Hitler, Rohm and the Night of the Long
German historian Lothar Machtan argues that
Hitler's active homosexuality can be seen in his long string of close
friendships with notorious members of the homosexual worlds of Vienna and
Munich from the 1900s, through his years in the trenches in the First
World War, and to the 1920s. As his political career developed, there was
a danger that this aspect of his character would lead to his downfall, and
some of the details of his maneuverings with members of his entourage
suggest the ever-present threat of black-mail. In these extracts from his
new book, The Hidden Hitler, Machtan shows that the rise and fall of Ernst
Rohm, and the list of victims of the Night of the Long Knives in June
1934, reflects not merely rivalry and differences of political aim but
also the need to protect Hitler's own past from prying eyes.
WHEN ADOLF HITLER joined the Deutsche
Arbeiter Partei (DAP, German Labour Party) in September 1919, he was
still, politically speaking, an unknown quantity. Yet only three years
later he was regarded as the repository of the deutsch-volkisch (German
ultra-nationalist) movement's hopes. By November 1923 in Munich he was
able to venture an out-and-out coup d'etat against the Reich government
that was far less doomed to fail than it may appear in retrospect. The
reasons for his meteoric rise are partly structural; but without the
patronage of certain men, of whom Ernst Rohm was one, it would have been
Captain Ernst Rohm played an active part in Adolf Hitler's life from March
1919 onwards. Rohm was present in October of that year, when Hitler
delivered his first public speech as a `politician' at a DAP rally in
Munich's Hofbraukeller. He was so impressed by the young agitator's
performance that he not only encouraged him in his political ambitions but
soon joined the splinter party himself. Rohm regularly consorted with
senior representatives of both the official military and of the
paramilitary Freikorps, and his patronage brought about a swift and
substantial widening of Hitler's horizons. From Hitler's point of view,
therefore, it was a definite stroke of luck that this particular man
should be making such an effort to further his career. The officers' mess
atmosphere prevailing among Rohm's conspiratorial associates was well
suited to Hitler's talent for self-promotion, and it was not long before
he made a very favorable impression on the men who mattered.
Ernst Rohm, a career staff officer during the First World War, had become
adjutant to Ritter von Epp, the Freikorps commander, when the German
Empire collapsed. In company with Epp's troops he helped to bring down
Munich's revolutionary `Councils Republic' in April-May 1919, and he
remained bitterly opposed to the youthful Weimar democracy. Epp had been
entrusted with command of the infantry stationed in Bavaria, so Rohm
himself acquired a key military position. The two soldiers had resources
at their disposal that greatly augmented the influence of Hitler the
politician, whose assets had hitherto been limited to his charisma as an
orator and actor. At the end of 1920, for instance, Epp, then Reichswehr
commander, gave the party leader contributions from his secret fund -- a
`purely personal matter', as he termed it later. In addition, Rohm helped
Hitler become acquainted with promising party recruits in the Freikorps
battalions. In Hitler's own words, they were `all vigorous young men,
accustomed to discipline and reared during their military service in the
principle that absolutely nothing is impossible'.
Hitler managed to commend himself to this nationalistic military milieu as
a like-minded repository of political hopes. Rohm must have helped in this
respect, so the remark made later by Gerhard Rossbach, the notorious
Freikorps commander, may well have been apt: `Rohm helped this intelligent
and weak but obsessive man into his boots and got him moving.' But for his
ability to adopt a warlike, martial pose -- perfectly modeled on Rohm's
own -- the thirty-four-year-old ex-lance corporal would never, as he
himself wrote later, have managed to induce `loyal comrades' to join the
Party by means of `verbal persuasion'.
Hitler was profoundly impressed by Rohm's soldierly manner, which was a
habitual blend of the staff officer and the trooper. Here was someone
roughly his own age who staunchly went his own way and later publicly
proclaimed that he saw the world from a `deliberately one-sided',
exclusively `soldierly' standpoint and who uncompromisingly championed the
aim of winning for the German veteran `his due share in running the
country'. Such a credo naturally entailed ostentatious contempt for
everything effeminate and unsoldierly: `Windbags must shut up and men
alone make decisions. Political deserters and hysterical women of both
sexes must be unloaded.'
Yet the fact was that ideologically charged homosexual eroticism and
sexuality were cornerstones of the fascist male-bonding culture prior to
1933. In an article `Friendship or Homosexuality', published in 1925, Dr
Karl-Gunther Heimsoth, a close friend and Freikorps comrade of Rohm,
betrays how readily the martial stylization of `male homosexual eroticism'
could be racially charged and employed against the `inferiority of
feminism and Semitism'. This ideologising of homosexual tendencies into
`the German eros' paid tribute to homoeroticism for political purposes, as
a contribution to the establishment of a male-structured volkisch state.
Such was the world in which Rohm lived and whose ideals he sought to
impose on post-revolutionary German society, primarily by means of a
brutal assault on the values and representatives of democratic political
Rohm's militant virility fantasies are in contrast to his aesthetic side.
His memoirs, published in 1928, show him to have been an excellent
wordsmith. He was probably a good public speaker, and he also loved music,
especially Wagner. So uncouth in other respects, Rohm could also express
himself very tenderly in private, for instance, when writing to his
protege and `sweetheart', the art student Martin Schatzl.
Perhaps the best pointer to the way in which Rohm dealt with his
homosexual proclivities is supplied by an article published in 1932,
`National Socialism and Inversion', which, if not written by him, must at
least have been instigated by him. Its anonymous author went so tar as to
make the -- never disavowed -- assertion that he was expressing `not just
a personal view, but the opinion [that prevails all the way] up to the
Fuhrer'. The gist of the article was that what really mattered was to do
one's duty as a soldier and comrade. Anyone who did that should be allowed
a free hand in private, so long as he concealed his activities from the
If that was the moral aspect of the matter, so to speak, what of the
personal aspect? `I fancy I'm homosexual,' Rohm confided to his friend
Heimsoth in 1929, but I didn't really `discover' it until 1924. I can
recall a series of homosexual feelings and acts extending back into my
childhood, but I've
also had relations with plenty of women. Never with any great pleasure,
though. I also caught three doses of the clap, which I later saw as
nature's punishment for unnatural intercourse. I now detest all women,
especially those who pursue me with their love -- and there are quite a
number of them, more's the pity.
Rohm is reputed to have had a fiancée before the war, but the liaison was
evidently of brief duration. He then entered the exclusively male society
of the trenches and the Freikorps, in which he had no need to disguise his
homoerotic preferences. We do not know with whom Rohm `really discovered'
his homosexuality in 1924, and the date may also be wrong. There are
indications that he had a longish sexual relationship, at the beginning of
the 1920s, with Edmund Heines, another of his `sweethearts'. Other sources
state that he first became fully aware of his proclivity while in
Stadelheim Prison in 1923-24.
Whatever the truth, Rohm accepted himself as he was, and in 1929 he
confided to those who cared to listen that he was `far from unhappy' about
his homosexuality. Indeed he was `perhaps even inwardly proud' of it. He
seems in general to have been quite unabashed about such matters,
proclaimed that he was not one of the `well-behaved' and insisted that the
`morality' of the `moral' seldom amounted to much. It later transpired
that he had not only patronised male prostitutes in the mid-1920s but
openly advocated the repeal of Paragraph 175, the German law against
When Rohm and Hitler first met, the thirty-two-year-old captain was a far
from unattractive man. Photographs of the period show him not as the
plump, bull-necked figure familiar later. Moreover his heavily scarred
cheeks would have been perceived by comrades and lovers more as an
honorable badge of courage than a physical blemish. Hans Frank, a former
Freikorps comrade of Rohm, described him thus: `Until then I had thought
of homosexuality merely as a characteristic of unmanly, soft,
self-indulgent, parasitic weaklings. But Rohm was the absolute prototype
of a brave, daredevil soldier.' The reasons for his success were certainly
not confined to his unscrupulous resort to violence.
Many sources suggest that Rohm and Hitler had a sexual relationship. This
is referred to, for example, in the diary of an unnamed Reichswehr
general, extracts from which were published abroad in 1934, and the
possibility of such a liaison cannot be entirely ruled out. They must have
spent some time together in private, for nothing else could have accounted
for their intimate and thoroughly informal relationship. But were they
lovers? I consider that improbable. The memoirs of Hitler's close friend
Ernst Hanfstaengl (published in 1970) do contain a hint that, around 1923,
their friendship developed an intensity `that transcended the fraternal Du
and gave rise to rumors of a more far-reaching mutual affection'. But
Hanfstaengl too considered such rumors to be `highly exaggerated'.
Hitler recognized Rohm's talent for planning and organization. He also
learned from him how to reconcile a self-assured, masculine manner with
the homosexual tendencies that had been manifest since his teens. It was
not long before he could demonstrate `manliness' so convincingly that even
hard-boiled soldiers were taken in.
Conversely, Rohm recognized Hitler's talent for politics. He saw him as
the charismatic prophet who could beguile the masses with rousing speeches
and imbue them with rapturous enthusiasm. Thus the two men complemented
each other. They got on well as comrades and brothers in arms, each in his
own sphere. They were also united by their love of music. Finally, the
fact that they were both homosexual, which can hardly have escaped them,
would have been conducive to a great sense of attachment.
`Hitler and I,' Rohm wrote in his memoirs, `were linked by ties of sincere
friendship.' He had felt obliged `to speak candidly to my friend, like a
loyal comrade' even when they fell out in 1925. The two men had drawn
different conclusions from the failed putsch of November 1923. When Rohm
was released from detention in April 1924, Hitler had appointed him
commander of the Sturmabteilung (SA). In that capacity Rohm founded the
Frontbann, a new edition of the pre-putsch Combat League. Now that the
Weimar Republic was becoming consolidated, however, Hitler soon realized
that an updated version of the Freikorps strategy would be a political
blind alley. In December 1924, therefore, he removed the SA from the
Frontbann -- and Rohm, who categorically demanded that the National
Socialist movement recognize `the primacy of soldiers over politicians',
felt that he had been overridden. Hence their ways parted in the spring of
1925. But it was a parting devoid of intrigues and public recriminations.
Rohm remained loyal, his personal relationship with Hitler intact.
At first Rohm was compelled to subsist by means of odd jobs. He also wrote
his memoirs. For a soldier as keen as Rohm, however, these were only
occupational stopgaps. Consequently, when offered the post of military
adviser to the Bolivian army in December 1928, he promptly accepted. It
was in South America in the autumn of 1930 that he received a letter from
Hitler inviting him to become chief of staff of the SA.
Accepting with alacrity, he took up his new post on January 5th, 1931. He
soon acquired political power, and late in 1933 Hitler made him a
government minister. Yet within a few months, on June 30th, 1934, he had
fallen victim to an unparalleled bloodbath, the `Night of the Long
Knives', a crime committed at the Fuhrer's behest. What lay behind this
remarkable development? Part of the answer, as we shall see, lies in
Why Hitler should have recalled Rohm at all and offered him command of the
SA, despite their earlier differences, is a question that cannot be
answered without an eye to the political situation prevailing in 1930-31.
After Rohm's withdrawal from the NSDAP (Nazi Party) leadership in 1925,
Hitler had initially succeeded in getting the Party to endorse his new
conception of the SA as an electoral strong-arm force specializing in
public intimidation and propaganda. It made a substantial contribution to
the electoral victories gained in the years that followed, including some
spectacular gains in the Reichstag elections on September 14th, 1930.
From then, Hitler had to think and act on a `macro political' scale. This
meant, first and foremost, harnessing the traditional elites as a route to
further support. Hitler tackled this problem with instinctive flair and
considerable success, realizing that, to gain power, he would have to go
some way toward accommodating the old elites' conception of political
morality. The SA clearly failed to see the need for this, continually
overdoing things in its clamorous way. In the middle of the election
campaign in August 1930, the commander of the Berlin SA, Walter Stennes,
disliking the strategy of seeking power by legitimate means, had openly
rebelled against the Party's Munich leadership. This led to a grotesque
incident in which rampaging SA storm troopers occupied Party headquarters
in Berlin. Hitler, who had hurried to Berlin and assumed supreme command
of the SA, did succeed in getting the situation under control. But the
political damage was considerable. The `Stennes crisis' became so acute
that Hitler eventually called on Rohm for help.
He could not have made a shrewder decision, for Rohm hailed from the
male-bonded milieu from which SA men were largely recruited, spoke their
language and shared their outlook. As one of the early activists of the
National Socialist movement, he naturally carried considerable weight
within the Party. These twin anchorage points afforded the best guarantee
that the SA and the Party would not disintegrate further, and that the
`brown battalions' would be politically disciplined. In short, Rohm was
the man who could render the SA `presentable' without alienating the
simpler souls in its ranks.
Yet Hitler knew he was running a political risk by reinstating Rohm, who
had, by contemporary standards, been remarkably frank about his
homosexuality and was thus vulnerable to attacks by opponents inside and
outside the Party. Hitler was expressly warned of this danger and was
requested at least to make a public statement on the subject of
homosexuality -- without success, needless to say. Instead, he tried to
protect himself and the SA commander in a more non-committal way. As early
as February 3rd, 1931, he issued a remarkable decree concerning `attacks
on the private lives' of `very senior and senior SA officers'. Here he
stated that the SA was `not a moral institution for the education of
refined young ladies, but a formation of tough fighting men ... Their
private life cannot be an object of scrutiny unless it runs counter to
vital principles of National Socialist ideology.' Hitler wanted to show
that he was above the matter and, at the same time, to offer Ernst Rohm
the protection he needed. This did not at all suit the homophobic Joseph
Goebbels, who wrote in his diary on 27th February, 1931, that he would
`oppose with all my might' the Nazi Party becoming an `El Dorado' for
Politically, Rohm soon fulfilled all of Hitler's expectations. He managed
to put a stop to excesses like those of recent months and reduced the
tension existing between the SA and the Party organization. The SA
recruited members in increasing numbers, not only from its traditional
Freikorps base but from elsewhere as well. Even Goebbels unreservedly
conceded this: `Chief of Staff Rohm has accomplished the miracle of
molding loose, scattered groups into a tight-knit, tear-proof
organization'. Outwardly, the SA had now joined Hitler on his `legality
course' and renounced any idea of a putsch.
But Rohm owed his successes not only to his efficiency but to his
personnel policy. He assigned key SA positions to men of homosexual bent,
and they, in turn, installed friends in certain posts. One example was
Edmund Heines, Rohm's lover of the 1920s, with whom Hitler is also reputed
to have been on close terms. He was appointed Rohm's deputy in Silesia
with the rank of SAObergruppenfuhrer (roughly, general). Another man who
enjoyed a sensational career in the SA was Karl Ernst, who had got to know
Captain Paul Rohrbein, the SA's first Berlin commander, at the `El
Dorado', a favorite haunt of the German capital's homosexual community. In
1931 Rohrbein introduced Ernst (`Frau Rohrbein') to his old friend Rohm.
By April of that year Ernst was commanding SA Subgroup East, and a year
later he was in the Reichstag. The result of such wire-pulling was that
the SA gradually acquired the reputation of a fraternity devoted to
homosexual excesses. As the homosexual art historian Christian Isermayer
recalled in an interview not many years ago: `I also got to know some
people in the SA. They used to throw riotous parties even in 1933 ... I
once attended one ... It was quite well-behaved but thoroughly gay, men
only ... But then, in those days the SA was ultra-gay.' Homosexuals
acquired political influence even in the Braunes Haus, headquarters of the
SA's supreme command.
For Hitler, the SA's homoerotic orientation became an unprotected flank
exposed to attack by political opponents, internal Party rivals and Nazi
moralists. Not even Rohm's successes could alter that.
Rohm in Trouble
Gauleiter Joseph Goebbels openly attacked Rohm. According to a report in
the Communist <ITL>Rote Fahne,</ITL> the Berlin gauleiter's offices were
`a hotbed of corruption and intrigue' dedicated to bringing Rohm down by
every available means. Compromising information about the SA boss was not
only being disseminated but sold to the highest bidder. At an editorial
meeting of <ITL>Der Angriff,</ITL> attended by Hitler's faithful henchman
Max Amann, Goebbels demanded that the latter `request Hitler, on behalf of
the Party members of North Germany, to dismiss the chief of staff'.
Goebbels was not alone in this opinion. Captain Paul Schulz, the successor
to Stennes as boss of the Berlin SA, sought to make common cause with him.
At the end of May 1931 they called on Hitler at the Hotel Kaiserhof in the
hope of gaining his support. After Hitler refused to take the bull by the
horns, Schulz wrote him a stinging letter on June 2nd. Schulz sought to
draw Hitler's attention to `the dangers ... necessarily entailed, in my
opinion, by the employment of morally objectionable persons in positions
of authority'. In addition to Rohm, he named Karl Ernst; Paul Rohrbein;
Rohm's aides Reiner and Count Du MoulinEckart; and the `V-Mann'
(confidential agent) Dr Meyer. These now formed a `homosexual chain' that
extended from Munich to Berlin. What aggravated the situation, wrote
Schulz, was that `Captain Rohm makes absolutely no secret of his
disposition; on the contrary, he prides himself on his aversion to the
female sex and proclaims it in public'. He concluded: `Things have now
reached the stage where rumors are being spread in Marxist quarters that
you yourself, my most esteemed Fuhrer, are also homosexual'.
Schulz may well have sent a copy to Gregor Strasser, his friend and
superior, because late in June Strasser's brother Otto leaked the letter
to the editor of the Munchener Post with the avowed intention of `dealing
a blow at Hitler and the Movement'. When it was actually published,
Goebbels described the mood at the Party's Munich headquarters as one of
The publication of the letter was a minor disaster for the Nazi party.
Hitler thought it preferable to keep quiet about the matter, even though
the newspaper, citing, inter alia, Dr Meyer, one of Rohm's companions from
the early 1920s, featured further articles on Rohm's homosexual
disposition. Meyer was subsequently, on December 15th, 1931, found hanged
in his cell while remanded on a charge of fraud. Official cause of death:
But Rohm was not yet out of the woods. He directed all his odium at Paul
Schulz and made strenuous efforts to eliminate him, but without any
immediate success. The SA commander's position within the Party remained
precarious until early 1932, because Hitler made no move to quell these
intrigues by exerting his authority. No reaction from him was forthcoming
throughout 1931. The political imponderables were too great for Hitler to
adopt a public position on the matter. He may even have regarded `the Rohm
case' as a kind of trial balloon that would enable him to gauge public
reactions to a charge of homosexuality. Was he, perhaps, exposing his
personal `problem' to public debate without endangering himself?
In order to understand the following events, we must view them against the
power-political situation prevailing toward the end of 1931. Hindenburg
was standing for re-election as president and there were also five Landtag
(provincial parliamentary) elections, including one in Prussia where the
Social Democrats would be defending their most important power base.
Hitler's position was difficult. To stand for election against Hindenburg
would carry a great personal risk. A would-be head of state had to fulfill
criteria quite different from those of a party leader. His life would be
closely scrutinized. Many people refused to buy the curriculum vitae
Hitler had set forth in Mein Kampf, so he would have to supplement it in
some way. Torn between his supporters' expectations and an awareness of
his own vulnerability, Hitler agonised for weeks before making a decision
-- one that his ongoing dispute with the Munchener Post could not have
made any easier.
It was not until February 22nd, 1932, that propaganda director Goebbels
could announce Hitler's candidacy and finally launch the campaign. Its
essential purpose was to extol the Nazi leader not only as a brilliant
politician but as a man of integrity. This it did on two quite different
levels, of which one has often been described, `The Fuhrer over Germany'.
Goebbels wrote a series of scenarios for public appearances by the Fuhrer
as Germany's last hope winging his way to mass meetings. To Hitler's
growing band of supporters it seemed as if the Holy Ghost was descending
The other method by which Hitler achieved a semi-mythical aura is less
well known but no less important: he underwrote his chances of gaining
power at the expense of a close friend. On March 7th, 1932, the leftwing
Welt am Montag printed three letters written by Ernst Rohm. Two days later
they appeared in the Munchener Post. Soon they were reprinted as a
pamphlet, two of them even in facsimile form. Their authenticity was
The letters in question, which dated from 1928-29, were extremely intimate
in tone. They were addressed to Rohm's friend and personal physician Karl-Gunther
Heimsoth, who was also in contact with other homosexual Nazi leaders. In
the first letter Rohm had railed against that `blockhead' Alfred
Rosenberg, whose homophobic writings were `directed primarily at me
because I make no secret of my disposition'. The second, written in La
Paz, the Bolivian capital, on February 25th, 1929, included references to
his `homosexual feelings and acts' and his abhorrence of `unnatural'
intercourse with women. In his third letter, dated August 11th, 1929, and
sent from Uyuni, Bolivia, he dilated on the pleasures of Berlin:
The steam bath there is, in my opinion, the acme of all human
happiness. At all events, I particularly enjoyed the way things are done
there ... And now, give our mutual friend Fritz Schirmer my warm regards
and, on my behalf -- worse luck -- a kiss ... Incidentally, I take
definite exception to the fact that your husband (or wife?) omitted to
enclose a picture of himself. People here are extremely susceptible to
The man who obtained the letters and published the pamphlet was a certain
Helmuth Klotz. A naval officer during the First World War, he joined the
Freikorps thereafter and had been one of the joint founders of the SA. In
the ensuing years, however, he became a staunch champion of Weimar
democracy. How had Klotz got hold of these explosive documents? And what
did it all have to do with Hitler?
Hitler's assumption of power in 1933 drove Klotz into exile. But when
France was occupied in 1940 he was tortured into giving an account of what
had happened in 1932. His statements are credible, since their veracity
could be checked at any time. Klotz confessed that publication of the Rohm
letters was instigated by the Prussian ministry of the interior, in
particular by Regierungsrat (senior executive officer) Rudolf Diels.
Apparently an ardent republican, Diels had in fact been a `subscribing
member' of the SA since 1932 and maintained remarkably close personal
contacts with the Fuhrer. (In 1933 as supreme commander of the SA, Adolf
Hitler appointed him an honorary officer of that organisation.) According
to his heavily embroidered autobiography, Lucifer ante portas, which
appeared in 1949, he had collected evidence against Rohm on Hitler's
direct orders. It is indeed almost impossible that he would have dared
grasp such a hot potato in the absence of an express order from Hitler.
To understand how Diels obtained the documents, we must first go back to
1931, when the public prosecutor's office in Berlin was investigating Rohm
for `unnatural sexual offences'. On July 13th, 1931, acting on a tip from
Otto Strasser, the authorities searched the home of Rohm's correspondent,
Dr Heimsoth, and confiscated the three outspoken letters that would later
appear in the pamphlet. These were handed over to the Munich public
prosecutor's office. Soon it became apparent that though Rohm admitted
being `bisexually inclined' and having `often had to do with young boys in
that direction', he refused to admit engaging in criminal intercourse `as
defined by Paragraph 175' -- the standard argument advanced by all accused
men, and one that was hard to refute. The case was therefore dropped. But
in February 1932, just prior to the announcement that Hitler would stand
for the presidency, the Rohm affair came alive again. The Munich papers
were obtained by the Prussian ministry of the interior, and Diels was able
to conduct his interview with Helmuth Klotz only a few days later.
It was in February 1932, when the presidential election was impending,
that Hitler must have made common cause with those who were denouncing
Rohm. He did so -- I contend -- for two reasons. The first was to gain a
hold over the SA commander. A few contemporary observers already guessed
what was going on, among them the former head of the SA, Franz Pfeffer von
Salomon. `Hitler,' he said after the war, `did not appoint Rohm in spite
of his proclivity, but probably because of it.' The `Rohm case' perfectly
exemplifies the behavioral strategy Hitler adopted toward his closest
associates: he entrusted them with `great' assignments and influential
positions, guaranteed them wide discretion in the running of their
departments, sought out their `flaws or weak points' and, finally,
threatened them with the `emergency brake'. The effect on his henchmen was
total dependence, indeed subjection. If one examined each member of the
Nazi leadership in turn, exactly the same pattern would emerge in almost
every case: fascination, flattery, corruption, coercion. In 1932, in a
mood of profound resignation, Rohm frankly admitted that his
`vulnerability' had `delivered me into his [Hitler's] hands ... I stick to
my job, following him blindly, loyal to the utmost'.
The second, and more important reason, for Hitler's action was to insure
himself against similar attacks. For rumors were circulating that Hitler
himself had homosexual proclivities, and some, including Albert Grzesinski,
the Berlin police chief, were convinced of their authenticity. Yet Hitler
refused to dismiss Rohm. Instead he preferred to pose as a comrade and man
of honor who profoundly abhorred such scabrous attacks, as a man to whom
`loyalty' was no empty word, and thus as a man with absolutely nothing to
On the emotional level, those on the left of the political spectrum fought
the election exclusively by campaigning against `Rohm and associates'.
They avidly fell on the documents that were fed them, hoping that evidence
of the SA chief's homosexuality would destroy their hated opponent, and
failed to see that Hitler was throwing them this bait as a means of
self-promotion. While his opponents were concentrating exclusively on
Rohm, the Fuhrer could pose as a national Messiah far removed from such
inter-party squabbles. Moral strictures on the SA leadership simply
bounced off Hitler's statesmanlike facade. As a result his popularity
increased during the scandal.
Admittedly Hindenburg was reelected, but Hitler managed to garner many
more votes than ever before. In April he succeeded in eroding the last
major bastion remaining to the defenders of the Weimar Republic, the
Prussian Land-tag; and in the Reichstag elections of July 31st, 1932, the
NSDAP gained a brilliant victory. It was now by far the strongest
political force in Germany.
Rohm's career might now have ended. Hindenburg is said to have remarked in
private that, in the Kaiser's day, an officer like Rohm would have had a
pistol left on his desk; and if the scoundrel had refused to take the
hint, he would have been hounded out of public life in disgrace. But
nothing of the kind happened to Rohm. Indeed he was firmly back in the
political saddle by the end of the year. The next year, 1933, he was once
more numbered among the most powerful figures in the Nazi hierarchy.
Official propaganda explained that he had previously been the victim of
the most disgusting kind of character assassination from `Marxist circles'
and `the entire Jewish press'. In December 1934, Hitler even persuaded
Hindenburg to appoint Rohm a minister. To confirm the SA boss in office
must have come hard to the elderly Reich president, who had declared, only
a year before, that he had found it `positively nauseating' to shake hands
with `that breechloader'.
Nor did Hitler have any qualms about promoting Rohm's (former) intimates.
One such was Karl Ernst, whom he appointed to command the SA's
Berlin-Brandenburg detachment, thereby investing an erstwhile `waiter'
from the homosexual scene with a rank roughly equivalent to that of
general. Hitler is reported to have told Hermann Rauschning at lunch in
the Reich Chancellery in the early summer of 1933: `I won't spoil any of
my men's fun. If I demand the utmost of them, I must also leave them free
to let off steam as they want, not as churchy old women think fit ... I
take no interest in their private lives, just as I won't stand for people
prying into my own.' Rohm, who had been in the depths of despondency in
the summer of 1932, now had every reason to exult that the `Damocles
sword' of his homosexuality was no longer hanging over him.
This surprising development requires explanation -- the more so since it
was followed, only a few months later, by the abrupt overthrow of Rohm and
his associates. The answer lies with Hitler. He rehabilitated Rohm partly
because he needed the SA for purposes of general political intimidation,
but also for far more personal reasons.
There is evidence to suggest that, after the campaign against him, Rohm
abandoned his hitherto steadfast loyalty to Hitler and decided to pursue a
policy of his own. For this he needed allies, spies and informants. As
early as April 1931 he had instructed the agent Georg Bell to build up an
SA intelligence service. All this entailed at first was the intimidation
of `politicians inside the NSDAP who wanted to exploit Rohm's
predicament'. But after the publication of the `Rohm letters', he came to
terms with opposition forces. Bell arranged a meeting with a former
Reichswehr comrade of Rohm, the one-time intelligence officer Karl Mayr,
who had since joined the SPD. With his help, the SA commander tried to
track down the real authors of the campaign against him. He began to
conspire with anti-Nazis like Kurt von Schliecher and refused to be
intimidated by Hitler. `If Hitler shouted,' recalled his attorney, `Rohm
shouted louder still.' Fritz Gunther von Tschirschky, an associate of Vice
Chancellor Franz von Papen, unexpectedly overheard such an altercation
from Hitler's outer office at the Reich Chancellery early in 1934.
It was clear that a very heated argument was in progress in Hitler's room.
After a short while I said to Bruckner [Hitler's aide-de-camp]: `Who's in
there, for God's sake? Are they killing each other?' To which Bruckner
replied: `Rohm's in there. He's trying hard to talk the Old Man (he always
called Hitler that) into going to the Reich President and forcing him to
grant his requests.' So I waited. The door was relatively thin, and one
could catch isolated, particularly loud, scraps of conversation -- indeed,
whole sentences ... Again and again I heard: `I can't do that, you're
asking the impossible of me!' But: I learned from the Reich President's
palace a few days later than Hitler had, in fact, submitted Rohm's
requests to Hindenburg.
This highlights the way in which Hitler's spectacular `revaluation' of
Rohm should be assessed: as the result of enforced concessions. That Rohm
compelled Hitler to discuss the so-called second revolution and the future
of the Reichswehr, which was associated therewith, even though Hitler's
own position on the subject differed from his entirely, points in the same
direction. The SA chief had had to pay a high price for his political
naivety in the past; he now wanted compensation. Rohm was not only
acquainted with the shady beginnings of Hitler's political career: he was
also one of the very few people who knew about his homosexuality. It must
have been Hitler's nightmare that he would one day launch a smear
The Night of the Long Knives
Hitler was in a quandary. Had he himself not been so vulnerable because of
his homosexual tendencies, he could have countered Rohm's attacks by
admonishing or dismissing him. Although his standing within the Party
would readily have enabled him to do so, this route was now closed.
Hitler's political instinct for self-preservation, if nothing else,
compelled him to escalate matters. At the same time, he was urged on by
the prospect of concealing his own homosexuality forever by the
elimination of dangerous witnesses, and right at the top of the list of
potential blackmailers was Ernst Rohm. If Gestapo chief Rudolf Diels is to
be believed, he was engaged in spying on Rohm from January 1934 on. The
Reichswehr is documented as having done so from February of that year, and
in April, if not before, Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler -- freshly
invested with new and wide-ranging powers -- and his sidekick Reinhard
Heydrich also took a hand. Finally, in mid-May, largely with an eye to
forthcoming events, a new `decree on the imposition of terms of
imprisonment' was issued. By abolishing the judicial review of appeals
against detention and placing other severe constraints on the ability of
defense counsel to intervene on their clients' behalf, this opened the
door to Gestapo tyranny.
Rohm and his senior SA officers posted their own sentries and armed their
men as best they could. According to his Berlin deputy, Karl Ernst, Rohm
began at this time to deposit `important evidence' in `a safe place'
because `we must be ready for anything'. So Rohm knew what was brewing.
Nevertheless the SA's chief of staff had overreached himself, in
particular by planning to build up an army of his own. This conflicted
with the interests of the Reichswehr, which now became Hitler's principal
ally in his contest with Rohm. Moreover, Hitler got the other Nazi big
shots on his side. He had something for everyone: for Himmler, who did not
want his SS to be overshadowed by the SA any longer; for Heydrich, who was
banking on a meteoric career; for Goebbels, who had had a score to settle
with Rohm since the days of Stennes; for Goring, who was intent on
becoming the regime's number two. In the early summer of 1934, having
largely isolated his former friend and patron from the rest of the Party,
he was in a position to lure him into a lethal trap.
Early in June 1934, Hitler extracted a promise from Rohm that he would
send the SA on four weeks' furlough. The relevant order clearly betrays
how uneasy the chief of staff felt about this step: `If the SA's enemies
delude themselves that it will not return from furlough, or not at full
strength, let us indulge them in that short-lived hope. They will receive
the appropriate answer at such a time and in such a manner as seems
necessary.' Hanfstaengl noted that an equally belligerent basic mood
prevailed when he encountered Rohm, `clearly already drunk', at a soiree
at SA headquarters on June 6th, 1934: `He lapsed into the wildest bout of
swearing I'd ever heard; he cursed, shouted, threatened ... I wondered
what sinister game was afoot behind the scenes.'
By getting the SA sent on furlough Hitler had managed to deprive his
adversary of his principal means of protection. He also talked Rohm into
taking several weeks' vacation at Bad Wiessee on the Tegernsee. Then he
went over to the offensive. Only a few days after Hitler's conversation
with Rohm, Rudolf Hess ordered the SA intelligence service to be
disbanded. At Hindenburg's Neudeck estate on June 21st, Hitler personally
obtained the President's approval of his plan to proceed against the SA
leadership by force. Next, the SS under Himmler evaluated its
`incriminating evidence' and compiled death lists in which other Party
bigwigs like Goring and Chief Justice Buch also had a say. On June 25th
Goebbels delivered a long and menacing speech, broadcast by every German
radio station, in which he referred to a virulent power struggle. But:
`One person remains exempt from all criticism, and that is the Fuhrer!'
This completed the requisite preparations. Within four days everything had
been agreed, and without involving the army in this civil war-like scheme.
`The army has nothing to do with the whole affair,' Hitler is said to have
informed a Reichswehr officer in Munich on June 30th, 1934. `We'll wash
our dirty linen by ourselves.'
Recent estimates indicate that Hitler had a total of some 150 `opponents
of the regime' murdered between June 30th and July 3rd, 1934. Even while
the operation was in progress, Hermann Goring decreed the destruction or
confiscation of all the relevant documents, and immediately thereafter the
Reich government enacted the `Law Relating to National Emergency Defense
Measures', which simply declared the murderous operation to have been
`lawful'. This deprived the legal authorities of any grounds for
investigations after the event.
The startled public naturally stood in need of explanation and
justification, however, so the National Socialists' most unscrupulous
demagogue after Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, was obliged to `enlighten' them
on the background to the massacre. On July 1st, while the murders were
still going on, he broadcast a speech whose length suggests that most of
it had been drafted before June 30th. Goebbels portrayed the speed of the
whole operation as a skilful tactic. What had been at issue was the
suppression of `traitors', but far from disclosing any conspiratorial
plans to overthrow the government, Goebbels strayed off into stereotyped
attacks on a `small clique of professional saboteurs' which had refused to
`appreciate our indulgence'. The Fuhrer had now `called them to order'
with due severity. `A clean sweep is being made ... Plague boils, hotbeds
of corruption, and symptoms of moral degeneration that manifest themselves
in public life are being cauterized -- drastically'.
What had mainly prompted this deliberate escalation was, of course,
something else, something to which Goebbels alluded rather casually but
with remarkable directness when he claimed that the SA leaders `were on
the point of exposing the entire leadership of the Party to suspicions of
shameful and loathsome sexual abnormality'. We should not be too quick to
pass that sentence by. In the first place, no one in the Third Reich had
ever heard of any `suspicion' that the `entire' leadership of the NSDAP
might be homosexual. Second, who was supposed to have spread such a rumor,
if even the Social Democrats had failed to do so while freedom of speech
still prevailed? And what did `were on the point of' mean? No, that
sentence was no piece of sophistry, no demagogue's punch line: it was a
reflex reaction to a very real threat -- one to which, in the summer of
1934, Hitler's only possible response was lynch law.
The report that Hitler submitted to his cabinet on July 3rd, 1934,
conveyed his true motives for the murderous operation of recent days. The
`clique headed by Rohm', which had been `held together by a particular
disposition', had `slanderously attacked' him, and he charged the former
chief of staff with `insincerity and disloyalty'. Rohm had threatened him
and that threat had been `nothing more nor less than barefaced blackmail'.
The `object lesson' he had now administered would serve to make it clear
to each of his men `that he risks his neck if he conspires against the
existing regime in any way'.
Hitler defended himself by going to extremes, so the few people who knew
that he, too, was homosexual had to be murdered or thoroughly intimidated.
This is revealed by a closer look at the individual victims. Those who
were murdered or locked up included the homosexual SA commanders Rohm,
Ernst and Heines, all of whom were on personal terms with Hitler; Gregor
Strasser, who had hitherto been `an intimate friend' of Hitler and had
even chosen him to be `the godfather of his sons'; Karl-Gunther Heimsoth
and Paul Rohrbein, who had been close friends of Hitler's former
intimates, even though they had long ago distanced themselves from `Rohm
and associates'; senior civil servants privy to potentially explosive
documentary evidence about Hitler, for instance Erich Klausener, head of
the police department at the Prussian ministry of the interior, and his
head of section, Eugen von Kessel; Reichswehr Minister and ex-Chancellor
Kurt von Schleicher and his right-hand man, Ferdinand von Bredow; the
Munich police chief August Schneidhuber; the attorneys of Rohm, Strasser,
Karl Ludecke (an associate of Hitler's during his early years in Munich)
and of other senior Nazis, who had learned dangerous things from their
clients and from trial documents; and, finally, the Munich journalist
Fritz Gerlich, who probably knew more about Hitler and his inner circle
than any other newspaperman of this period.
Anxious to prevent being compromised, Hitler took his revenge in a
positively fanatical manner, thereby endeavoring to cut the ground from
under any future conspiracy.
Potentially incriminating witnesses were also ruthlessly dispatched, as a
few examples will demonstrate. Karl Zehnter, thirty-four years old, was
the landlord of the Nurnberger Bratwurstglockl, a hostelry situated a
stone's throw from Munich Cathedral. Politically naive, Zehnter belonged
to Rohm's homosexual set and was also a close and long-time friend of
Edmund Heines. Both SA leaders were regular patrons of his establishment,
which Hitler, too, frequented on occasion. An upstairs room in the
Bratwurstglockl was permanently reserved for private meetings between
these Nazi dignitaries, and Zehnter made a habit of serving them himself,
so he inevitably overheard things -- not least about Hitler. That, and
that alone, was why he had to die.
Also murdered was Martin Schatzl, a twenty-five-year-old Munich painter
who had accompanied Ernst Rohm to Bolivia. Although their relationship did
not blossom into a love affair, Schatzl had for two years been Rohm's
closest companion in a foreign land. Schatzl joined the SA when Rohm
assumed command and was appointed to his staff on February 1st, 1934. The
two men must have talked a great deal together, not least about Rohm's
friendship with Hitler. That was why the young man could not, under any
circumstances, be permitted to survive.
General Ferdinand von Bredow, who had been living in retirement at his
Berlin home since Hitler formed a government, was bludgeoned to death in a
police van and his body thrown into a ditch. What proved his undoing were
his activities as head of military intelligence during Heinrich Bruning's
chancellorship. He had also been Schleicher's right-hand man in the six
months prior to Hitler's assumption of power. As such he got to read some
spicy documents, for instance the report of a meeting of the Jungdeutscher
Orden 169 on July 3rd-4th, 1932. This stated that the main subject under
discussion had been as follows:
Reichswehr Minister Schleicher supports the NSDAP because that movement
headed mainly and exclusively by homosexuals, and, according to
submitted by Otto Strasser, the Reichswehr minister is also abnormally
inclined ... Furthermore, while Herr Hitler was spending a longish
at his home, Otto Strasser observed things that lead one to infer an
abnormal disposition in that gentleman too.
Hence this essentially irreproachable Reichswehr general had to die like
his boss, who was known to have taken a `precious possession' into
retirement with him, namely, copies of confidential files.
One last feature of the June 30th scenario was the cynical way in which
many survivors were informed that they, too, had been on a death list and
could count themselves lucky to have survived. Not even Hitler's associate
Rudolf Diels was spared this threat. Heydrich is said to have told him to
his face that Goring had unfortunately crossed his name off.
It may readily be inferred from these few examples that the operation
carried out on and around June 30th was considerably more than a
pre-emptive strike against the SA leaders and a few of their reactionary
accomplices. It was a carefully planned campaign against people who knew,
or were suspected of knowing, too much about Hitler.
The violent imposition of a state of emergency was intended to enable the
authorities to gain possession, at a stroke, of documents considered
dangerous by Hitler and his regime. Of the more than 1,100 persons
detained in the course of the purge, thirty-four were still behind bars in
the autumn of 1934. Their arrest made it possible to seize private papers
and sift them with the utmost care. Hitler's speech to the Reichstag on
July 13th, 1934, revealingly disclosed that most of his time since the
`Rohm putsch' had been spent looking through countless files, diaries and
other `shocking documents' -- in other words, confiscated material.
Hitler's principal motive for taking action against `Rohm and associates'
was fear of exposure and blackmail. What additionally confirms this is
that the mountains of confiscated documents were not to be used in trials
of any kind but handed over to Himmler's Gestapo and, thus, to Hitler
himself. The elimination of witnesses and evidence -- that was the real
purpose of this act of terrorism.
The press in exile was hard to control. On July 5th, 1934, for example,
the Paris-based Communist Deutsche Volks-Zeitung announced that Hitler had
eliminated `initiates who had become dangerous' -- men privy `not least to
the private life of the Fuhrer, who is himself homosexual'. Nor, despite
the passage six months after the Rohm murders of the Malicious Practices
Act, which penalized remarks about NSDAP leaders which were `openly
malicious, inflammatory, or indicative of base sentiments', did all such
statements stop. In the summer of 1935 a homosexual engineer who had
worked for the Nazi party for ten years received the maximum two years'
sentence for allegedly importuning a young man with the words `Look at our
Fuhrer -- he also pleasures himself with gentlemen'. In 1937 an SA trooper
who let slip a remark to the effect that Hitler was `a 175er', like Rohm,
spent the next two years behind bars. A similar fate awaited the editor
Hans Walter Aust in 1942, when he claimed -- correctly -- that Hitler kept
a young girl (Eva Braun) `solely for the purpose of concealing his
homosexuality from those around him'. The following year, such statements
would carry a death sentence.
Clearly Hitler was mortally afraid that the homosexual milieu, which he
himself had experienced firsthand in Vienna and Munich, could at any time
yield up disreputable secrets -- even some, perhaps, that might affect him
personally. Hence he took further preventative measures.
In 1937 drastic steps were taken to strengthen Paragraph 175. From now on,
mere suspicion of `indecent acts' was sufficient to justify an arrest.
This opened the door to arbitrary police procedures. Hitherto still partly
intact, the homosexual subculture of Germany's cities was destroyed. A
campaign of systematic persecution was launched. Around 30,000 persons
were under surveillance by 1939. Many men were imprisoned, and between
5,000 and 15,000 were permanently consigned to concentration camps, where
the death rate among inmates wearing the `pink chevron' was exceptionally
The end result was that the dictator made homosexuality a privilege
reserved for certain chosen associates, and he was the only one against
whom legislation could never be used. Germany's `Fuhrer' had become a
`savior' on his own behalf.
But Hitler was also pursuing a political policy. He had realized in 1934
that homosexual advances within his movement could no longer be tolerated.
The public mudslinging campaign against Rohm had shown him that nothing
could prevail over the stigmatization of homosexuality. He could see no
alternative but to yield, more and more, to conformist pressure; and once
he had taken action against Rohm, his courage and initiative were
extolled. The fact that he had ostensibly crushed a `putsch' enhanced his
power-political standing, enabling him to polish his image as `the savior
of the nation'. To this extent, the Rohm affair not only consolidated
Hitler's dictatorship but generated a renewed surge of admiration that
rapidly drowned the harsh criticism leveled at his course of action by
Was Hitler's homosexuality Nazism's
(The Hidden Hitler- book review)
Author/s: Nathaniel S. Lehrman
Adolf Hitler's homosexuality has been
demonstrated beyond question by German historian Lothar Machtan's
massively researched new book, The Hidden Hitler, which shows
homosexuality's central role in Hitler's personal life.
But the crucial role within
the Nazi movement of the most vicious and lawless types of homosexuality,
which Machtan also shows, is even more important than Hitler's personal
preference. In 1933, six months after Hitler took power, the distinguished
Jewish author Ludwig Lewisohn described what Machtan confirms, that "the
entire [Nazi] movement is in fact and by certain aspects of its avowed
ideology drenched through and through with homoerotic feeling and
practice." And those homosexual currents inextricably were connected with
vicious German militarism long before the Nazis.
Hitler quit school at age 16 and in 19 [Text unreadable in
original source] moved to Vienna, where he twice took and failed the Art
Academy's entrance examination. Shortly after his move, August Kubizek, a
young man from his hometown, joined him and they lived together for four
months. Intensely jealous, Hitler wrote Kubizek, "I cannot endure it when
you consort and converse with other young people."
Hitler's adolescent move to sexually liberated Vienna -- so new to him and
so different from home -- and his open choice there of homosexuality calls
to mind the choice involved in what Charles Socarides calls America's
"Thanksgiving Day Massacre." His book, Homosexuality: A Freedom Too Far,
describes that "massacre" as when a college freshman, home for the first
time after months at a sexually liberated college, joyfully informs his
startled parents, "Hey Mom, hey Dad! Be thankful! I have something to tell
you. I'm gay!"
For the next several years, Hitler drifted aimlessly.
Despite immense Nazi efforts to erase as much of his past as possible (by
destroying his massive police records, for example) Machtan dug out clear
evidence of Hitler's homosexual activities during this period, such as his
five months at a men's hostel known as "a hub of homosexual activity." He
formed close attachments to several men, but throughout his life was
uninterested in relationships with women.
In May 1913, he moved with another young man to Munich (said to be "a
regular El Dorado for homosexuals") and, in September 1914, joined the
Bavarian army. He spent the war years as a behind-the-lines messenger,
enjoying a long and active sexual relationship with another runner, Ernst
Schmidt. At war's end, Hitler returned to Munich and more homosexual
He met at that time Capt. Ernst Roehm, a well-connected
army officer who soon offered him his first job -- as a political spy for
the army within a newly organized workers' party. Hitler's political rise
from that point was "meteoric," Machtan writes. Politically "an unknown
quantity" when he joined the party in 1919, three years later he had
become an important political influence -- "the repository of the deutsch
folkisch [roughly German ultra nationalist] movement's hopes."
Hitler's rise largely was due to the two brilliant
homosexuals who mentored and tutored him: Roehm, a notorious pederast and
a contemporary, and Dietrich Eckart, 21 years his senior. Roehm, a career
staff officer during the war, had access to both secret army funds and to
military and right-wing groups such as the ultra nationalist, anti-Semitic
and homoerotic Freikorps -- the fiercely anticommunist terrorist squads
that sprang up, especially in eastern Germany, in response to the
political chaos of the early Weimar Republic. Eckart was a fiercely
anti-Semitic journalist and playwright who taught Hitler political tactics
and introduced him to Munich and Berlin society, as well as to other
wealthy people throughout the country.
In April 1923 Hitler was convicted of treason for his
nearly successful coup against the Bavarian government. Sentenced to five
years in prison, he was released after nine months. He then began
collecting the lawbreakers, sexual and other, who would form the heart of
his new Nazi Party. Machtan shows that the party was a sexual swamp from
its very beginning, an evil conspiracy in which members held sexual or
other criminal secrets over one another's heads. Indeed, Machtan suggests
that Hitler's fear that Roehm and other openly homosexual Nazis would
"out" him and his associates was a motive for his later murder of Roehm.
The Nazi Party, whose terrorism and conspiracy had won it a
maximum of 37 percent of the popular vote, took power in January 1933. In
June 1934 Hitler had Roehm -- his mentor, one-time closest friend and head
of his 3 million-man storm-trooper organization (S.A.) -- murdered, along
with many of Roehm's homosexual party loyalists and hundreds of
non-homosexual opponents. These peremptory murders destroyed the rule of
law in Germany and opened the door for the Holocaust's unprecedented
The massacre, and the tighter laws against homosexuality
that followed, are used falsely today, especially by some
Holocaust-remembrance enterprises, to show that the Nazis actively opposed
it and that they persecuted homosexuals just as they did Jews, only to a
lesser extent. In a 1931 expose of the Nazi Party, two years before it
took power, the Munich Post attacked "the disgusting hypocrisy that the
party demonstrates -- outward moral indignation while inside its own ranks
the most shameless practices prevail," and said that "every knowledgeable
person knows that inside the Hitler party the most flagrant whorishness
contemplated by paragraph 175 (defining homosexuality as a criminal
offense) is widespread." Machtan confirms that Nazi hypocrisy, noting how
"homosexuality was simultaneously proscribed and protected: Hitler had
tailored it to his political and personal requirements."
Serious political errors mar this remarkably researched
book. The most important involves the role of Magnus Hirschfeld
(1868-1935), the well-known Jewish homosexual psychiatrist-researcher whom
Machtan calls "the pope of homosexuality," and his being used as an
unquestioned authority on the subject. Hirschfeld, recently honored at a
conference at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, spent his life seeking
to repeal section 175 and get homosexuality accepted. Why then was he such
"an object of hatred" by the Nazis and their Freikorps predecessors, with
Eckart, for example, viewing him "with positively pathological loathing?"
The answer is the "two irreconcilable philosophies linked
by a common dysfunction" [homosexuality] that existed then in Germany: the
"Butches" (or "Machos") and the "Femmes," whom Scott Lively and Kevin
Abrams differentiate in their invaluable book, The Pink Swastika. "The
roots of this conflict span a 70-year period which saw the rise of
homosexual militancy in the movement that gave Nazism to the world."
Machtan mentions neither the conflict nor the Lively-Abrams book.
The Butches were openly and deliberately lawless. They defied criminal
statutes, including those governing homosexuality. As criminals, they were
not concerned with trying to change the law. They were anti-Semitic,
militaristic and gratuitously brutal. Their sexual ideal was the man-boy
relationship extolled and engaged in by the Greeks, Crusaders and Teutonic
knights. They considered these pederastic activities morally superior to
sex with women, whom they despised as useful only for breeding. Their
deepest hatred often was directed against the Femmes and, especially,
Hirschfeld, whom they reviled as effeminate and therefore contemptible.
"Femmes," reported variously to be perhaps 5 percent to 15
percent of all homosexuals, saw homosexuality on the same moral level as
heterosexuality, rather than above it. They supported the overall rule of
law and opposed pederasty and sadomasochism. Many were involved in
artistic and scientific activities -- dance, music, theater and medicine
-- and persuaded many German intellectuals, liberals and Jews of
homosexuality's acceptability. This acceptance of Femme homosexuality,
based partly on seeing homosexuals as a harmless, often creative,
"persecuted minority," seriously undermined public awareness of the true
threat and acute danger of Macho homosexuals.
Hirschfeld inadvertently helped the Nazis in another way: by keeping many
Nazi sex criminals out of prison. Lively and Abrams describe this, but
Machtan doesn't. The Prussian authorities, rather than incarcerating many
of these criminals, referred them instead for psychiatric treatment at
Hirschfeld's Sexual Research Institute. The institute consequently
collected an immense amount of material about Nazis' sexual crimes. That's
why its records were the first fuel chosen for Nazi book-burning.
Another probable reason for Hitler's anti-Semitism is
traditional Judaism's appreciation of women and its fierce opposition to
homosexuality and the debasing of women. German-Jewish historian Samuel
Igra describes this in his neglected 1945 book, Germany's National Vice.
Machtan cites the book but not the concept.
The same assistance Hirschfeld and other Jewish homosexuals, and their
liberal and psychiatric supporters, inadvertently gave Nazism by accepting
homosexuality is demonstrated by the review of The Hidden Hitler in the
New York Times Book Review by psychiatrist Walter Reich, former director
of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Totally ignoring the
viciousness of Macho homosexuality, its intimate connection with German
militarism and its pivotal role in creating Holocaust brutalities, Reich
suggests that if Hitler was indeed homosexual that "may actually serve to
humanize", him. When will today's liberal supporters of homosexuality,
organized and otherwise, recognize how deliberate defiance of traditional
sexual morality can lead to that deliberate defiance
of all traditional
morality, which defined the Holocaust!
Lothar Machtan is Associate Professor of
Modern and Cultural History at Bremen University. In 1988 he published the
acclaimed book Bismarck's Death and Germany's Tears.