THE FOUNDING AND EARLY YEARS
OF THE NAZI PARTY
What was to become the Nazi Party began as an outgrowth of the Thule Society in late 1918. It started as a nationalist discussion group called the Political Workers Circle whose goal was to extend the appeal of the Thules nationalist ideology for the working classes (Goodrick-Clarke:150). The discussion group developed the idea of forming a political party in December of 1918, and did so on January 5, 1919, at the Fuerstenfelder Hof tavern in Munich. Adolf Hitler became a member of the German Workers Party in September of that year. Shirer writes,
There were two members of this insignificant party who deserve mention at this point; both were to prove important in the rise of Hitler...Captain Ernst Roehm...had joined the party before Hitler...A tough, ruthless, driving man albeit, like so many of the early Nazis, a homosexual he helped organize the first Nazi strong-arm squads which grew into the SA...Dietrich Eckart...often called the spiritual founder of National Socialism...became a close advisor to [Hitler]...introducing him to...such future aides as Rudolf Hess (Shirer:64f).
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In a very short time Hitler and Roehm began to wrest control of the small group from its founders. Within a few months they had forced the resignation of its Chairman, Karl Harrar, and begun to turn the group away from its origins as a secret society and toward a new identity as a mass party (Fest, 1975:120). On April 1, 1920, they changed the name of the party to the National Socialist German Workers Party. Historian Joachim Fest describes the process Hitler and Roehm used in these earliest days of Nazism:
At the beginning [Hitler] went at things according to a sensible plan. His first task was a personal one, to break out of anonymity, to emerge from the welter of small-time nationalist-racist parties with an unmistakable image...making a name for himself by unceasing activity, by brawls, scandals, and riots, even by terrorism if that would bring him to the forefront...[but] Ernst Roehm did more for the NSDAP than anyone else. He held the rank of captain as a political advisor on the staff of Colonel Epp and was the real brain of the disguised military regime in Bavaria. Roehm provided the young National Socialist Party with followers, arms, and funds (Fest, 1975:126f).
By August of 1921, Hitler and Roehm had completed their takeover of the party. On the third of that month they founded the SA and began to assemble the cadre of sexual deviants who would form the core of Nazi leadership for years to come. A pamphlet circulated by disgruntled Nazi members prior to the Hitler takeover shows that the homosexuality of his supporters was no secret. Speaking of Hitler they said, It grows more and more clear that his purpose is simply to use the National Socialist Party as a springboard for his immoral purposes (Igra:70f). Former high Nazi functionary and close Hitler confidant, Otto Strasser reports,
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Hitler did three things to popularize the party and quiet the threatening clash of wounded vanities. He shortened the name from Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei to the letters NSDAP; he adopted the brown shirt of Lieutenant Rossbachs veteran organization for the entire party; and he assumed the all-too-familiar swastika from Erhardts group (Strasser, 1943:34).
Hitlers Clique of Pederasts
As we will see, almost all of the new leadership of the party were sexual
deviants. But this fact raises a question that is foundational to our understanding
of the Nazis. Who chose these men as Nazi leaders? Roehm, with whose lifestyle
we are now quite familiar, was to some historians the true power behind
Hitlers throne. As noted above it was primarily Roehm who organized, funded
and armed the terrorist military arm of the party, choosing only homosexuals
as officers. And it is true that the party met frequently in the Bratwurstgloeckl
(Fest, 1975:135f), a homosexual bar where Roehm kept a reserved table.
Yet, despite Roehms importance to the party, Adolf Hitler himself was the central figure of Nazism and increasingly it was he who determined the fate of every member of the party. Despite suggestions to the contrary, Hitler was not anti-homosexual. In fact, like Roehm, Hitler preferred homosexual companions and co-workers. In addition to Roehm and Hess, two of his closest friends, Hitler apparently chose homosexuals and other sexual deviants to fill key positions nearest to himself. Heiden reports that in fact Hitler intentionally surrounded himself with men of... [homosexual] tendencies (Heiden, 1935:417).
Rector attempts to dismiss sources that attribute homosexuality to leading Nazis, but nevertheless lists them in some detail:
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Reportedly, Hitler Youth leader, Baldur von Schirach was bisexual; Hitlers private attorney, Reich Legal Director, Minister of Justice, butcher Governor-General of Poland, and public gay-hater Hans Frank was said to be a homosexual; Hitlers adjutant Wilhelm Bruckner was said to be bisexual;...Walther Funk, Reich Minister of Economics [and Hitlers personal financial advisor] has frequently been called a notorious homosexual...or as a jealous predecessor in Funks post, Hjalmar Schacht, contemptuously claimed, Funk was a harmless homosexual and alcoholic;...[Hitlers second in command] Hermann Goering liked to dress up in drag and wear campy make-up; and so on and so forth (Rector:57).
Igra, who confidently asserts that the above men were homosexuals, cites still other Hitler aides and close friends who were known homosexuals. He states that Hitlers chauffeur and one-time personal secretary, Emile Maurice, for example, was homosexual, as well as the pornographer, Julius Streicher, whom Hitler appointed Gauleiter of Nuremberg. Igra writes,
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Julius Streicher, the notorious Jew-baiter, was originally a school teacher, but was dismissed by the Nuremberg School Authorities, following numerous charges of pederasty brought against him...His paper, Der Stuermer, was frequently confiscated by the police, even at the height of the Nazi regime, because of the sexual obscenities displayed in the drawings and described in the text (Igra:72f).
Among the homosexuals closest to Hitler, Heiden lists Heines, Reiner,
Ernst, Von Helldorf, Count Spreti [and] Count du Moulin-Eckhardt, jr (Heiden,
The evidence for homosexual leanings in another leading Nazi, Joseph Goebbels, is rather thin, but adds further insight to the inner workings of the group. Goebbels, Reich propaganda leader and close aide to the Fuehrer, is reported to have had a party in 1936 that degenerated into a violent homosexual orgy. The party featured torch-bearing page boys in tight fitting white breeches, white satin blouses with lace cuffs and powdered rococo wigs (Grunberger:70). Grunberger writes that Nazi roughnecks were so affected by the rococo setting that they hurled themselves upon the bewigged page boys and pulled them into the bushes. Tables collapsed, torches were dimmed, and in the ensuing fracas a number of Party old fighters and their comely victims had to be rescued from drowning (ibid:70).
Goebbels may not have participated in the revelry himself, though Klaus Theweleit writes that there is a significant moment in Rossbachs account where he contests the right of Goebbels of all people to act as a moral arbiter, apparently assuming that his meaning is common knowledge on the internal grapevine (Theweleit, Vol 2:327).
Ralf George Reuth, in Goebbels (Harcourt Brace, New York, 1993), reports that Goebbels was accused by Roehm of pederasty. After Roehms homosexuality was exposed in the German press, Goebbels [a longtime rival] tried to get him dismissed from the party. Roehm took revenge by spreading in return all sorts of rumors about Goebbels relationship with Magda Quandt. He went so far as to suggest that Goebbels was interested less in Magda than in her young son. So along with Roehms homosexual excesses, people were talking about the cloven foots impossible (and immoral) relationship (Reuth:138f). (Goebbels club foot apparently gave rise to the epithet.). We also know that homosexual SA figure Wolf von Helldorf escaped assassination in the Roehm purge due only to intervention by Goebbels (Reuth:137).
In his own diaries, Goebbels revealed an animosity toward homosexuals in the party, although that does not prove he did not have such inclinations himself. Diaries are, after all, generally written with ones posterity in mind.
Another close Hitler associate was Albert Speer. An October 30, 1995 book review in Newsweek, titled Inside a Third Reich Insider featured the book Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth by Gitta Sereny. The article speaks of a homo-erotic (not sexual) relationship between Speer and Hitler that was discussed in a previous book by a German psychoanalyst, Alexander Mitscherlich. Sereny writes that Speer himself acknowledged that Mitscherlich came closest to the truth. Although Sereny claims this relationship was non-sexual, he reports that Speers secretary said Speer gave himself to Hitler body and soul. Sereny also observes that Speer never told Hitler he was married because of his romantic feelings for Hitler. (Sereny:109).
In Albert Speer: The End of a Myth, German historian Dr. Matthais Schmidt commented on an erotic element to Speers relationship with Hitler. While Speer was remodeling Hitlers official residence, Hitler invited him to lunch. At lunch, Speer sat at Hitlers side. The conversation became personal and the two men fell in love at first sight (Schmidt:41f). Aside from these insinuations we have no evidence of an actual homosexual relationship between Hitler and Speer.
Langer writes in the 1940s that [e]ven today Hitler derives sexual pleasure from looking at mens bodies and associating with homosexuals (Langer:179). He adds, quoting Strasser, that Hitlers personal body-guard was almost always 100% homosexuals (ibid.:179).
It should be remembered that Hitlers greatest hero was Frederick the Great, a well known homosexual (Garde:44). Clearly, Adolf Hitler was not anti-homosexual, at least not in his personal lifestyle. Indeed, the evidence of Hitlers apparent preference for homosexuals is so overwhelming that, as have many historians before us, we naturally ask the question, Was Hitler a homosexual?
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Was Adolf Hitler a Homosexual?
Until the publication of Professor Lothar Machtans powerful biography
The Hidden Hitler in 2001, we were much less confident in stating that
Hitler was indeed a homosexual. Machtan, a history professor in Bremen,
Germany, set out to prove Hitlers homosexuality and did so most convincingly,
drawing upon hundreds of period documents. We shall consider the evidence
One point upon which we remain unconvinced was whether Hitler was exclusively homosexual or whether he had relations with women. Machtan writes,
[A] small number of contemporaries...were pretty explicit on the subject of Hitlers sex life. These include August Kubizek, Kurt Ludecke, Ernst Hanfstaengl, Rudolf Diels, Erich Ebermayer, Eugen Dollman, Christa Schroder and Hans Severus Ziegler. They are all unanimous in stating, quite positively, that Hitler did not have sex with women. Some of them expressly say that Hitler was homosexual; others convey the same thing obliquely (Machtan:23)
There are at least four women, however, including his own niece, Gely, with whom Hitler is reported to have had sexual relationships. These relationships were not normal, if in fact they occurred. Both Waite and Langer write that Hitler was a coprophile (a person who is sexually aroused by human excrement) and suggest that his sexual encounters with women included expressions of this perversion as well as other extremely degrading forms of masochism. It is interesting to note that all of these women attempted suicide after allegedly becoming sexually involved with Hitler. Two succeeded (Langer:175f). Hitler contemporary Otto Strasser writes of an encounter he had with Hitlers niece Gely:
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Next day Gely came to see me. She was red eyed, her round little face was wan, and she had the terrified look of a hunted beast. He locked me up, she sobbed. He locks me up every time I say no! She did not need much questioning. With anger, horror and disgust she told me of the strange propositions with which her uncle pestered her. I knew all about Hitlers abnormality. Like all the others in the know, I had heard all about the eccentric practices to which Fraulein Hoffmann was alleged to have lent herself, but I had genuinely believed that the photographers daughter was a little hysteric who told lies for the sheer fun of it. But Gely, who was completely ignorant of this other affair of her uncles, confirmed point by point a story scarcely credible to a healthy-minded man (Strasser, 1940:72).
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Langer suggests that Hitler may very well have engaged in homosexual behavior, saying persons suffering from his perversion sometimes do indulge in homosexual practices in the hope that they might find some sexual gratification. Even this perversion would be more acceptable to them than the one with which they are afflicted. (Langer:179). He reports, for example on the testimony of Hermann Rauschning, a trusted Hitler confidante whom Hitler appointed President of the Danzig Senate in 1932 (Wistrich:240, Snyder:282). He later fell out of favor and fled Germany in 1936 (ibid.). Langer writes,
Rauschning reports that he has met two boys who claimed that they were Hitlers homosexual partners, but their testimony can hardly be taken at face value. More condemning would be the remarks dropped by [Albert] Foerster, the Danzig gauleiter, in conversation with Rauschning. Even here, however, the remarks deal only with Hitlers impotence as far as heterosexual relationships go without actually implying that he indulges in homosexuality. It is probably true that Hitler calls Foerster Bubi, which is a common nickname employed by homosexuals in addressing their partners. This alone is not adequate proof that he has actually indulged in homosexual practices with Foerster, who is known to be a homosexual (Langer:178). [Significantly, Foerster was Julius Streichers protégé.]
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There is insufficient evidence to warrant the conclusion that Hitler was an overt homosexual. But it seems clear that he had latent homosexual tendencies...It is true that Hitler was closely associated with Ernst Roehm and Rudolf Hess, two homosexuals who were among the very few people with whom he used the familiar du [thou]. But one cannot conclude that he therefore shared his friends sexual tastes. Still, during the months he was with Hess in Landsberg, their relationship must have become very close. When Hitler left the prison he fretted about his friend who languished there, and spoke of him tenderly, using Austrian diminutives: Ach mein Rudy, mein Hesserl, isnt it appalling to think that hes still there. One of Hitlers valets, Schneider, made no explicit statement about the relationship, but he did find it strange that whenever Hitler got a present he liked or drew an architectural sketch that particularly pleased him, he would run to Hess who was known in homosexual circles as Fraulein Anna as a little boy would run to his mother to show his prize to her...Finally there is the nonconclusive but interesting fact that one of Hitlers prized possessions was a handwritten love letter which King Ludwig II had written to a manservant (Waite, 1977:283f). [Hess was known by other names in the German gay subculture. In recent years, long sealed Soviet archives have been opened to the West. In Deadly Illusions, authors John Costello and Oleg Tsarev report of seeing the so-called Black Bertha file, named from Hesss reported nickname in Berlin and Munich (Costello and Tsarev:xix).]
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Other writers offer similar assessments. According to Wilfried Daim, Frau Elsa Schmidt-Falk of the Nazi Genealogy Office of Munich observed that Hitler was so enraptured by the maennerbuendleische (the young male students) on parade, that on this fact alone she concluded that Hitler was at least unconsciously homosexual (Daim:41). Desmond Seward, in Napoleon and Hitler, quotes Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, who referred to Hitler as that horrible sexual degenerate (Seward:148). He also reports that the files of the Viennese police list him [Hitler] as a homosexual (Seward:299). Writer Charlotte Wolff, M.D. quotes Magnus Hirschfeld about Hitler in her book Magnus Hirschfeld. (Hirschfeld, you will remember, was Director of the Sex Research Institute of Berlin which was destroyed by Hitler in 1934.
156 The Founding and Early Years of the Nazi Party
About three years before the Nazis came to power we had a patient at the Institute who had a liaison with Roehm. We were on good terms with him, and he told us a good deal of what happened in his circle...He also referred to Adolf Hitler in the oddest possible manner. Afi is the most perverted of us all. He is very much like a soft woman, but now he makes great propaganda in the heroic morale (Wolff:438).
Adolf, the Boy Prostitute
In Germanys National Vice, Samuel Igra wrote that as a young man Hitler
had been a male prostitute in Vienna and Munich (Igra:67). Lending credence
to this is the fact that for quite a long time Hitler chose to live in
a Vienna flophouse known to be inhabited by many homosexuals (Langer:192).
That flophouse was the Meldemannstrasse Hostel. Hitlers long-time gay
friend Ernst Hanfstaengl identified this residence as a place where elderly
men went in search of young men for homosexual pleasures (Machtan:56).
It was an open secret at the beginning of the 20th century, adds Machtan,
that municipal hostels for homeless males were hubs of homosexual activity...[where
many young men] kept themselves afloat by engaging in prostitution. Hitler
spent over three years in this environment (Machtan:51).
This would help to explain Hitlers close relationships to his purportedly homosexual patrons Dietrich Eckart and Karl Haushofer. Rector writes that, as a young man, Hitler was often called Der Schoen Adolf (the handsome Adolf) and that later his looks were also to some extent helpful in gaining big-money support from Ernst Roehms circle of wealthy gay friends (Rector:52).
But Hitler was apparently not involved with homosexuality solely to survive financially. Even in his pre-Nazi years, most of Hitlers reputed homosexual encounters were consensual meetings in which no money changed hands. Machtan suggests that each of Hitlers longer-term relationships in his youth -- with Reinhold Hanisch, August Kubizek, Rudolf Hausler and Ernst Hanfstaengl -- were homosexual love affairs.
There are numerous other incidents (one night stands) in which Hitler was purported to have been the solicitor and not the solicited one. Eugen Dollman, former member of Himmlers staff and one-time Hitler interpreter, cited testimonies from the files of the Munich vice squad in which a series of young men identified Hitler as the man who had picked them up on the streets for homosexual relations (Machtan:135ff). Dollman himself was also homosexual (ibid.).
Additional allegations addressed homosexual conduct by Hitler during the first World War. The so-called Mend Protocol, a document prepared by German military intelligence under Admiral Canaris, contains the testimony of Hans Mend. Considered highly credible, Mend had this to say about Hitler:
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Meanwhile, we had gotten to know Hitler better. We noticed that he never looked at a woman. We suspected him of homosexuality right away, because he was known to be abnormal in any case. He was extremely eccentric and displayed womanish characteristics which tended in that direction....In 1915 we were billeted in the Le Febre brewery at Fournes. We slept in the hay. Hitler was bedded down at night with Schmidl, his male whore. We heard a rustling in the hay. Then someone switched on his electric flashlight and growled, Take a look at those two nancy boys. I myself took no further interest in the matter (Ibid:68)
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Hitler and Schmidl (Ernst Schmidt) were, in Schmidts words, always
together during their war years. They remained very close friends and
were occasional housemates for over thirty years (ibid.:89ff).
A year or so after the incident described by Mend, Hitler supposedly posed nude for a homosexual officer named Lammers -- a Berlin artist in civilian life -- and subsequently went to bed with him (ibid.:100). This may be the incident to which Rauschning referred when he later told U.S. Investigators that Lance Corporal Hitler and an officer had been charged with engaging in sexual relations (ibid.).
The homosexual connection certainly helps to explain how Hitler became involved with the nationalists generally, and Ernst Roehm specifically, after the war. It is likely that Roehms homosexual inclinations were the reason that Colonel Ritter von Epp, the Freikorps commander, chose Roehm as his adjutant. There are many indications that the relationship between Roehm and Epp was homoerotic, writes Machtan,and Hitler once let slip in later years that Roehms homosexuality first became known around 1920 (ibid.:106f). Roehm, in turn, brought Hitler into the homoerotic Freikorps brotherhood.
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The Bayreuth Connection
We have mentioned above that Hitler allegedly identified his favorite composer,
Richard Wagner, as a pederast. We are not certain that this is true. What
is certain is that Wagners Bayreuth was a notorious international rendezvous
for prominent homosexuals whose absorption with Wagner achieved a cultlike
quality (ibid.:39). One factor in this attraction may have been that Wagners
sons Richard and Siegfried were homosexuals. Richard later committed suicide
(ibid.:254). Siegfried, pressured to have an heir, married a woman much
younger than himself and had several children but surreptiously continued
his homosexual affairs (Wagner:p.197).
Hitler was very close to the Wagner family and spent a great deal of time in Bayreuth. He made numerous private visits there between 1925 and 1933, often with male homosexual companions (ibid.:253ff). One common companion was Julius Schreck, whose photograph hung beside that of Hitlers beloved mother in his (Hitlers) private quarters (ibid.:174f). Machtan cites one incident, however, in which he and Schreck failed to keep an appointment to vacation with their Bayreuth hosts. Instead, Schreck and Hitler turned aside at the Bad Berneck health resort, some 20 miles away, where they spent Christmas alone -- the only guests at the inn (ibid.:174).
Hitler may have had yet darker motives for visiting the Wagner home. Only recently revealed is the accusation by Wagner family members that Hitler sexually abused the young Wieland [Wagners grandson, now past 75] during the 20s. These allegations came to light in a Time magazine interview with American author and former diplomat to Germany, Frederic Spotts, whose research for the book Bayreuth (about the Wagnerian opera festival of the same name) included interviews with the Wagner family (Time, August 15, 1994:56).
Spotts says that his original source was one of Wielands own children...Now a respected academic, Spotts says it was while he was researching Bayreuth that he interviewed his source -- who, he insists, is totally reliable and has no reason to lie. Spotts writes:
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This family member told me Hitler sexually abused Wieland in the 1920s when the boy was a preadolescent...Hitler, who idolized Richard Wagner's supernationalistic operas (as well as his anti-Semitism), had become a close friend of Wieland's mother's. Winifred Wagner gave him the run of the childs nursery. Far from being revolted by what allegedly happened to him, Wieland avidly collaborated with his right-wing family during World War II (Penthouse, undated:32).
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Weiland later became Hitlers protégé (Wagner:228) and was exempted from
military service by Hitlers personal intervention (ibid.:105). The weight
of the evidence indicates that Hitler was deeply involved in a series of
short and long-term homosexual relationships. Even more certain is that
he knowingly and deliberately surrounded himself with practicing homosexuals
from the time he was a teenager. His later public pronouncements against
homosexuality were designed to hide the life-long intimacy -- sexual and/or
homoerotic -- which he maintained with the various men he knew and accepted
Finally, in our look at Adolf Hitler, the man, we turn to Samuel Igra, a Jew who fled Germany in 1939 after twenty years of observing Hitler and the Nazis:
For the purposes of the present investigations Hitler is important for what he has represented...when he embarked the German people on the policy that brought about the world catastrophe. He was the central figure around which a number of men grouped themselves, from the 1920s onwards, in a movement to gain supreme control of the German people. As the movement developed they were aided and abetted and supported financially as well as politically by the industrial capitalists of the Rhineland; but the initiative did not come from the latter. It came from Hitler as the condottiere [leader] of a band of evil men who were united together by a common vice [homosexuality] (Igra:26).
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The Nazi Rise to Power
Through the 1920s, Hitler continued to capitalize on the political unrest
of the German people to build the Nazi organization. The partys public
image was greatly enhanced by the recruitment of Hermann Goering, a former
World War I fighter ace who was revered as a war hero. Goering was probably
not a homosexual though he was said to have been very fond of painting
his nails and putting rouge on his cheeks (Fuchs:160). He joined the party
after hearing a speech by Hitler in which he vowed to rebuild Germanys
military and throw off the yoke of the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler immediately
set him to the task of training the SA as a military organization (Toland:123),
an accomplishment that further increased Nazi power.
By the fall of 1922, Hitler had become the symbol of renewed German nationalism to many in Germany, although the average citizen had little knowledge of Hitlers personal life or the lives of the Nazi leaders. At this point Hitler believed he would ultimately assume power in Germany through military strength, and he was not terribly concerned with portraying an image of morality. The Party newspaper, writes Edouard Calic, explained that Hitler wanted to organize the movement on a military basis to achieve power, and that if it was necessary he would lead an uprising to renounce the Versailles Treaty (Calic:33). However, his attempt to implement his plan in the infamous Beer Hall Putsch proved so disastrous that Hitler was forced to develop a different strategy.
On November 8, 1923, Hitler attempted to take advantage of a period of political turmoil to seize control of the government of Bavaria. This ill-fated maneuver (later dubbed the Beer Hall Putsch) not only failed militarily, it put Hitler in prison for nine months, thus nearly ending the party. When he was finally released from Landsberg prison on December 20, 1924, he announced that thereafter the Nazi Party would seek power through legitimate political means (ibid:64). This decision put the actions and goals of the party to the test of public opinion. Immediately, Hitler was confronted with this challenge. Shirer describes the internal condition of the party:
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...in those years when Hitler was shaping his party to take over Germanys destiny he had his fill of troubles with his chief lieutenants who constantly quarreled not only among themselves but with him. He, who was so monumentally intolerant by his very nature, was strangely tolerant of one human condition -- a mans morals. No other party in Germany came near to attracting so many shady characters...pimps, murderers, homosexuals... Hitler did not care, as long as they were useful to him. When he emerged from prison he found not only that they were at each others throats but there was a demand from the more prim and respectable leaders such as Rosenberg and Ludendorf that the criminals and especially the perverts be expelled from the movement. This Hitler frankly refused to do. (Shirer:173).
Hitler learned that public opinion was not with him in the matter of homosexuality, despite Germanys international reputation as a haven for homosexuals. Incriminating letters which had been stolen from Roehm by a male prostitute (Plant:60) became a public matter when Roehm took the matter to court (Hohne:81). This, of course, exacerbated the conflict among Hitlers lieutenants, and led Hitler to initialize the first in a series of public relations efforts to hide Nazi perversions from the German people. The greater part of these conflicts, interestingly, were between the homosexuals themselves who, according to Shirer quarreled and feuded as only men of unnatural sexual inclinations, with their peculiar jealousies, can (Shirer:172). He writes,
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By 1926...the charges and countercharges hurled by the Nazi Chieftains at one another became so embarrassing that Hitler set up a party court to settle them and prevent his comrades from washing their dirty linen in public. This was known as the USCHLA from Untersuchung-und-Schlichtungs-Ausschuss Committee for Investigation and Settlement. Its first head was a former general, Heinemann, but he was unable to grasp the real purpose of the court, which was not to pronounce judgment on those accused of common crimes but to hush them up and see that they did not disturb party discipline or the authority of the Leader. So the general was replaced by...Major Walter Buch, who was given two assistants. One was Ulrichs Graf, the former butcher who had been Hitlers bodyguard; the other was Hans Frank, a young Nazi lawyer...This fine judicial triumvirate performed to the complete satisfaction of the Fuehrer. A party leader might be accused of the most nefarious crime. Buchs answer was, Well, what of it? (ibid.:174).
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Obviously, the act of assigning Buch, Graf and Frank to this intra-party
court rendered it a complete sham (at least in regard to homosexual
crimes), since all were homosexuals. The only purpose of this and later
efforts ostensibly designed to address charges of sexual perversion among
the Nazis was to hide the truth from the public. Here is the root of Nazi
As Nazi power grew, Hitler became increasingly dependent on the support of the German population. And, understandably enough, the German people were at the same time growing increasingly disgusted with the debaucheries taking place in German cities. This twofold influence on Hitler led him to take ever more hard-line public stands against homosexuality in order to cover up the truth about the party. The severity of his public reactions to each new scandal (especially the later ones) mitigated the impact of rumors which constantly circulated in German society about Nazi leaders. Hitlers strategy regarding all moral issues was to craft his rhetoric carefully in order not to offend the sensibilities of the people (Mosse:159).
Roehm, of course, presented a particularly difficult problem for the Nazis because of his militant support for what we know today as gay rights. His SA men began to be referred to by the anti-Nazis as the Brown Fairies (Rector:56). Some time after Roehms exposure as a homosexual (in his 1925 trial against the male prostitute, Herman Siegeseites,) he left Germany to take a post in the Bolivian Army. It is unclear whether he made this move in response to a personal sense of disgrace about the publicizing of his pederastic activities, or whether Hitler had convinced him to get out of the public eye for the good of the party. In any case, Roehms absence was only temporary. Plant writes,
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In 1929 a party squabble threatened to tear the SA apart; a rebel group under Captain Walter Stennes had started a mutiny. Stennes taunted Roehms stalwarts at a rally, dismissing them as sissies in frilly underwear who couldnt order their boys around. As the rebellion grew more serious, Hitler ordered his old friend to return to Germany. Roehm did not hesitate to heed his Fuehrers call and his armed squads quickly and ruthlessly suppressed the mutineers (Plant:60f).
While Roehm was away, the Nazis had been fairly successful at keeping their perversions out of sight. Most of the Nazis remained in the closet, or at least out of situations that their political enemies could use against them. This, of course, changed when Roehm returned. Once again, stories of Roehms exploits were passed along the grapevine. It would be old news, however, that hurt the Nazis again when Roehms damaging letters were published by the newspapers belonging to the Social Democrats. These, along with articles on the homosexual practices of subordinate SA leaders, were published on the occasion of Roehms appointment to head the SA (Oosterhuis and Kennedy:239n). Social Democrats and Communists, write Oosterhuis and Kennedy, suggested [in their newspapers] that nepotism and abuse of power in the SA and the Hitler Youth had contributed to making homosexuality an essential characteristic of the fascist system (ibid.:251). Herzer comments that the press campaign against Roehm invoked the possibility that large segments of German youth could be led to homosexuality through abuse of military authority by SA members, most of whom were teenagers (Herzer:225n). He writes:
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The prospect of Roehms exploiting his military authority over young Nazis for his private interests was the target of such headlines in the leftist press as Captain Roehm Abuses Unemployed Young Workers, Fox Guards Chicken Coop, or Physical and Moral Health of German Youth at Stake. It could scarcely go unremarked...that regulations otherwise rigorously implemented were suspended precisely in the Nazis private army, that the professional proscription of homosexuality that applied to every teacher, every officer, and every church functionary did not apply among the Nazis (Herzer:214).
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Hitler, confronted with this threat to the Nazi image, responded with a
dual strategy. He first offered a limited defense of Roehm, saying, His
private life cannot be an object of scrutiny unless it conflicts with basic
principles of National Socialist ideology (Bluel:98). Hitler also attempted
to draw a distinction between the party and the SA by portraying Roehms
proclivities as an aspect of military society. [The SA] is not an institute
for the moral education of genteel young ladies, said Hitler, but a formation
of seasoned fighters (Bluel:98). The implication seems to have been that
homosexuality was an odd quirk of military life that should be overlooked
in light of the value of these soldiers mission and experience. Furthermore,
he promised expulsion from the party for anyone who continued to engage
in tongue-wagging and letter-writing (Koehl: 43).
Homosexuality was clearly not limited to the SA, however. Attorney and Hitler contemporary Erich Ebermayer, also a homosexual, observed in his diary that
During its time of struggle, the National Socialist movement -- and not just the Roehm clique -- was a fraternity such as Blueher portrayed in his books, its motive force being homoeroticism...My exceedingly trustworthy sources of information about these confidential matters...have hitherto...proudly stressed the homoerotic orientation of the Fuehrer and his inner circle (emphasis in the original. Machtan:232).
Secondly, Hitler strengthened his rhetoric against homosexuality in German society at large. An article that appeared in the official Nazi newspaper went so far as to threaten homosexuals with extermination. Once again this was empty rhetoric. Adolf Brand, whose openly homosexual magazine, Der Eigene, was by this time widely read in Germany, responded to the Nazi article with one of his own. Brand writes,
170 The Founding and Early Years of the Nazi Party
Men such as Captain Roehm, are, to our knowledge, no rarity at all in the National Socialist Party. It rather teems there with homosexuals of all kinds. And the joy of man in man, which has been slandered in their papers so often as an oriental vice although the Edda frankly extols it as the highest virtue of the Teutons, blossoms around their campfires and is cultivated and fostered by them in a way done in no other male union that is reared on party politics. The threatened hanging on the gallows, with which they allege they want to exterminate homosexuals, is therefore only a horrible gesture that is supposed to make stupid people believe that the Hitler people, in the matter of male-to-male inclinations, are all as innocent as pigeons and pure as angels, just like the pious members of the Christian Society of the Virgin...The public threat against the homosexuals has in the meantime not frightened any youth-friend or man-friend into deserting this party. One knows perfectly well that all those public threats are only paper masks (Brand in Oosterhuis and Kennedy:236f).
Power and Abuse
Despite Brands protestations, Hitlers ruse was quite successful in regard
to the Nazis political fortunes. As Machtan notes, What would now be
rightly condemned as discriminatory disparagement of a minority was then
still regarded as a criminological fact: that homosexuals make exceptionally
skillful liars (Machtan:103). The party fared well in the elections of
1932, and on January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of
Germany. The Nazi Party had finally come to power. However, the elections
following Hitlers appointment, called by Hitler himself, were even more
critical to the Nazis.
Hitler was demanding the power of authoritarian rule over Germany, but public support for his plan was ambiguous (Toland:288). The greatest threat came from the Communists who had significant power and support of their own. The Nazis diabolical solution to this problem involved the burning of the German Reichstag (another famous incident in Nazi history which is tied to the homosexuals in the party). Carroll Quigley, in Tragedy and Hope writes,
THE PINK SWASTIKA 171
[I]t was evident a week before the election that the German people were not convinced [that the Nazis should gain the increased power they sought]. Accordingly...a plot was worked out to burn the Reichstag building and blame the Communists. Most of the plotters were homosexuals and were able to persuade a degenerate moron from Holland named Van der Lubbe to go with them...Most of the Nazis who were in on the plot were murdered by Goering during the blood purge of June 30, 1934 (Quigley:437f). Van der Lubbe was executed for the crime.
172 The Founding and Early Years of the Nazi Party
Van Der Lubbe was homosexual as well. Oosterhuis quotes a 1933 book prepared by the World Committee for the Victims of German Fascism:
Enquiries in Leyden have definitely established the fact that he [Van Der Lubbe] was homosexual. This is of great importance for his later history....Van Der Lubbes homosexual connections with the National Socialist leaders and his material dependence on them made him obedient and willing to carry out the incendiarys part (Oosterhuis:253).
In The Life and Death of Hermann Goering, authors Ewan Butler and Gordon
Young list the Reichstag fire conspirators. The camarilla which finally
drew up plans for the frame-up against the Communists consisted, besides
Captain Goering, its originator, of Goebbels, Roehm, Heines, Count Helldorf,
leader of the Berlin S.A., Karl Ernst, a certain StandartenFuehrer (regimental
commander) of the S.A. named Sander and two other members of the S.A.,
Fiedler and von Mohrenschild (Butler and Young:111).
The strategy succeeded. The people, perceiving the Nazis as saviors in a time of crisis, gave the party complete control of German government. Not everyone in Germany, however, was pleased with Hitlers ascension to power. Former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher gave voice to an inner fear that foreshadowed his own death: This pack of scoundrels, these criminals, these filthy boy streetwalkers! Well, they better not come near me (Rector:64). Schleicher was killed in Munich by Hitlers murder gang during the Roehm Purge (Fest, 1975:465).
Once the party had come to power several homosexuals in the Nazi leadership believed they could act with impunity in regard to their homosexual exploits. This attitude would lead to severe consequences for these few men and indirectly dictate Hitlers official policy regarding homosexuality.
By the spring of 1934, Ernst Roehms homosexual activities had become more flagrant than ever, to the extent that Himmler himself made a special trip to plead with Roehm to be more discrete. Roehm pretended to accede but, as Gallo reports
THE PINK SWASTIKA 173
The next morning Himmlers agents report that one of the most fantastic orgies they had ever seen took place the night before at Roehms headquarters. Bottles thrown from the windows smashed on the pavements below, and the sound of raucous laughter echoed in the street. Roehm himself had been an all-night participant, with his Lustknaben, his male prostitutes. Himmler is furious. (Gallo:68).
Roehms exploits also began implicating the more genteel homosexuals in
the party. Roehms entourage now included young sons of the nobility,
who form a brilliant staff with the faces of perverse angels: Baron von
Falkenhausen, Count von Spreti, the Prince von Waldeck: all aides-de-camp
to Captain Roehm (Gallo:46). (Waldeck was the first member of the old
nobility to join the Party and had been recruited by Himmler, himself --
At this same time Edmund Heines was appointed Chief of Police of Breslau. Gallo writes,
174 The Founding and Early Years of the Nazi Party
His staff resembles Roehms -- they are the objects of its chiefs amorous passion. The homosexual Engels is OberstuermbannFuehrer (Lieutenant Colonel), and the young Schmidt is aide-de-camp. This twenty-year-old is Heines latest folly. Whatever that handsome young blonde does, he is protected by his lover. Once, in a moment of drunkenness, he publicly kills a drinking companion with his sword, but the Chief of Police forbids the public prosecutor to intervene....Beside this couple, the depraved Engels, a watchful intriguer, plays the part of Heines evil genius. He is one of those who use the SA organization and the Hitler Youth to recruit participants for his erotic games (ibid.:70).
THE PINK SWASTIKA 175
Samuel Igra also noted the increasingly public nature of the Nazi leaders activities:
It was not merely that these men practiced their vices in private and among their own clique; but they made a system, almost a cult, of their moral corruption, and used their positions of power to molest with impunity innocent boys and girls whose features and physique they fancied. When Kube and his staff visited the villages of his district, Kube ist da was the warning passed from mouth to mouth among the people, whereupon parents hid their boys and girls in the cellars or in the back kitchens. The scoundrel needed so much money for his filthy orgies that he had his accomplices appointed to positions in the local savings banks and borough treasurers offices, where they systematically robbed the tills. In Frankfort-on-Oder, for instance, Kube's accomplices robbed the Post Office Savings Bank of 180,000 marks (about £15,000), and though the case was proved against him in court, he was dismissed only for a while and reinstated in the Party again.
176 The Founding and Early Years of the Nazi Party
These incidents divided the Nazi elite as no other issue had. Amoral scoundrels all, the majority were nevertheless practical men who knew the importance of discretion, even for dictatorial tyrants. The unquenchable arrogance of these SA leaders forced Hitler into an untenable position -- one which Roehms enemies within the party would soon exploit. Hitler first would soon be compelled by Roehms powerful enemies to assassinate the worst offenders in his ranks. Second, to counter the public impression that his party was rife with homosexuality, Hitler would be forced to publicly take a harder line against sexual deviance.