Sometimes referred to as the “Brown Shirts,” the paramilitary organization was founded in 1923 and served as the militia for the Nazi Party. The plebeian street fighters were also the “storm troopers” of the early Nazi movement. The SA’s virulent anti-Semitism often resulted in violence against Jews as well as against its political opponents. Its reputation for brawling gave the SA an image of an undisciplined and dangerous element within the Nazi movement. Under the leadership of Ernst Rohm (1887–1934), the SA enlisted close to 3,000,000 members by 1934 and was viewed by the Reichswehr (German army) as a potential threat to its military leadership. Possibly fearing that Rohm might attempt to replace him as the leader of the Nazi movement, and at the same time determined to placate the Reichswehr high command, Adolf Hitler ordered a purge against the SA in 1934 that resulted in the murder of Rohm and many of his top officers. The Nazis took advantage of the bloodletting and shot many of their political enemies in a massacre that historians refer to as the “Night of the Long Knives.” The SA never recovered from the purge and faded from importance in the Nazi movement.

Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. . 2014.

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