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Member of an early Nazi paramilitary organization, the Sturmabteilung or SA (‘assault division’). The Brownshirts, recruited from various rough elements of society, were founded by Adolf Hitler in Munich in 1921. Fitted out in brown uniforms reminiscent of Mussolini's Blackshirts, they figured prominently in organized marches and rallies. Their violent intimidation of political opponents and of Jews played a key role in Hitler's rise to power. From 1931 the SA was led by a radical anti-capitalist, Ernst Röhm. By 1933 it numbered some two million, double the size of the army, which was hostile to them. Röhm's ambition was that the SA should achieve parity with the army and the Nazi Party, and serve as the vehicle for a Nazi revolution in state and society. For Hitler the main consideration was to ensure the loyalty to his regime of the German establishment, and in particular of the German officer corps. Consequently, he had more than 70 members of the SA, including Röhm, summarily executed by the SS in the ‘Night of the Long Knives’, after which the revolutionary period of Nazism may be said to have ended.

Subjects: History

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