The History of the Gay Male and Lesbian Experience during World War II


Ernst Roehm

Born: November 28, 1887, Munich, Germany
1907 -- Enters the Tenth Regiment beginning his military career
1916-1917 -- Battle injuries make Roehm unfit for military service
1919 -- Became friends with Hitler and began organizing the SA, a paramilitary arm of the Nazi Party used initially to incite domestic terrorism.
1924-25 -- Has his first same-sex sexual encounter
1925 -- Left the SA after argument with Hitler
1929 -- Roehm returns to SA as its chief and kills dissenters in the SA
June 28, 1934 -- Arrested in The Night of Long Knives
July 1, 1934 -- Assassinated by the SS while in captivity

Richard Plant argues that Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, used Roehm's well-known same-sex relationships to build a case of disloyalty to Hitler. This case eventually led to the purge of the SA during The Night of Long Knives and to Roehm's assassination by a team of SS gunmen led by Theodore Eicke. Eicke was later selected by Himmler to organize the concentration camp system. This political coup strengthened Himmler and the SS within the Nazi establishment at the expense of the SA and its leadership.

Caption 1

Nobody can call me a puritan... A so-called 'immoral' man who does something competently means more to me than a so-called 'morally' clean person who is inefficient. Ernst Roehm in his autobiography

Some people expect SA commanders... to take decisions on these matters, which belong purely to the private domain. I reject this presumption categorically. ...[It] is not an institute for the moral education of genteel young ladies, but a formation of seasoned fighters. The sole purpose of any inquiry must be to ascertain whether or not the SA officer... is performing his duties...His private life cannot be an object of scrutiny unless it conflicts with basic principles of National Socialist ideology. Adolph Hitler, 1930-31

I take advantage of the prevalence of these ... excrescences of prudishness... to make it clear that the German Revolution has been won not by the philistines, bigots, and sermonizers, but by revolutionary fighters... It is the SA's task not to keep watch on the attire, complexion, and chastity of others, but to haul Germany to its feet by dint of their free and revolutionary fighting spirit. I therefore forebid all officers of the SA and SS to employ their activities in this field and allow themselves to become the stooges of perverse moral aesthetes... Ernst Roehm 1930-31

I expect all SA leaders to help to preserve and strengthen the SA in its capacity as a pure and clean institution. In particular, I should like every mother to be able to allow her son to join the SA, [Nazi] Party, and Hitler Youth without fear that he may become morally corrupted in the ranks. I therefore require all SA commanders to take the utmost pains to ensure that offenses under paragraph 175 are met by immediate expulsion of the culprit from the SA and the Party. I want to see men as SA commanders, not ludicrous monkeys!Adolph Hitler, after the Night of Long Knives, 1934

Caption 2

PHOTO 1 United States Holocaust Memorial Museum On-line photo archives -- photo 01622 A member of the SA throws confiscated books onto the pyre during the public burning of "un-German" books on the Opernplatz in Berlin.

Credit line: Courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives
Date: May 10, 1933
Locale: Berlin, Germany
Sources: Marschalek , Austria; USHMM; USHMM-Archives

PHOTO 2 United States Holocaust Memorial Museum On-line photo archives -- photo 11286 SA pickets, wearing boycott signs, block the entrance to a Jewish-owned shop.

The signs read: "Germans, defend yourselves against the Jewish atrocity propaganda, buy only at German shops!" and "Germans, defend yourselves, buy only at German shops!"
Credit line: National Archives, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives
Date: Apr 1, 1933
Locale: Berlin, Germany
Sources: National Archives , College Park , MD; Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz , Berlin, Germany