The Sturmabteilung or ” SA ” pronunciation ( ? · I ) (which can be translated as ‘assault section’) functioned as a militia- like organization of the NSDAP , the German National Socialist Party. The members of the SA were known as “brown shirts”, by the color of their shirt and uniform, to distinguish them from the ” SS “, who wore black uniforms and white shirt, unlike Italian black shirts . Brown shirts were chosen as uniforms for SAs because a lot of them were much cheaper than the others, since there were many World War I surplus, because previously this was the uniform for the German colonial troops stationed in Africa . 1 

The SA were the first group militarized Nazi that created titles and hierarchical ranks own for its members; Subsequently, the SA ranges were also adopted by other NSDAP groups . The SA played an important role in the rise to power of Adolf Hitler in the early 1930s , until they were dismantled in 1934 and integrated into the SS in some way, although the SA continued to exist after the Night of the Long knives , but of much less importance than they had in principle. At the time of their disarticulation they had approximately 4 and a half million men in their ranks. 2


The term Sturmabteilung comes originally from the specialized assault troops available to the German Empire in 1918 , during World War I , in accordance with the tactics of infiltration developed by General Hutier . 3

In the fall of 1920 Hitler created the Ordnungsdienst ( “service order”), a body of experienced soldiers in the battlefield and excellent physical preparation, who under the leadership of Emil Maurice were assigned to the security role in conferences, speeches and meetings of the NSDAP against possible attacks from the Social Democrats or the Communists and to maintain order in them. 4

The 4 as November as 1921 , the NSDAP held a public rally in the brewery Hofbräuhaus in Munich . After Hitler spoke for some time, a melee fight broke out in which his previously created “order service” beat and expelled opponents. At such an event he was known among the militants as “Saalschlacht” (battle of the meeting room). After this meeting the service was officially renamed Sturmabteilung . 5

The importance of the SA increased within the structures of Nazi power, becoming integrated by hundreds of thousands of members. In 1922 the NSDAP founded the Jugendbund , a section for young people from 14 to 18 years. The successor of this section, the Hitler Youth , remained under the mandate of the SA until May 1932 .

From April 1924 to February 1925 , the SA were concealed under the name of Frontbann to avoid temporary illegalization of the NSDAP. The SA carried out numerous violent acts against leftist groups during the 1920s, usually in small street brawls called Zusammenstöße (“collisions”).

Ranges of the SA

The ranks of the SA were exclusively of Nazi style, emulating the lines of obedience of the old “Free Bodies” or Freikorps after World War I. These were:

  • Oberster SA-Führer (OSAF): Supreme Head of the SA. It equates to Generalfeldmarschall (General Marshal), being the Supreme Commander by default.
  • Stabschef (SA) : Commander-in-Chief of the SA. Equals Colonel General . In other armies today it could amount to Captain General.
  • SA-Obergruppenführer : General de las SA. At present in other armies could equal Lieutenant General.
  • SA-Gruppenführer : Lieutenant General of the SA. At present in other armies could be equivalent to General of Division.
  • SA-Brigadeführer : Major General of the SA. At present in other armies could be equivalent to Brigadier General.
  • SA-Oberführer : Brigadier, intermediate degree between Colonel and Brigadier General, nonexistent in certain current armies.
  • SA-Standartenführer : Coronel de las SA.
  • SA-Obersturmbannführer : Lieutenant Colonel of the SA.
  • SA-Sturmbannführer : Mayor of the SA.
  • SA-Hauptsturmführer : Captain of the SA.
  • SA-Obersturmführer : Teniente de las SA.
  • SA-Sturmführer : Second lieutenant ( lieutenant ) of the SA, chief of Assault of the SA.
  • SA-Haupttruppführer : Chief of the SA Troop.
  • SA-Obertruppführer : Chief of the Troops SA.
  • SA-Truppfuhrer : Head of Troop SA.
  • SA-Oberscharführer : Sergeant Superior or First of the SA.
  • SA-Scharführer : Second Sergeant of the SA.
  • SA-Rottenführer : Cabo de las SA.
  • SA-Obersturmmann : Superior or Distinguished Soldier of the SA.
  • SA-Sturmmann : Soldier of the SA.


The structure of the SA in 1926 was this:

  • Oberste SA-Führung
  • Gausturm
  • Brigade (2-5 Standarten)
  • Standarte (2-5 Stürme)
  • Sturm (2-4 Trupps)
  • Trupp (5-8 Gruppen)
  • Gruppe (6-12 men)

By 1932, it was this, and the comparison allows us to evaluate the growth of the organization:

  • Oberste SA-Führung
  • Obergruppe
  • Gruppe (one or more Untergruppen, maximum 30 000 men)

Untergruppe (Subgroups):

  • Standarte (1200-3000 men)
  • Sturmbann (250-600 men)
  • Sturm (60-150 men)
  • Trupp (over 50 men)
  • Schar (4-16 men)

Conflicts with other organizations

After Hitler’s accession to power in 1933 , SA members began to experience power cravings and saw themselves as substitutes for the armed forces of the Weimar Republic . This upset the Reichswehr , who was already resentful of the NSDAP and who treated SA as “the brown dross.” This also caused tension between some party leaders who saw the growing power of Ernst Röhm as a threat to their personal ambitions . 6 The SA began to be considered as a radical and dangerous organization since it was adopted as a practice to swear allegiance to local commanders before Hitler or the NSDAP. The main cause of the creation of the SS was to restrict the power of the brown shirts and their leaders. 7

Some Nazi officials, including the SS Reichsführer , Heinrich Himmler , falsified a dossier suggesting that the French had paid Röhm a certain amount of money to carry out a coup against Hitler. First Hitler did not believe it, but he was aware that the SA could eliminate him if they wanted. However, Röhm was not popular in the party because of his political and personal ambition, as well as his open homosexuality .

Most of these internal conflicts were based on personal rivalries, but there were also economic conflicts between the Gestapo (de Ge heime sta ats po lizei ), or “Secret State Police”, and the SA. Members of the Gestapo generally came from the middle class , while the SA were composed of unemployed and working- class people . 8 For this reason, the SA had participated in anti- capitalist strikes and activities , collaborating occasionally with the Communists , to the alarm of many Nazi militants. It was more common, however, for these two factions to face street fights. In these brawls both sides wore weapons made by themselves.

Among the main critics of the SA was Franz von Papen who feared for his life just like many other former German politicians. Finally, the pressure made that Hitler ordered the execution of the top leaders of the SA, which took place on the night of 30 June to 2 of July of 1934 , known as the ” night of the long knives “. Viktor Lutze became the new leader of the SA and the organization was suddenly marginalized from Nazi power in favor of the SS. This made SA become insignificant, even if they did not disappear completely. 9 From this moment the political career of the SA was finished and the terror of Germany happened to be incarnated in a more select, ruthless, silent and effective body: the SS, that were feared even by officers of the Wehrmacht .

The SA remained officially active as a paramilitary force until the end of World War II , but the only relevant violent action carried out by this organization after the Long Knife Night was Kristallnacht , or ” Night of Broken Glass “In which under orders of the SS they executed important vandal acts against the Jewish community, destroying shops and synagogues. In just a few hours they burned books, attacked countless premises and murdered Jewish inhabitants . 10

Maximum of the SA

  • You can only end terror by terror .” eleven
  • All opposition must be annihilated .” eleven

Leaders of the SA

They were called Oberster SA-Fuhrer :

  • Emil Maurice (1920-1921)
  • Hans Ulrich Klintzsche (1921-1923)
  • Hermann Göring (1923-1945)
  • None , the party was prohibited between these dates (1923-1925)
  • Franz Pfeffer von Salomon (1926-1929)
  • Otto Wagener (1929-1930)
  • Adolf Hitler (1930-1931)
  • Ernst Röhm (1931-1934)
  • Viktor Lutze (1934-1943)
  • Wilhelm Scheppmann (1943-1945)


  1. Back to top↑ Toland, John (1976). Adolf Hitler : 220. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company. ISBN 0-385-03724-4
  2. Back to top↑ «German Army» . Archived from the original on December 3, 2015.
  3. Back to top↑ Drury, Ian (2003). German Stormtrooper 1914-1918 . Osprey Publishing.
  4. Back to top↑ Manchester, William Raymond (2003) The Arms of Krupp, 1587-1968: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty That Armed Germany at War : 342. Back Bay. ISBN 0-316-52940-0
  5. Back to top↑ Campbell, Bruce (1998) The SA Generals and The Rise of Nazism : 19-20. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2047-0
  6. Back to top↑ Kershaw, Ian (2008) Hitler: A Biography : 304-306. New York: WW Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06757-6 .
  7. Back to top↑ McNab, Chris (2009) The SS: 1923-1945 : 19-20. Amber Books Ltd. ISBN 1906626499
  8. Back to top↑ Koonz, Claudia (2003) The Nazi Conscience : 87. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674011724
  9. Back to top↑ McNab, Chris (2011) The SS : 22.
  10. Back to top↑ Gilbert, Martin (2006) Kristallnacht: prelude to destruction : 42. Harper Collins.
  11. ↑ Jump to:a b Mitcham, Samuel W. (1996) Why Hitler? : 139. Praeger.