Friday, March 06, 2009

Ernst Röhm and the SS

I'm reading a history of the SS now, actually two histories of it, and one of the interesting things is what happened after the Night of Long Knives, where Röhm and the Brown Shirt commanders were killed. I'm using the term Brown Shirts instead of SA, the abbreviation of Sturmabteilung or storm troopers, because I want to keep in the forefront just who we're talking about. These were the people who beat up Jews, Communists, Social Democrats, rival militias from other quarters. Some people have made the argument that they were kinder and gentler than the SS, the people who ran the death camps, but that's insane. However there was one interesting difference, one that surprised me and that I don't think many people at least in the United States know about: while the Brown Shirts were right wing, racist, xenophobic, they were drawn in large part from unemployed people in their twenties who had been collectively hit by the depression and turned to the Nazis and violence because of this. The SS, after the leaders of the Brown Shirts were assassinated, made a direct and open effort to recruit people from the mainstream of society, from the establishment, the aristocracy, from big business, from rural districts, meaning that ultimately the SS was not a limited phenomenon but instead represented a wide swath of German society, who share in the guilt of the crimes that the SS committed.

That was what I was not aware of. The Brown Shirts were like Rush Limbaugh supporters, rabid and violent, but when push came to shove the Fascist power structure didn't want psychopaths like them at large. Instead, they drew people from all over the place to grow their psychopathic organization, one that was less crass and stupid than the Brown Shirts.

*on edit: to give an example of how someone could be against some capitalists but not be a leftist consider this: I'm from the Detroit area, and I know that there have been people who have been laid off from their companies, who hate the suits or the white collar executives and workers, but who also hate every black person they come across because they feel they're all living on welfare. A person believing this would be not happy with the bosses but would hardly be a leftist.

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