From first appearances, Ernie Rohm always reminds me of an Oliver Hardy look-alike, but slightly slimmer, no offence to “Olly” of course.
But as party member, number 122, he was pretty near to Hitler, with each of them using the familiar “thou” in conversation with each other.
In those early days Hitler was perhaps Rohm’s prodigy, with the captain offering the military “friedcorps” of hard boys of demobilized, but disgruntled soldiers as muscle for Hitler’s street corner meetings, usually ending in brawls if the “lads” were lucky.
Born in 1887 the young Rohm had always “one thought and desire-to be a soldier.” He was also a committed monarchist and had no time or inclination for republicanism or socialism that had swept through a humiliated Germany after its defeat in 1919. (Incidentally, it was reported in the media today, 16th March 2012, that the great, great grandson of the Kaiser, Prince Philip Kiril of Prussia, has called for the restoration of the monarchy in Germany. It seems there is after all a royal family in waiting, if this idea bears any fruition with the public. It should also be remembered that a stable monarchy is Biblical in its concept).
However the ascent of Hitler as Chancellor of Germany owed much to the personal patronage of Ernst Rohm and it does seem Hitler’s conscience (if dictators have such a thing!) caused him a great deal of agony when he came to order the murder of Rohm in 1934, which he eventually did but ceased from pulling the trigger himself. That “honour” was awarded to another of his entourage. So often it seems cowardice runs in the DNA of these devious dictators. However, in the overture to the Night of the long knives, Captain Rohm may have forgotten that the young Hitler had once been one of his pet proteges. Hitler would never forget. This made him dangerous to Rohm and others.
On a personal note, it had earlier been my intention some weeks ago to examine the politics of Julius Streicher and his influence on the growth of the nazi party. In fact, it wasn’t for nothing he was often referred to as Hitler’s “Jew baiter,” a title he always revelled in with deep pride. However, for technical reasons or other wise, I was unable to complete my article/research on the man that Hitler personally mentioned in Mein Kemapf. Maybe it had something to do with a painting of Streicher that was about to be auctioned on E-bay, who knows.
But sadly today much of Streichers writings and lewd cartoons as published in his newpaper Der Sturmer (The Stormer) can be still viewed on the Internet at anytime. Racism it seems knows no time zones.
Today many Islamic extremists are familiar with his rantings and see them as one more important tool to destroy the State of Israel. The Arab spring that is and will continue to sweep through the Arab worlds rather in my opinion leaves Israel isolated and vulnerable for an attack in perhaps the near future.
This racist war will continue until Jesus Christ, The King of kings returns to Jerusalem in triumph to claim the rightful throne of David as His own. Of this Biblical prediction we should remain positive, but until then many dangerous extremists will not cease or capitulate in their quest to advance a hideous Hebrew Holocaust.
However in the early 1930s if Hermann Goering was described as cunning then Ernst Rohm was devious. Yet both men could and would come to tolerate each other with tepid affection, well just about. Later after the so-called Night of the long knives conveniently known as operation Kolibri only one of them would survive. Years later at the Nuremberg trials, Hermann Goering was questioned about why he had plotted against his old friend, he replied rather nonchalantly, “But he was in my way…” So speaks a man with no conscience it seems or regret.
However, of Rohm’s immediate intentions during the early 1920s, I am not sure and why he chose the Nazi fledgling party to enlist in is unclear. There were after all many splinter pro-fascist parties at that time swirling around in the revolutionary waters of a conquered Germany. The Nazi party (NSDP) were incidentally just one such group surviving under the watchful eye of the Captain Rohm.
Yet something in this group and perhaps Hitler’s oratorical skills appealed to Rohm. And in 1919 he later joined the movement, reaching party member number 122 and all of this as well as being involved in illegal gun running and channelling cash into the parties meagre coffers as well as a gun running bandit, police dossiers would describe him and his actions as dangerous.
In early 1920 his path and fate crossed with Hitler’s when it seems the two men “hit it off,” with the captain soon introducing Hitler into his military circle of influential people. Maybe he even became Hitler’s “sugar daddy,” as some have crudelysuggested. Rohm was not only young Adolph’s patron he was also interested in young Heinrich Himmler’s career, who it is recorded after the failed Putsch of 1923 in Munich, visited Rohm in the prison where he would later be murdered in 1934.
I’m not sure if Heinrich visited Adolph Hitler at all in Landsburg prison. But naturally, the suspicion of why a notorious homosexual as Rohm was and never tried to deny it should take an unnatural interest in these two young men’s future vocation does seem suspect, with both of them later co-signing Rohm’s death warrant. Yet the predator always seeks new prey in the jungle of life so did Hitler or Himmler fill this role for Rohm’s benefit.
Well, we have no proof but maybe they were used as pimps to bring new recruits for Rohm’s homosexual ruffians and of course for the captain.
Rohm it seems was always a man who expected to achieve his own way in any conflict. In his rather open personality, and he would later be described as someone, “raffish and radical” in appearance, but with half of his face blown away on the battlefield at Verdun and later to be repaired with some basic plastic surgery perhaps from a novice surgeon, he does look fairly sinister in the photographs taken of him at the time. It seems this “gay gourmet” apparently would guzzle on goulash and grolsh beer. It seems the Nazis like their food and fun!
I do not however visualize Rohm as a fanatical anti-Jew protagonist as Hitler certainly was. He naturally blamed the treaty of Versailles for much of post war Germany’s humiliation. And I have to doubt that Rohm had never even bothered to sit down and riffle through the pages of Mein Kempt on a quite evening. Mainly because Rohm had after all fought on the battlefield in the Kaisers army with many Jewish officers alongside him in the trenches and would have been responsible to mentioning them to the High Command in dispatches for citations concerning acts of bravery.
He would however blame Jewish financiers for the defeat of Germany in 1918. But then so did millions of others returning to a land of famine and inflation. In fact, much of this anger would be fuelled into Rohm’s private army, consisting then of disillusioned soldiers and later to be organized and mobilized into Hitler’s bodyguards on the streets. I have to speculate that his anti-Semitism is rather akin to the Islamic believer who detests pork and the sight of dogs. Some also seem to have the belief that democracy in any guise is just a plot to extinguish Islam.
Rohm’s private intelligence network would soon reach into all aspects of political life in the early 1920 in a turbulent Germany and especially Bavaria.
Germany was now a country ready for revolution or ruin. He and many others certainly plotted to bring in the Nazi kingdom. Certainly, if Rohm had his way the country should and would restore a stable monarchy. How all of this would have succeeded in a post war Germany is not known. Hitler had his own agenda and sharing power with a regent does not seem to be one of them.
(It’s interesting that in the fascist system they will do everything possible to protect and preserve the monarchy, i.e. Spain, Italy, Hungary-pre war, Rumania and Bulgaria. The socialist/communist revolutionaries on the other hand will do all they can to smother the monarchy and its institutions and establish raw republicanism on a country if it’s welcomed or not).
The SA was born on Aug 3rd 1921 under the ambiguous title as being called: “A special section for gymnastics ands sport.” At its peak, it could boast of nearly three million men, perhaps the largest private army in Europe!
Ernst Rohm and his minor role in the ill prepared putsch on November 9th 1924 does seem rather dubious. However, I’m sure in the lead up to the putsch he enthusiastically enjoyed this game of soldiers to be played out on the streets of Munich or maybe it was just a schoolboy/soldier in his nature.
And didn’t he once write almost with pride that: “Because I am an immature and wicked man, war and unrest appeal to me more than good bourgeois order.” In other words, he seems to me more of a political pirate sailing through the murky waters of the political ideology of the early 1920s without the patch on his eye or rather akin to a naughty schoolboy who takes pleasure in setting fire to the teachers desk, with or without the teacher sitting at it.
It’s interesting to note also his relationship with Reinhardt Heydrich, who later enjoyed the sobriquet known as, “The Butcher of Prague” and as I have stated in the past, Heydrich would have been if he had survived the assassination attempt in Prague, the natural successor to Hitler, both his age and his ambition would have helped him to achieve this dubious honour.
Interestingly when Heydrich applies for a command position after the war his application form came across the desk of Rohm who unwisely passed it on to Himmler. And one can only speculate what would have been the fate of Ernst Rohm if Heydrich had been his number two. Later in a letter to his wife Lina he had written that there was something “pretty queer about Rohm.” How right he was about that but any doubts he had about Rohm were cast aside when he suggested that the captain might act as Godfather to his first born son, Klaus.
(This always seems to be another irrelevant religious service, splashing a babies head with water from a font which seems to be more of a social occasion for parents and guests. Not Biblical in any sense).
The infamous 1924 putsch, organised by Hitler and his henchmen quickly became a pantomime to be staged not in a Munich theatre but in a beer hall (the burgerbraukeller in fact.) What started in triumph ended in tears.
There was Hermann Goering sporting a black lacquered steel helmet and armed, with Hitler (perhaps wearing an absurd SA cap.) Then he or one of his shaking supporters fires a pistol in to the ceiling, events quickly moved to disarray. Meanwhile, Rohm dressed in full military kit and his private army of possible 600+ were elsewhere entered the army headquarters, causing a standoff with troops still loyal to the Government. It seems Hitler’s putsch had been outsmarted but had Rohm had previous knowledge of what might happen, his military tactics and his own intelligence units must have confirmed to him that Hitler and the Nazis would not win this skirmish. Later in the shoot out sixteen Nazis lay dead, naturally, Rohm surrendered himself to the police.
The putch was over and it should have been the end of the Nazi party and the role of Hitler as leader, events were to prove otherwise. All thought I suspect Rohm was loyal to the party. He was canny enough to understand that it could never have succeeded. The blood on then streets proved that to him. Later he would be sentenced as one of the conspirators and given a short prison sentence. (He would soon be released having served time in custody. With a young Himmler later visiting him bringing assorted gifts of fruit chocolate and books it seems).
Although his belief in Hitler still seems secure he realized that the outlawed SA would need to be reinforced. This would be his task in the following years. Slowly an army (militant league) was formed by Rohm as he travelled through Germany. Whilst Hitler remained in Landsberg and watching events outside the prison wall a serious fault line in the two men’s relationship seems to have arisen. Rohm perhaps sensing this distrust of his actions would write to Hitler pleading: “I urge you not to exclude me from your personal friendship.” Hitler ignored this request for the time being. But Rohm had to earn a living most found to be menial jobs.
However, in 1928 he was offered a position in Bolivia as a military officer. After all, he must have reasoned that all he had attempted in Germany was to support himself and his mother and sister had failed dismally. Now South America beckoned to him offering its warm climate and easy lifestyle but more importantly, he would be a serving officer again and back in the saddle.
(South America and its safe haven would after the war open its arms to fleeing Nazis fugitives, now holding forged passports, curtsy of Odessa, the friendly Vatican travel agency!)
But for Rohm, It would be three/five years before he journeyed home at Hitler’s own request to accept the position in becoming the Chief of staff of the SA and unknown to him to become later the principle actor in the infamous Night of the long knives. In my opinion, it would have been better if he had remained in distant Bolivia to “widen my military skills best in a foreign army” as he once confided in his memoirs. But everyone makes mistakes. The fatal flaw in most of us in a fallen world.
But now Hitler, a former friend of Rohm, would slowly became a dangerous foe. Any social differences within the party would widen that trust to breaking point, certainly on Hitler’s part.
However, Ernst Rohm’s Bolivian sojourn rather seems akin to a Viennese operetta with all the delights that country can offer the visitor. And from 1928-31 for the first time in his life he did not have to look over his shoulder, but more importantly, he also had money in his bank account to spend or squander for the first time as he so wished.
In Germany Hitler was still looking over his shoulder and until his death in 1945 there would be 42 attempts on his life, he would of course survive these attempts. In the meantime, Hitler through wise investments, generous donations and book royalties, had become almost a millionaire. Later as Chancellor, he would receive a commission for every postage stamp sold!
The once hungry young talented artist from Vienna would never be hungry again it seems or scratch around to purchase a cheap tube of paint. Those dark days were all in the past.
In approaching the countdown to the infamous Night of the long knives and its dire consequences, Hitler had remarked to Rohm in 1923: “Better times are coming.” Well maybe but not yet. But by the time Rohm had returned from his years in Bolivia much had changed in a transitional Germany. The Weimar republic was aborting quickly and the Nazis were on an upward roll, much at the expense of inflation and unemployment. Unfortunately for Rohm on his return, his well kept secret (if it ever was that concerning his homosexuality) had leaked or been leaked deliberately by his enemies in the party to the left wing press. They quickly seized on this opportunity to discredit Hitler and his judgement on the appointment of Rohm.
Yet even before the purge and his return to the Country Rohm, he was soon fighting a libel action in court over his rumoured homosexuality. Also, alarm in the Army’s High Command concerning his sexual appetites was being raised as well as the growing influence of his private army the SA. All of this was of course affecting his health and a summer break at Bad wiesse to convalesce and recharge his batteries might be the solution his doctor had advised him repeatedly. How wrong that physician was in his diagnosis for his patient.
Hitler meanwhile had come to accept and possibly encourage those around him that Rohm was plotting an immediate coup against him and his party.
This was rubbish indeed because Rohm was still loyal to the Fuhrer, although there were minor differences, yet dictators are very partial to attempted coups against them it seems. Hitler being no exception to the paranoia personality he was so fond of indulging himself in.
Much of the backbiting and gossip concerning Rohm emanated from Messer’s Goering and Himmler who were jealous of Rohm and his familiarity and influence with Hitler in the nazi “magic circle.” Rohm was by then an easy target to aim at. Much of the hysteria that resulted in the long knives accounts and its acceleration up to the murder of Rohm are covered in detail in Eleanor Hancock and Tony Atcherley/Mark Careys well researched books.
This article is more concerned in what occurred in those frantic final days and hours of Ernst Rohms life in Stadelhiem prison, where incidentally he had been confined, following the failed November 1923 putsch and where he was also able to receive flowering letters from a young Heinrich Himmler. So long ago it must have seemed to him, when he sat alone in his cell. Life plays strange games on the unexpected it seems.
Now confined in his prison cell after being escorted from the hotel by the lake, the so called “bully boy of the streets” would have time to contemplate his impending fate and perhaps dwell on where his own failure in understanding Hitler had sadly failed him.
Then after hours of awaiting his final fate at the hands of his fuehrer, three trusted SS executioners, arrive with an ultimatum for Rohm. Hitler it seems has ordered him to take his own life. A service revolver is to be provided for the deed. They depart leaving the prisoner with the weapon chosen for his death. It is a hot day. The captain now sits alone and abandoned, stripped to his trousers, deep in thought. Perhaps of his sister and beloved mother. (She had after all welcomed the young Adolph into their home many times in the past.) Hadn’t Rohm always cared for them and provided financially for both women. But who will do this now when he is dead, he must sadly wonder.
Now the commandant of Dacahu camp enters. He has been entrusted with the choice to inform Rohm of what has been decided. He straightens himself up, speaking slowly with an emphasis on each word. He begins, “you have forfeited your life. The Fuehrer gives you a last chance to draw the right conclusion.” He then offers him a loaded browning pistol but Rohm now past the point of pain or panic asks instead almost as a whisper refusing to take the gun. “If I am to be killed, let Adolph do it himself.” Naturally, his simple request is dismissed with the wave of a hand. He is then graciously offered ten minutes to do the honourable thing for Hitler and the country. The loaded pistol is now carefully placed on the small table in front of him.
Hitler’s executioners now retreat and wait outside the cell counting we are informed the minutes on synchronized watches. It will be along wait for them because no shot is heard from inside the cell. Their exasperation begins to increase. Now some decision on their part must be taken to quickly resolve this matter!
Today none of the written scenarios of what is supposed to have been committed in that cell 78 years can be verified.
Each writer can only offer their own synopsis of what might have occurred in the condemned cell on that warm afternoon. But I would however like to offer my own proposition of what I hope might have happened that day in Stadelheim prison as Rohm’s life ticked away minute by minute.
By now as Rohm realizes his life is expiring and there will be no reprieve for him, perhaps as an old soldier in the past he had faced death many times.
Now he realizes it is staring right back at him! For him, time is now precious.
In the months before his arrest, Rohm had been judged by politicians, pastors, journalists and generals, mainly because of his sexual tastes. This however is not their remit to judge him. They themselves will be acquainted for their own crimes and sins one day as indeed will all other unsaved people.
But had not Rohm once been baptized onto the Lutheran Church as a child and had he not been aware of the Holy Bibles teachings. In those days children learnt a great deal at Sunday school about the Bible and from his mother. He would have been aware of his sexual sins and other profanities that he indulged in so freely and without remorse in his life. But now he is to be offered a rare chance to sincerely repent for all his past sins and devious deeds. And did perhaps Psalm 144 cross his confused mind as he recalls these wise words: “Man is like a breath, his days are like a fleeting shadow.”
How true and I sincerely believe he grasped this rare opportunity to repent.
Just remember few of us today will have the privilege of preparing to face death as he did with over 150,000 dying each day, many unprepared, many unrepentant. The book of Romans reminds us as well on the matter: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” What a wonderful promise to Rohm and all lost sinners.
Now after a brief time lapse his executioners enter the cell. The cell unbuckling their gun holsters then withdrawing their pistols. Rohm stands and face them. He seems to be ready for what will happen next. Within minutes three bullets will enter his body at point blank range tearing into his chest, neck and heart. Later it would be claimed but never verified that he said: “My Fuhrer my Fuhrer.” Instead, I would like to suggest that he murmured sincerely these words of repentance almost as a whisper: “My God, My God forgive me a wretched sinner.” Then at 6pm on July 1st 1934, captain Ernst Rohm was declared dead.
Later Hitler in a moment of conciliation could say almost as an apology for the man he had murdered: “When the history of the Nazi movement comes to be written, Rohm will be remembered as second only to me.” Vain words from a vain man. Hitler’s orders in the killings it seems had paid off, for the time being. But for now, he was “master” of all he surveyed in Nazi Germany. It would take a world war to remove him at the cost of millions of lives.
Another moving tribute concerning Rohm came from the former British Prime Minster, Anthony Eden (One of the UK’s forgotten Prime Ministers) and who had himself faced the dictators in the turbulent 1930s, he spoke of Rohm in these rather gentle words: “Rohm was a rarity in the modern world, he was a man who boasted of being brave and yet was brave.” Simple but sincere.
Lord Eden, I suspect recalled Rohm as one old soldier to another. Both men of that lost generation. Today Rohm remains one of the earliest victims of the Holocaust that Hitler his protogee was yet to unleash upon a cursed Europe.
Today much of these symptoms the Nazis bestowed on Europe still linger on. Nothing much changes it seems in today’s fallen world.
In conclusion, Rohm was rather too fond of quoting this useless idiom: “The revolution devours its children.” But more importantly, he should have perhaps remembered these other words of Scripture that remain timeless in their meaning: “Be not deceived, God is not mocked.” Or as Eleanor Hancock writes in her book on Rohm: “He lived up to his own self-image. He died like a soldier.”
I also like to suggest he was ready to meet death and finally his Maker and yours.
Postscript: The rough Rohm repercussions offered little resistance to Hitler’s regime because they were unprepared for what would follow. Afterwards when the cordite had settled Rohm’s regiment would rehearse no more. Their days were finally over. Rohm’s troops had now been surgically de-fanged by Hitler and his willing henchmen. Few would grieve or weep over their swift fate. It seems in the days that followed those murders in what has become known as the infamous Night of the long knives. Today it remains a blood stained page in German history.
Later Ernst Rohm’s mother who had never believed the homosexual whispered allegations against her late son would herself reject a state pension offered ungraciously by Hitler, remarking bitterly: “I will not take money from the murderer of my son.” Seven months later she too died.
Today both mother and son lie together in that peaceful cemetery in Munich town.
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.”
Recommended reading on the subject:
Ernst Rohm: Hitler’s S.A. Chief by Eleanor Hancock
Hitler’s Gay Traitor: by Atcherley and Carey
Hitler’s Henchmen: by Louis L. Snyder
27 March 2012
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