1923, which Hitler recalled with horror. That must not happen again. The Reichswehr must not be allowed to take "his" S.A. out of his hands, and perhaps look on smiling while the bourgeois State's attorney prosecuted Hitler for illegal military drilling and the Socialist Minister of the Interior ordered the foreigner deported. He forbade his troop any connection with the Reichswehr, on grounds amounting to high treason: "The National Socialist, and first and foremost the S.A. man, has no call to stir so much as a finger for the present State, which has no understanding of our outlook and can only perpetuate the misfortune of our people.... The coming Reich for which we are struggling alone obligates us to stake our persons."

With Röhm in South America, Hitler placed Captain Franz Pfeffer von Salomon in charge of the SA. This was a move Hitler came to regret, as Pfeffer von Salomon (like Rohm) had an independent mind, but unlike Rohm had no fealty to Hitler, who he characterized as "that flabby Austrian."

By August 1930 Hitler had reached the end of his patience with Pfeffer von Salomon. He relieved him of his command and, on an interim basis, personally assumed leadership of the SA. A telegram was dispatched from Munich to La Paz, as once again Hitler in a time of need turned to the man who had been so essential to him in past days of travail. By the end of 1930 Rohm had returned to his native Germany, and in January 1931 he was named Chief of Staff of the SA.

He immediately began the task of rebuilding and enlarging the SA, and in so doing brought his homosexual friends into leadership positions. Hitler turned aside all complaints about Röhm's morals, lifestyle, methods, and techniques, and defended the SA by saying it was "not an institute for the moral education of young ladies but a band of tough fighters." And so it was, as the ranks burgeoned to encompass the criminal element as well as sundry undesirables.

Adolf Hitler's Early Life (Answer Commentary)

Night of the Long Knives (Answer Commentary)

The Hitler Youth (Answer Commentary)

German League of Girls (Answer Commentary)

The Political Development of Sophie Scholl (Answer Commentary)

The White Rose Anti-Nazi Group (Answer Commentary)

Kristallnacht (Answer Commentary)

Heinrich Himmler and the SS (Answer Commentary)

Trade Unions in Nazi Germany (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler v John Heartfield (Answer Commentary)

Hitler's Volkswagen (The People's Car) (Answer Commentary)

Women in Nazi Germany (Answer Commentary)

The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich (Answer Commentary)

The Last Days of Adolf Hitler (Answer Commentary)

(1) James Taylor and Warren Shaw, Dictionary of the Third Reich (1987) page 217

(2) Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1889-1936 (1998) page 275

(3) Joseph Goebbels, diary entry (14th February 1926)

(4) Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History (2001) page 103

(5) James Taylor and Warren Shaw, Dictionary of the Third Reich (1987) page 217

(6) Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962) page 168

(7) Toby Thacker, Joseph Goebbels: Life and Death (2009) page 113

The Sturmabteilung (SA)

The Sturmabteilung (SA) was the first of the NSDAP’s paramilitary organisations. Formed essentially as the party’s militia, the SA grew into a veritable private army and a distinct political movement. While this growth strengthened Nazism in general, it created problems for Adolf Hitler and other Nazi leaders, who feared the SA might eventually seize control of the party.

Embodiment of militarism

Paramilitary groups like the SA and Schutzstaffel (SS) embodied the Nazi fascination with militarism, authoritarianism, order and discipline. These groups had their own uniforms, rank structures, awards and training regimes. Unlike the Reichswehr, however, their members swore loyalty to Hitler and the party, not to Germany.

Both the SA and SS paraded at party rallies in Nuremberg to demonstrate the discipline, organisation and strength-through-numbers of National Socialism. Their symbol was the notorious Hakenkreuz or swastika, an emblem of the NSDAP.

There was much more to the SA and SS than snappy uniforms, goose-stepping and ceremonial parading, however. These groups had a more sinister function. They served as the party’s muscle, dealing with political opponents and racial minorities through intimidation and violence.

Origins of the SA

Until the summer of 1934, the Sturmabteilung (SA) was the largest and most feared paramilitary branch of the NSDAP.

The SA traced its origins back to the first weeks of the party when fist-happy NSDAP members were given free beer to provide security at meetings and rallies. This group was full of burly ex-soldiers, beer-hall brawlers, vicious Jew-haters and anti-communists. Most of its members were nationalist and reactionary – but they more interested in kicking heads than political debating.

By September 1921, Hitler had fashioned these men into his own private army. He chose the name Sturmabteilung (‘Stormtroops’) and ordered they be outfitted in military-style uniforms. Party organisers acquired a bulk shipment of cheap army surplus brown shirts, which became their distinctive uniform.

Munich and the 1920s

In November 1923, around 600 SA troopers backed Hitler when he attempted to overthrow the Bavarian government. They were joined by an additional 1,500 SA men the following day.

This small army marched alongside Hitler toward the centre of Munich, before engaging in gun battles with the local police. Of the 16 men killed by police during the Munich putsch, the vast majority were SA ‘Brownshirts’.

The SA was declared an illegal organisation following the Munich putsch. It did not disappear but reinvented itself as a new group called Frontbann and toned down its activities.

Revival under von Salomon

On his release from prison in 1925, Hitler set about restructuring the SA and ordering the formation of new units. He appointed a new commander, Franz Pfeffer von Salomon. A former Freikorps officer, von Salomon had led terrorist raids against French troops occupying the Ruhr region in 1923.

Through von Salomon, Hitler hoped to restrain the independent spirit that had grown in the SA during his imprisonment. Hitler wanted a paramilitary force that could take control of the streets. The Nazi leader did not want the SA becoming so powerful and independently minded that it might challenge his own power. Hitler expressed these concerns in a 1926 letter to von Salomon:

“The formation of the SA does not follow a military standpoint, other than what is expedient to the Party. In so far as its members are trained physically, the emphasis should not be on military exercises but sporting activity. Boxing and ju-jitsu have always seemed more important to me than any bad, semi-training in shooting… What we need are not one or two hundred daring conspirators, but a hundred thousand fighters for our ideology. The work should be carried on not in secret, but in mighty mass processions. Not through daggers and poisons and pistols can the way be opened for National Socialism, but through the conquest of the streets. We have to teach Marxism that the future master of the streets is National Socialism, just as one day it will be the master of the State.”

Conflicting views

Many in the rank and file of the SA did not share this view. They considered the SA a popular movement and a fast-growing revolutionary army. It was not just an obedient tool of Hitler and the NSDAP. This was not disloyalty, as such, but a difference of opinion about the role of the SA.

There were also internal dissatisfactions within the SA about petty issues, such as pay and favouritism in promotions. Some were unhappy that the NSDAP hierarchy had refused to allow more SA members to contest elections for Reichstag seats.

Tensions between SA commanders and party leaders came to a head in the lead up to Reichstag elections in September 1930. Striving to present himself as a legitimate politician, Hitler ordered the SA to suspend its attacks on unionists, communists and Jews. This infuriated radicals in the group, culminating in an internal revolt.

In August 1930, Walter Stennes, a Berlin SA commander, presented Hitler with a set of demands. The most notable of these called on the party to make three Reichstag seats available to SA members. Meanwhile, SA men loyal to Stennes ransacked several party offices. Hitler refused Stennes’ demands and sacked von Salomon for not foreseeing the revolt or handling it appropriately.

Ernst Rohm

Now confronted by a powerful SA that might move to overthrow him, Hitler assumed direct leadership of the organisation – but he had no interest in personally running the SA. For this, Hitler turned to one of his closest allies.

Ernst Rohm was a World War I veteran who stood alongside Hitler during the 1923 Munich putsch. After avoiding prison, Rohm travelled to South America to work as a military advisor. In September 1930, Hitler recalled him to take charge of the SA.

Rohm was an experienced military commander and an inspirational leader of men – but he quickly deviated from Hitler’s instructions. Rohm had his own grand visions for the SA. He hoped to transform it from a disorganised group of thugs into a citizens’ army that might one day replace the Reichswehr.

The SA behemoth

Rohm set about expanding the membership of the SA, using propaganda and vigorous recruiting (see picture above). He also engineered the takeover of other paramilitary organisations. In 1933, the SA assumed control of the Stahlhelm (‘Steel Helmet’) and the Kyffhauserbund (a war veterans’ association). Public servants, policemen and other suitable candidates came under significant pressure to join the SA.

By late 1933, the SA had around three million troopers and Rohm had been elevated to the Nazi ministry. The rapid growth of the SA was of great concern, not just to Hitler but also the Reichswehr (which under the terms of the Versailles treaty was still legally limited to just 100,000 men).

Rohm spelt out his intentions in an October 1933 letter: “I regard the Reichswehr now only as a training school for the German people. The conduct of war, and therefore of mobilisation as well, in the future is the task of the SA.”

A historian’s view:
“The Reichswehr officer corps rightly regarded the Sturmabteilung as a pack of undisciplined and uncouth bums who had been responsible for a reign of violence on the streets unprecedented in the history of the nation, a period of crude brutality and terror in which even innocent people had been murdered in settlement of personal grudges under the guise of justified political activity.”
Trevor Ravenscroft

1. The Sturmabteilung or SA began as the NSDAP’s security arm. Comprised mainly of ex-soldiers and street brawlers, the SA safeguarded Nazi meetings, broke up rival meetings and harassed opponents.

2. In 1921, the SA began to take a clearer shape as a paramilitary group. It adopted recruiting and training programs, a brown-shirted uniform, a rank structure and military-style insignia.

3. The SA continued to grow rapidly in the late 1920s and early 1930s. This led to differing views within the Nazi movement about what the SA was, what it should be and how it should serve Hitler and the party.

4. Hitler himself began to entertain concerns about the size and strength of the SA, as well as the attitudes and ambitions of its leadership. Officers in the German Reichswehr were also concerned.

5. In 1930, Hitler passed the leadership of the SA to Ernst Rohm, a long-serving ally and a veteran of the Munich putsch. Under Rohm’s command, the SA continued to grow, reaching a membership of around three million by late 1933.

Franz Pfeffer von Salomon - History

The Freikorps von Pfeffer (also known as Detachment Pfeffer, Freiwilligenbataillon Münster and Westfälisches Freikorps) saw action in Latvia and in the Ruhr in April 1920

It was used to form Reichswehr-Brigade 31 in June 1919.


Hauptmann Franz von Pfeffer

Formed in the area of

Generalkommando VII. Armeekorps Münster (Provinz Westfalen, Lippe)

Manpower strength

Notable members

SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Walter Krüger
SA-Obergruppenführer Franz von Pfeffer (born Franz Pfeffer von Salomon)
SS-Brigadeführer Ernst Schmedding
(the ranks are the highest ranks reached in the Third Reich era)


Members of this unit wore a prancing horse in silver as an arm badge.

Sources used

Verkuilen Ager - Awards of the German Freikorps 1919-1935
Nigel Jones - The birth of the Nazis: How the Freikorps blazed a trail for Hitler
Georg Tessin - Deutsche Verbände und Truppen 1918-1939

Shared vision for the SA

According to Joachim Fest, Hitler wanted a "specialized instrument for propaganda and mass intimidation, under firm control from party headquarters." Hitler established ceremonies for new SA units in which they took an oath of loyalty and received marching standards designed by Hitler. Hitler wrote to Pfeffer, "The training of the SA must be guided by party needs than by military points of view. [the struggle must] be lifted out of the atmosphere of minor acts of revenge and conspiracy, raised to the grandeur of an ideological war of annihilation against Marxism, its structure and its henchment. The work must be conducted not in secret conventicles, but in huge mass productions. The was can be cleared for the Movement not by dagger and poison or pistol, but by conquering the streets." [2]

Given that there were, at the time, few conventional military requirements, this was a real role for the SA, but it was not the one that Roehm and his core sympathizers wanted. Pfeffer was more responsive to this need. Fest said he "evidenced a remarkable feeling for the mass psychological effectiveness of strict, drillmasterly arrangements. His orders for meetings and ceremonies reveal the point of view of a theatrical director as much as a leader. " Such ceremonies, when arranged by Leni Riefenstahl and Albert Speer, were meat and drink to Hitler. Pfeffer wrote,

Shows of force, such as described by Pfeffer, are textbook actions from police and military doctrine on crowd and riot control. Those military wings of political organizations that do not operate as guerillas frequently use such displays. It failed, according to Fest, with the SA, for two reasons. First, the SA members had a "rough cut-and-thrust temperament, the raw mercenary spirit of these professional soldiers." Pfeffer may have had the vision, but not the materials. German tradition also assigned great status to the military, and saw itself as a "Fighting Movement" superior to the Nazi Political Organization. The SA never grasped Carl von Clausewitz's dictum that war is the extension of national politics by military means, that action always must support a political goal.

SA versus SS

Hitler also wanted an obedient force. Roehm and the SA quarreled internally, not infrequently over homosexual affairs in the leadership. Hitler created a more stable personal guard, the Schutzstaffel, which he assigned to a young recruit, Heinrich Himmler, in 1929. [4] Himmler, who was much junior to Himmler, power would grow until he was a major figure, and especially a rival to Roehm. On 12 April 1929, with the approval of Hitler and Pfeffer, Himmler promulgated membership requirements for the SS, many of whom only qualified through waivers for First World War veterans. SS members, under the same order, were to come from the SA, but, over time, the SS and SA were to become rivals. [5]

Pfeffer felt undermined as his best men went to the SS, such as Kurt Daluege, who had formed the Berlin SA but moved to command the Berlin SS. [6]

Pfeffer resigned as SA head in 1930. Hitler did not immediately install Roehm, but ran the SA and SS himself.

Death and burial ground of Pfeffer von Salomon, Ritter Franz Felix.

After his dismissal, he lived in Wiesbaden and finally moved to München in 1960, where he

died on 12-04-1968, at the old age of 80 and is buried on the Waldfriedhof Solln of Munich, alas his gravestone is partly destroyed. Only steps away the graves of General Field Marshal der Infanterie, Oberbefehlhaber der Armee Gruppe A, Wilhelm Sigismund List ,

General der Panzertruppe, Kommandeur der 4 th Panzerdivision , Dietrich von Saucken and General der Flieger, Inspector der Tagesflieger, Johannes “Hans” Trautlof .

Stormtroopers: a new history of Hitler’s brownshirts

Daniel Siemens’s excellent new history of the Sturmabteilungen — the SA better known as the Nazi Party’s Stormtroopers or Brownshirts — includes a lot of violence.

It begins with the horrific murder of an innocent Polish down-and-out in German Upper Silesia in August 1932. Accused of being a Communist, he was savagely beaten to death by local SA thugs. His murderers were arrested, charged, and found guilty in court. But under pressure from the Nazi Party, their death sentences were transmuted to life imprisonment. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, the murderers were released and greeted by cheering crowds.

Most histories of the SA end in July 1934, when its leader Ernst Rohm and other prominent members were killed in the so-called ‘Night of the Long Knives’. But Siemens argues that this was not the end of the SA, that their influence lived on not just in the ideology but in the culture and psychology of the Nazi Party.

It is a convincing thesis, supported with immense scholarship and research in national, regional, and local archives, providing a rich and detailed history.

Siemens begins in the early 1920s, when 400,000 returning soldiers joined paramilitary groups across Germany.

Amid this turmoil, the tiny German Workers’ Party in Bavaria reformed as the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) and the SA became its self-defence force.

From the start, it took an aggressive stance towards its enemies, attacking political opponents and beating up Jews. It was known as the ‘battering ram’ of the Nazi Party.

But equally important was its role educating the Party’s youth. Hitler’s beer-hall speeches at weekly SA meetings in Munich helped to unify and inspire the stormtroopers in the infancy of their movement.

Hitler’s failed putsch of November 1923 resulted in 16 dead who later became the ‘holy sacrifice’, leaving an enduring myth about the SA November martyrs. But it was not until 1926 that the SA was revived as a national force, under its then leader Franz Pfeffer von Salomon, a former army officer.

Under Pfeffer, the SA controlled the SS and the Hitler Youth. Pfeffer organised the SA as a people’s militia along strict military lines. Mainly concerned with spreading Nazi propaganda rather than confronting its rivals, it remained a relatively small operation.

In 1930, the Nazi Party won 18% of votes in the Reichstag, and in 1931 Ernst Rohm became Chief of Staff of the SA. During that year, 8,248 people were injured or killed as a result of political violence. In the next 18 months, the SA grew in numbers from 77,000 to 445,000.

Many seem to have been attracted not so much by fascist ideology as by the opportunity to participate in an aggressive male cult, with ritualistic bouts of drinking, physical exercise, bonding, and shows of public camaraderie. All of this amounted to a form of empowerment for those who felt dispossessed by society.

After Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, the Nazis interned 80,000 of their enemies, and the SA took over the prisons and the new concentration camps. Thousands of SA men became auxiliary policemen, beginning a reign of brutality and sadism in many German cities.

By 1934, the SA had grown to three million members. But when Hitler heard rumours of an attempted coup by Rohm, he acted swiftly, ordering Rohm’s assassination along with about 100 other SA leaders.

These political murders failed to provoke a backlash. Instead, they completed Hitler’s consolidation of power. In future, there would be only one, all-powerful Fuhrer.

Viktor Lutze became the new Chief of Staff of a ‘purified’ SA. The days of brawling in the streets were over. Their role became one of educating German youth in Nazi ideology and preparing them to serve in the Army. Siemens shows how the SA continued to play an important part in the militarisation of German society in the late 1930s. They performed paramilitary tasks in Austria after its annexation, and in Czechoslovakia after the Sudetenland occupation.

At least a million SA members went into the Wehrmacht and pursued the Nazi idea of the ‘political soldier’. They would continue their battle with ‘Bolshevism’ in the vast plains of Russia, forming extermination squads that roamed the countryside.

SA generals and officials played their part in the Holocaust, rounding up Jews in Slovakia, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Many governments paid the Reich up to 100 Marks for each Jew ‘deported’. Hundreds of thousands were sent to camps and killed en masse. The SA also provided guards at the death camps. After Hungary’s occupation in

1944, nearly half a million Hungarian Jews were sent to Auschwitz, where even the industrial-scale apparatus of killing at the camp struggled to cope with the huge numbers arriving daily.

Siemens, very interestingly, also looks at post -war accounts that tended to downplay the role of the SA. They were presented as hangers-on and not as principal drivers of the Nazi movement. Unlike the SS, they were not declared a criminal organisation at the Nuremberg War Trials.

As a consequence, ex-members went on to become responsible and highly regarded citizens, many serving as councillors or mayors across West Germany. In East Germany, some SA men were prosecuted if they had attacked Communists during the Nazi era, but were pardoned if they agreed to spy for the Stasi.

Siemens describes how, in the early 1920s, many stood up to the SA thugs. Photographs show passers-by ignoring Brownshirts parading in the streets.

By the 1930s, however, the SA was rarely challenged. As Europe today witnesses the rise of many small right-wing parties, Siemens’s book demonstrates how powerful movements can start as tiny, minority groups that most people find easy to ignore. It is a timely reminder.

  • Franz Pfeffer von Salomon (1888–1968), Free Corps Leader, 1925/26 Gauleiter of the NSDAP, 1926–1930 Supreme SA Leader, 1932–1941 member of the Reichstag.
  • Fritz Pfeffer von Salomon (1892–1961), SA group leader, 1933–1936 police chief in Kassel, 1936–1943 district president of Wiesbaden, 1940/41 deputy head of the administrative staff in the staff of the military commander in France.
  1. Ludwig Friedrich Cassian von Salomon (1759–1834), Mayor of the city of Geldern, Kgl. prussia. Lieutenant a. D., owner of the Grotelaers estate near Geldern - married to Constantine de Petit (1765–1822), heiress of the Grotelaers estate and estate.
    1. Josefine von Salomon (1793–1885) - married to Dr. med. Friedrich Pfeffer (1790–1866), rent master zu Geldern.
      1. Gustav Pfeffer (1819–1892), district court director
        1. Carl Pfeffer (1853–1927), district court director
          1. Max Pfeffer (1883–1955), General of the Artillery, Knight's Cross
          2. Martha Pfeffer (* 1905), wife of Karl Tillessen (1891–1979), retired corvette captain. D., Hermann Ehrhardt's deputy in the Consul organization .
          1. Elfriede Pfeffer (* 1893), wife of Kurt von Stempel (1882–1945), chief executive of the German and Prussian district assembly, director in the presidential department of the Reich Audit Office
          2. Karla Pfeffer (* 1897), wife of Walter Brenken (1883–1952), major general
          1. Max Pfeffer von Salomon (1854–1918), Kgl. prussia. Secret advice zD
            1. Franz Pfeffer von Salomon (1888–1968), Kgl. prussia. Captain a. D., Freikorps Commander, Supreme SA Leader, Member of the National Socialist Party (NSDAP).
            2. Friedrich Pfeffer von Salomon (1892–1961), Kgl. prussia. Lieutenant a. D., SA leader, district president of Wiesbaden, district chairman of the German party (DP).
            3. Ludwiga Pfeffer von Salomon (1894–1981) - married to Gustav von Schneidermesser (1891–1975), Lieutenant General ret. D.
            1. Elisabeth Pfeffer von Salomon (1892–1974), wife of Karl August Wegener (1890–1963), State Secretary in the NRW Ministry of Agriculture

            (Excerpts from the master list, only containing the most important people).


            Sein Großvater Ferdinand Pfeffer (1822–1901) war preußischer Oberst der Kavallerie, als die niederrheinische Familie 1862 nobilitiert wurde. [1] Seine Eltern waren der preußische Geheime Regierungsrat Max Pfeffer von Salomon (1854–1918) und dessen Ehefrau Anna von Clavé-Bouhaben (1862–1919), eine Tochter des preußischen Appellationsgerichtsrats und Gutsbesitzers in Königswinter Franz von Clavé-Bouhaben und dessen Ehefrau Maria Coninx.

            Franz Pfeffer von Salomon war der ältere Bruder von Friedrich „Fritz“ Pfeffer von Salomon (1892–1961, Charlottenburg), dem Polizeipräsidenten in Kassel und Leiter der dortigen Gestapo.

            Pfeffer von Salomon studierte Rechtswissenschaften in Heidelberg, Marburg und Münster. In Heidelberg wurde er 1907 Mitglied des Corps Vandalia Heidelberg. [2] Sein Referendarexamen legte er 1910 in Hamm ab. Er trat dann als Fahnenjunker in das Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 13 in Münster ein und avancierte 1911 zum Leutnant. Am Ersten Weltkrieg nahm er als Hauptmann und Bataillonskommandeur teil. Nach dem Kriegsende beteiligte er sich mit seinem „Freikorps Westfalen“ am Kapp-Putsch und bekämpfte die Aufstände im Ruhrgebiet gegen die dortige Rote Ruhrarmee sowie in Oberschlesien und im Baltikum. Wolfgang Kapps Sohn Friedrich Kapp war ein Consemester Pfeffer von Salomons bei den Heidelberger Vandalen. [3]

            Zwischen 1923 und 1925 engagierte er sich gegen die französisch-belgische Ruhrbesetzung und wurde von französischer Seite zum Tode verurteilt. 1924 gründete er gemeinsam mit Joseph Goebbels und Karl Kaufmann den Gau Westfalen der NSDAP. Im Juni 1926 bewohnte Hitler für eine Woche bei seinem ersten Besuch in Westdeutschland ein Zimmer im Gut von Pfeffer. Der Adelssitz Haus Busch war seit 1920 von Pfeffer gepachtet. Hitler ernannte Franz Pfeffer von Salomon bei der Bildung der Obersten SA-Führung (OSAF) am 1. November 1926 zum „Obersten SA-Führer“. Heinrich Himmler wurde in München Pfeffers Sekretär.

            Unter Pfeffer entwickelte sich die SA zu einem weitgehend unabhängigen, zentral gelenkten Kampfverband. Die Mitgliederzahl stieg von etwa 30.000 (1924) auf 80.000 (1930). Nach Konflikten mit Pfeffer von Salomon über den Einfluss der NSDAP auf die SA übernahm Hitler am 12. August 1930 selbst die Führung der SA im Januar 1931 ernannte Hitler Ernst Röhm zum faktischen Führer der SA.

            Von November 1932 bis November 1941 (in der NS-Zeit nannte er sich nur noch „von Pfeffer“, da „Salomon“ als typisch jüdischer Name verpönt war) war er Reichstagsabgeordneter der NSDAP und gehörte dem „Verbindungsstab des Führers“ in der Reichskanzlei an. Aufgrund parteiinterner Querelen mit Josef Wagner und seiner Bekanntschaft mit Rudolf Heß, der sich nach England abgesetzt hatte, fiel er in Ungnade. Er wurde auf Veranlassung Hitlers am 24. November 1941 aus der Partei ausgeschlossen. Nach dem Attentat auf Hitler am 20. Juli 1944 wurde er kurzzeitig inhaftiert.

            Pfeffer engagierte sich während der späten 1940er und frühen 1950er Jahre im hessischen Landesverband der Deutschen Partei.

            Familie Bearbeiten

            Er heiratete Maria Raitz von Frentz (1895–1984), eine Tochter des Freiherren Adolf Raitz von Frentz (1843–1907). Das Paar hatte zwei Söhne und drei Töchter, darunter:

            • Irmgard (* 1923), Dr. rer. nat., Biologin ∞ Freiherr Friedemann von Wintzingerode (1913–1964), Farmer in Südafrika
            • Kunigunde (* 1927), Dr. rer. nat., Biologin ∞ Jobst Hülsemann (* 26. Juni 1926), Dr. phil., Geologe
            • Ferdinand (* 1929), Dr. iur.
            • Max (* 1932), Staatsanwalt in Kapstadt (Südafrika)

            Nach Roger Griffin vertrat Pfeffer eine für den Nazismus typische völkische „totalitäre Ethik“, mit der der liberale Humanismus überwunden werden sollte. In einem Memorandum, das auf Weihnachten 1925 datiert und an die höhere Führerschaft der NSDAP gerichtet war, formulierte er einen laut Griffin „rücksichtslos antiegalitären Standpunkt bei der Frage, wie man bessere Deutsche hervorbringen könne“:

            „In dieser Grundauffassung letzten Endes zu wurzeln, bezichtige ich das Strasserische Programm (und fürchte ich nur allzu viele Gedanken bezichtigen zu müssen, die in unserem Lager 'Sozialistisch' benannt werden). Es ist die jüdisch-liberal-demokratisch-marxistisch-humanitäre Grundauffassung. Solange unser Programm auch nur mit einer kleinen Wurzelfaser daraus saugt, ist es der Vergiftung, der Verkümmerung und dem elenden Untergang verfallen.“ [4]

            In diesem Memorandum verkündete er auch, wer nicht Teil der neuen Volksgemeinschaft zu sein habe:

            „Kein Erbarmen mit den letzten Stufen innerhalb dieser minderwertigen Gruppe. – Krüppel, Epileptikern, Blinden, Irren, Taubstummen, Trinkerheilanstalten- [sic], Fürsorgezöglingen, Waisen, Verbrechern, Dirnen, Sexualgestörten u. s. w. Jede Leistung für sie muß nicht nur den Leistungen an richtiger Stelle abgezogen werden, sondern wirkt unmittelbar der geplanten Zuchtwahl entgegen. Aber auch Dummen, Schwachen, Haltlosen, Energielosen, Erblich-Belasteten, Krankhaft-Veranlagten dürfen wir nicht nachweinen, weil sie 'schuldlos' untersinken. […] Die letzte Stufe heißt Untergang und Tod. Gewogen und zu leicht gefunden. Fruchtlose Bäume sollt ihr aushacken und ins Feuer werfen.“ [4] (Die letzten beiden Sätze zitiert nach Dan 5,27 LUT und Lk 3,9 LUT.)

            Letters to David Irving on this Website

            Unless correspondents ask us not to, this Website will post selected letters that it receives, and invite open debate.

            Edward Marr asks, Wednesday, November 21, 2007, for the low-down on the Nazi assassination of Austrian chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss in July 1934

            Photo: Benito Mussolini and friend, Engelbert Dollfuss

            What was really Hitler's part in the 1934 murder of Dollfuss?

            I AM conducting my IB [International Baccalaureat] History coursework on the events surrounding the assassination of [Austrian Chancellor Engelbert ] Dollfuss .

            I am particularly intrigued by your argument that the Führer had not ordered the murder of the Chancellor, as seen from the brief entries in the diary of Dr. Joseph Goebbels on the dates surrounding this pivotal event in European history. ( ). I would be fascinated to know whether there is any other evidence to suggest that this was indeed the case as I seem to be struggling to find my way through an abundance of material implicating the Fuhrer, or where I can find any more extensive material.

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            THE most important material is the memoirs of Generaloberst Wilhelm Adam , unpublished, who was with Hitler that evening. I use the manuscript in my Hitler biography. The original, preserved for many years after the war in a Bavarian monastery, is now in the Institut für Zeitgeschichte archives in Munich as file ED109/2, which allowed me to read it exclusively many years ago. Check out my descriptions in my biographies of Goebbels and Hitler and Hitler prewar (The War Path). I was the first historian to get the Joseph Goebbels Diaries on this episode.

            HITLER had begun to plot against his neighbour, Austria -- he mentioned it at lunch on July 10 󞨾].⎯]

            Although he would protest his innocence in later years, there is no doubt that he was fully apprised of the coup being prepared by Austrian Nazis under Theo Habicht . Habicht claimed army backing for a plot to replace the dictatorial chancellor Dr Engelbert Dollfuss with Dr Anton Rintelen , a prominent right-wing politician.

            Goebbels' unpublished diary shows that he considered Habicht a hothead whom Hitler, as was typical of his indecisiveness, was hanging on to far too long. When Habicht brought the latest news on Austria on April 10, Goebbels again decided: 'He's obviously not up to the job.'⎰] After discussing Austria with Habicht and Haegert two weeks later Goebbels noted: 'We'll be intervening there more strongly now. Otherwise dilettantism rules.'⎱]

            Intervene -- but how? Attending Bayreuth for the annual Wagner festival on Sunday July 22, he found Hitler conferring secretly with Habicht, Rosenberg, General Walther von Reichenau and the former S.A. commander Franz Pfeffer von Salomon . They had decided on a coup. In his diary Goebbels inked the terse comment: 'Will it come off? I've very sceptical.'⎲] For three days they went their normal ways: Hitler entertained Goebbels and the others by reading from his Landsberg prison notes, and talking of the past once they all went for a picnic in the forests. Back at the Wagner household, Goebbels had a little scene with Magda whom he caught 'snooping' through his mail.

            The coup was to take place the next day, Wednesday July 25. General Wilhelm Adam , army commander in Bavaria, was ordered to report at nine A.M. on Wednesday morning to Bayreuth, where Hitler boasted to him that the Austrian army was going to overthrow the Dollfuss government that day: Adam was to arm all the Austrian Nazis who had fled to Germany. The army general was also deeply sceptical.

            Goebbels was with Hitler as the first reports came in from Vienna. Things were soon going badly wrong just as he had feared: 'Big rumpus. Colossal tension. Awful wait. I'm still sceptical. Pfeffer more optimistic. Habicht too. Wait and see!'

            The word was that Habicht's Nazis had seized Dollfuss and his minister of the interior Emil Fey in a scuffle. Hitler put through endless phone calls to Berlin, because lines to Vienna were dead. At three P.M. he phoned General Adam: 'Everything is going according to plan in Vienna,' he lied. 'The government building is in our hands. Dollfuss has been injured -- the rest of the news is confused as yet. I'll phone again.'

            He never did he and Goebbels listened to Wagner's 'Rhinegold' that afternoon with only half an ear. Then came uglier news: Dollfuss had been shot dead, and the rebels were pulling out. 'Habicht was all talk,' decided an outraged Goebbels. 'I just manage to suppress a crazy communiqué by Pfeffer.'

            Pfeffer and Habicht were very mute after this. Goebbels switched the propaganda ministry over to emergency damage control. The foreign ministry blamed the German ambassador and recalled him. 'Führer remains quite calm,' observed Goebbels. 'Casting new plans. Dollfuss is out: that's a serious blow to the Austrian regime.'

            They tore up their remaining Wagner tickets and returned to Berlin the next day. Mussolini -- who had secretly approved the idea of ousting Dollfuss -- was furious at the murder, and sent his army to the Austrian frontier. The Italian press waded into the Nazis. Goebbels ordered his press to hit back. Hitler was angry that Mussolini had changed his tune. 'It's all over with Italy,' Goebbels decided. 'The same old disloyalty. The Führer has washed his hands of them.'

            As a bloodbath began in Austria, he persuaded Hitler to dismiss the bungling, cynical dilettante Habicht if not actually shoot him Papen was sent as special ambassador to Austria. Late on July 27 Hitler spoke to Goebbels about the future: 'He has a prophetic vision,' wrote the minister. 'Germany as master of the world. Job for a century.' The assassins were publicly hanged in Vienna.

            35: Unpubl. Goebbels diary, Jul 11, 1934 [KGB archives, Moscow]. 36: Ibid., Mar 17, Apr 11, 1934. -- See too Der 25. Juli 1934 im Bundeskanzleramt in Wien. Forschungsergebnisse und Dokumente (Vienna, 1065). 37: Ibid., Apr 28, 1934. 38: Ibid., Jul 24, 1934.

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