Wikipedia says:

Their primary purposes were providing protection for Nazi rallies and assemblies, disrupting the meetings of opposing parties, fighting against the paramilitary units of the opposing parties, especially the Red Front Fighters League (Rotfrontkämpferbund) of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), and intimidating Slavic and Romani citizens, unionists, and Jews...

My question is: according to historians, did SA commit serious crimes like grievous bodily harm or murder of political opponents during the period of Nazi rise to power? (Can you put it into the context of "fighting against the paramilitary units of the opposing parties"?)

  • 2
    sorry, I removed the abbreviation. it means Grievous Bodily Harm Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 9:52
  • Wikipedia says so. What are you looking for in your question? An opinion poll among historians with a PhD and tenure? A single source? An analysis of historical court cases?
    – o.m.
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 15:26

3 Answers 3


Yes, of course.

The SA was used to terrorize political opponents; they originated from right-wing paramilitary groups that were abundant in Germany after the first world war. (The peace treaty limited the German army to a certain number (100000 soldiers); the German imperial army in the first world war was much larger and many units resented both the peace treaty and the new republic and simply refused to give up their arms.)

At first, the SA was used to protect Nazi-party events. (You are right, most political parties in Germany at the time had similar organizations for this purpose, the social democrats for instance had the Reichsbanner, the communists had the RFB etc.).

By 1923, as mentioned by @Tom Au the SA was used much more aggressively, however, forming the backbone of Hitlers first attempt to seize power. From the late 1920s, as the SA grew, there were more and more incidents of them openly terrorizing political opponents and thereby unlawfully influencing the political process; consider this murder of a German labor union activist as an example (unfortunately only in the German and Italian wikipedia).

Note that the SA was illegal during parts of the 1920s and the early 1930s - the German authorities realized, of course, that they were a threat. However, as substantial parts of the German burocracy, and substantian parts of the political and economic elites supported the right wing (and from a certain point on specifically Hitler), this did not last long. They played an important part in Hitler's consolidation of power in 1933. Many of them were briefly given official status as auxiliary police force; having already influenced the voting process in the elections in February 1933 (having been ordered to "monitor" them), they then prevented the seating of elected left-wing MPs in parliament.

  • best answer so far, what is missing (but I found scarce info on that online) is SA street violence against Jews and political enemies. 2nd paragraph here could be relevant: tagesspiegel.de/wissen/…
    – mart
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 14:26

The Sturmabteilung (SA) played a key role in Hitler's 1923 Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, which was an illegal act of treason.

Hitler was sentenced to five years in prison for his role, but served only nine months.

After the "Putsch," the SA engaged in "street fights" with toughs from the left wing parties. Their activities grew more extensive after 1929 as Hitler surged in the polls from 1930-33. Finally, they got the upper hand on opponents such as Communists. As they and Hitler grew more powerful in a mutually reinforcing cycle, they turned to "targets" (not merely "opponents") such as Jews.

They also threatened certain members of the Establishment, especially the military, which is why Hitler had to quash them in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, even though they (mostly) did his will.


"street thugs"...a weird offshoot of the freikorps but far more serious and ably led. There was never not going to be a World War 2 after the "blood purge" which incorporated the SA into German Army (which was divided into the traditional Heer and then "new and improved" Wehrmacht with a "Waffen SS" special security detail dedicated to the defense of the Fuhrer personally.)

By 1940 Adolf Hitler personally was in charge of three entire Armies...and he used them.

The SA was borderline a threat when Ernst Rohm was called out of retirement to get the SA "under control." They quickly grew to ten times the size of the regular German Army and had their eye on replacing Hitler himself.

This did not happen with cataclysmic consequences for the Continent of Europe...in particular Eastern Europe.

  • This does not answer this question.
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 11:09
  • Yeah it does. Of course the SS committed crimes...start with the Night of the Long Knives. Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 13:02
  • The answer posted here does not mention any crimes - it doesn't refer to the Night of the Long Knives. I suspect that you know the answer, but this answer doesn't contain the information needed to answer the question; this answer contains contextual material that is outside the answer, but it doesn't directly respond to the question.
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 13:05

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