Ernst Rohm was a member of the Nazi Party from its earliest days. Rohm participated in the Beer Hall Putsch, for which he received a suspended prison sentence, and went on to become a highly influential member of the Nazi Party elite as head of the SA. It was this position of strength that ultimately led to his end as he was assassinated in the Night of the Long Knives.
Ernst Röhm’s early participation on the Nazi Party developed between 1919 and 1923. He was a member of the Reichswehr but attended Nazi Party meetings and also took part in some activities of the Freikorps. During this period he became a close confidant of Adolf Hitler. This friendship led him to take part in the Munich Putsch of 1923.
Following the failure of the Putsch, Rohm was found guilty of treason and received a conditional suspended sentence. He subsequently resigned from the Reichswehr and began to devote more time to the organisation of the Nazi Party. In this period he was elected to the Reichstag and was given a role of organising the SA. However Rohm’s role was short lived. In 1925 he fell out with other leading members of the party and resigned. He spent the next 5 years isolated from the party, and spent some time in Bolivia acting as a military advisor.
The changing political climate following the Wall Street Crash led to the Nazi Party becoming more popular. As the SA grew in size, Hitler looked to ensure that the organisation was highly organised and efficient. In 1930 he turned to Ernst Röhm to perform this task.
Ernst Röhm was certainly successful in creating an organised and efficient SA. However his work led to the membership of the SA looking to him in much the way that Hitler wanted them to look towards himself. Rohm, in short, was becoming too popular. Added to this was the fact that Rohm was sympathetic to views that the rest of the party leadership were unhappy with. He had a vision of the SA replacing the Reichswehr and becoming the dominant force within the legal system. Also, under his leadership, members of the SA were seen to support working class causes. This was at odds with Nazi principles at the time and was far too ‘socialist’ for the liking of the Nazi hierarchy.
Following Hitler’s rise to power the role of the SA became one of some significance. In order to create a totalitarian state the SA needed to be loyal to Hitler, and Hitler alone. The actions of Rohm and the SA members were now a threat to Hitler’s version of National Socialism. The rise of the SA also concerned the army. As Chancellor, Hitler relied on the support of the armed forces. Knowing that President Hindenburg was ageing and frail, he had to ensure that the army supported him. However they were wary of Rohm and the influence fo the SA. Similarly financiers and Industrialists were concerned by the politics of Rohm.
The above conspired to lead Hitler and his close advisor’s to decide that Rohm and others within the SA and party were a threat to their vision for the future. Rohm’s fate was sealed. He was arrested and executed on 30th June 1934, The Night of the Long Knives.