Men He Could Trust

Richard J. Evans

  • Stormtroopers: A New History of Hitler’s Brownshirts by Daniel Siemens
    Yale, 459 pp, £25.00, October 2017, ISBN 978 0 300 19681 8

When the International Military Tribunal convened at Nuremberg shortly after the end of the Second World War, one of the many objects of its attention were the Storm Divisions (Sturm-Abteilungen, SA) of the Nazi movement. The SA, the prosecution alleged, had been a criminal organisation involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ‘National Bolshevist’ Ernst Niekisch, imprisoned during the war, described the SA in 1953 as

a counter-elite; it attracted all those characters who were rotten and frail from within. In the SA, all criminal inclinations were let loose. The SA barracks were dens of vice; there were work-shy individuals, drinkers, losers [Lebensbankrotteure], homosexuals, ruffians and killers who hatched their sinister attacks by which Germany should be ‘awakened’. The human quality of this brown heap, in which the sons of the German bourgeoisie were trained in gangland methods, illustrated the desolate human decline of the German middle classes.

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