Franz Pfeffer von Salamon

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Franz Pfeffer von Salomon (1888-1968) was an early Nazi, who held posts including Gauleiter of Westphalia, and head of the Sturmabteilung. He had been an army officer in the First World War, and a member of Freikorps.

Pfeffer headed the SA between 1926 and 1931, relieving and being relieved by Ernst Roehm. While Pfeffer shared a much closer vision, with Adolf Hitler, of the role of the SA as an instrument of propaganda and intimidation rather than a military alternative to the Reichswehr, Roehm was far stronger as a leader of personalities that made up the SA.

Before the SA

He ended his WWI service as a captain, and formed a Freikorps that fought against the French in the Ruhr, Baden and the Baltic. As a Freikorps member, he had been part of the March 1920 Ehrhardt-Kapp Putsch, which failed to take over the Berlin government. With good Reichswehr contacts, he led sabotage teams against the French and Belgians, in the Ruhr, in 1923.

In 1924, he was Gau leader of the Volklische-Sozialist Bloc, and brought it into the Nazi Party in 1925. He was perceived as a good leader, firm-willed and energetic, but still more willing to compromise than was Roehm. He was critical of the Beer Hall Putsch, calling it an action of "dilettantes".

As Gauleiter of the Ruhr, he had a political as well as paramilitary vision. Victor Lutze was his chief assistant. He testified that Hitler wanted him to avoid repetition of the problems of another Beer Hall Putsch, to bring his large Ruhr organization into the Party, and was a northerner trusted more than the Munich leadership. More simply, however, he and Hitler shared much more of a vision than did Hitler and Roehm.[1]

Shared vision for the SA

According to Joachim Fest, Hitler wanted a "specialized instrument for propaganda and mass intimidation, under firm control from party headquarters." Hitler established ceremonies for new SA units in which they took an oath of loyalty and received marching standards designed by Hitler. Hitler wrote to Pfeffer, "The training of the SA must be guided by party needs than by military points of view. [the struggle must] be lifted out of the atmosphere of minor acts of revenge and conspiracy, raised to the grandeur of an ideological war of annihilation against Marxism, its structure and its henchment....The work must be conducted not in secret conventicles, but in huge mass productions. The was can be cleared for the Movement not by dagger and poison or pistol, but by conquering the streets."[2]

Pfeffer was more responsive to this Hitler's desires, could work with the military, and recognized there was no short-term need for the SA in military roles. Fest said he "evidenced a remarkable feeling for the mass psychological effectiveness of strict, drillmasterly arrangements. His orders for meetings and ceremonies reveal the point of view of a theatrical director as much as a leader..." Such ceremonies, when arranged by Leni Riefenstahl and Albert Speer, were meat and drink to Hitler. Pfeffer wrote,
The only form in which the SA displays itself to the public must be en masse. The sight of a large body of disciplined men, inwardly and outwardly alike, whose militancy can be plainly seen or sensed, makes the most profound impression on every German and speaks to his heart in a more convincing and persuasive language than writing and oratory and logic ever can. Calm composure and matter-of-factness emphasizes the impression of strength — the strength of marching columns.[3]

Shows of force, such as described by Pfeffer, are textbook actions from police and military doctrine on crowd and riot control. Those military wings of political organizations that do not operate as guerillas frequently use such displays. It failed, according to Fest, with the SA, for two reasons. First, the SA members had a "rough cut-and-thrust temperament, the raw mercenary spirit of these professional soldiers." Pfeffer may have had the vision, but not the materials. German tradition also assigned great status to the military, and saw itself as a "Fighting Movement" superior to the Nazi Political Organization. Roehm's SA never grasped Carl von Clausewitz's dictum that war is the extension of national politics by military means, that action always must support a political goal, although it was obvious to Pfeffer.

SA versus SS

Hitler also wanted an obedient force. Roehm and the SA quarreled internally, not infrequently over homosexual affairs in the leadership. Hitler created a more stable personal guard, the Schutzstaffel, which he assigned to a young recruit, Heinrich Himmler, in 1929. [4] Himmler, who was much junior to Himmler, power would grow until he was a major figure, and especially a rival to Roehm. On 12 April 1929, with the approval of Hitler and Pfeffer, Himmler promulgated membership requirements for the SS, many of whom only qualified through waivers for First World War veterans. SS members, under the same order, were to come from the SA, but, over time, the SS and SA were to become rivals. [5]

Pfeffer felt undermined as his best men went to the SS, such as Kurt Daluege, who had formed the Berlin SA but moved to command the Berlin SS. [6]

Pfeffer resigned as SA head in 1930. Hitler did not immediately install Roehm, but ran the SA and SS himself.

Later years

He later joined the staff of Rudolf Hess. Hitler became angry with Pfeffer after Hess' May 1941 flight to England, and briefly imprisoned him. Pfeffer was expelled from the Reichstag, the Party, and all offices on 14 November 1941. He lived, in retirement, on his estate in Pomerania. After the 1944 assassination attempt against Hitler, he was imprisoned, for suspicion of conspiracy, for four months.

In 1945, he went to Pomerania,and took command of a Volkssturm unit. From the end of the war to 1946, he was interned in Heilbronn. After his release, he lived in Wiesbaden. From 1949 to the early 1950s, Franz Pfeffer von Salomon was an active member of the Hessian regional association (Landesverband) of the right-wing conservative Deutsche Partei. He retired to Munich in 1960 and died there on 12 April 1968.[7] [8] [9] [10]


  1. Bruce Campbell, The SA Generals and the Rise of Nazism, University of Kentucky Press, pp. 50-52
  2. Joachim C. Fest (1973), Hitler, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, pp. 254-255
  3. Fest, p. 255
  4. William Shirer (1960), The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Simon & Schuster, p. 121
  5. John Michael Steiner (1976), Power politics and social change in National Socialist Germany: a process of escalation into mass destruction, Walter de Gruyter, pp. 55-56
  6. Anthony Read (2004), The Devil's disciples: Hitler's inner circle, W.W. Norton, p. 180
  7. Scriptor (1 Nov 2008), Notes on Pfeffer's latier biography
  8. Joachim Lilla, Martin Döring, Andreas Schulz: "Statisten in Uniform". Droste, 2004
  9. Jens Flemming: "Die Republik von Weimar". Athenäum-Verlag, 1979
  10. Karl Höffkes: "Hitlers politische Generale". Grabert-Verlag, 1988