The seal of SAThe Sturmabteilung? (SA, German for "Storm Division", usually translated as stormtroops or stormtroopers) functioned as a paramilitary organization of the NSDAP – the German Nazi party. It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1930s.
SA men were often known as brownshirts from the color of their uniform and to distinguish them from the SS who were known as blackshirts. Brown coloured shirts were chosen as the SA uniform because a large batch of them were cheaply available after World War I, having originally been ordered for German troops in Africa.
The SA was also the first Nazi paramilitary group to develop pseudo-military titles for bestowal upon its members. The SA ranks would be adopted by several other Nazi Party groups, chief among them the SS.
Hitler addressing SA members in the late 1920sThe term Sturmabteilung originally came from the specialized assault troops used by Germany in 1918 in World War I utilising Hutier tactics. Instead of a large mass assault, the Sturmabteilung were organized into small teams of a few soldiers each. First applied during the Battle of Cambrai, the wider use in March 1918 allowed the Germans to push back British and French lines tens of kilometers.
In Munich in the fall of 1920, Hitler himself created the Ordnertruppen; a body of muscular Nazis, ex-soldiers, and beer hall brawlers in order to protect his speeches and Nazi Party gatherings from Communist disruptions. It originally functioned as a group of bodyguards to enforce order at Nazi gatherings. It was shortly changed to Sportabteilung, a cover name meaning "Sports section," and came to be known by the initials SA. In late 1921, the name was changed to the final version: Sturmabteilung. Under their popular leader Ernst Röhm, the SA grew in importance within the Nazi power structure, eventually claiming thousands of members. In 1922, the NSDAP created a youth section, the Jugendbund, for young men between the ages of 14 and 18 years. Its successor, the Hitler Youth, remained under SA command until May 1932. The SA carried out numerous acts of violence against socialist groups throughout the 1920s, typically in minor street-fights called Zusammenstöße ('collisions'). The SS eventually took over their original role.
A rare, complete set of Nazi S.A. tin soldiers, from the 1940s.After Hitler took power in 1933, the SA became increasingly anxious for power and saw themselves as the replacement for the German army. This angered the regular army (Reichswehr) who already resented the Nazi party, and commonly regarded the SA as 'brown scum'. It also led to tension with other leaders within the party who saw Röhm's increasingly powerful SA as a threat to their own personal ambitions. The SA was also considered a dangerous and radical organization, especially since common SA practice was to swear loyalty to local SA commanders rather than Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party as a whole.
Senior Nazis including Himmler faked a dossier which suggested that Röhm had received payment from the French to carry out a coup against Hitler. At first Hitler refused to believe it, but he was painfully aware that the SA had the power to remove him if it so wished. Röhm was unpopular in the party because others saw his ambition as threatening their own, and because he was a homosexual. Eventually the pressure mounted and Hitler ordered the execution of the leadership of the SA, which took place on June 30-July 1, 1934, on what is known as the Night of the Long Knives. Victor Lutze became the new leader of the SA, and the organization was soon marginalized in the Nazi power structure.
The SA had its own units during the war, known as Feldherrnhalle. These formations expanded from regimental size in 1940 to a fully-fledged armored corps Panzerkorps Feldherrnhalle in 1945.
Leaders of the SA
The leader of the SA was known as the Oberster SA-Führer, translated as Supreme SA Leader. The following men held this position throughout the existence of the SA:
Emil Maurice (1920–1921)
Hans Ulrich Klintzsche (1921–1923)
Hermann Göring (1923)
Franz Pfeffer von Salomon (1926–1930)
Adolf Hitler (1930–1945)
In 1930, to centralize the loyalty of the SA, Adolf Hitler personally assumed command of the entire organization and remained Oberster SA-Führer from the duration of the group's existence until 1945. The day to day running of the SA was conducted by the Stabschef SA (SA Chief of Staff). After 1931, it was the Stabschef who was generally accepted as the Commander of the SA, acting in Hitler's name.
The following personnel held the position of Chief of Staff of the SA:
Ernst Röhm (1931–1934)
Viktor Lutze (1934–1943)
Wilhelm Scheppmann (1943–1945)