Heiden was a Nazi Sturmabteilung (SA) stormtrooper who, in 1923, joined a small bodyguard unit for Adolf Hitler known as the Stoßtrupp (Shock Troop) 'Adolf Hitler'. On 9 November 1923 the Stoßtrupp, along with the SA and several other paramilitary units, took part in the abortive Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. In the aftermath of the putsch both Hitler and other Nazi leaders were incarcerated at Landsberg Prison. The Nazi Party and all associated formations, including the Stoßtrupp, were officially disbanded.
After Hitler's release from prison, the Nazi Party was officially refounded. In 1925, Hitler ordered the formation of a new bodyguard unit, the Schutzkommando (protection command). It was formed by Julius Schreck and included old Stoßtrupp members, Emil Maurice and Heiden. That same year, the Schutzkommando was expanded to a national level. It was renamed successively the Sturmstaffel (storm squadron), and finally the Schutzstaffel, abbreviated to SS (on 9 November). Heiden officially joined the SS in 1925 and was an early advocate of separating the SS from its master organization, the SA.
In March 1927, Joseph Berchtold handed over leadership of the SS to his deputy, Heiden. Berchtold had become disillusioned by the subordination of the SS to the SA. Heiden as Reichsführer-SS found it difficult to function under the weight of the larger and more powerful SA. Under Heiden’s leadership a strict code of discipline was enforced. The intention was to create a small elite group and obtain a higher quality of recruits. The SS declined in membership from 1000 to 280 as the SS continued to struggle under the thumb of the SA. As Heiden attempted to keep the small group from going under, Heinrich Himmler became his deputy in September 1927. Himmler had a great enthusiasm and vision for the SS. Further, Himmler displayed good organisational abilities which Heiden put to work. However, Heiden fell into disgrace after allegations surfaced over Jewish associations. In January 1929 he was dismissed by Adolf Hitler and succeeded by Heinrich Himmler in the position of Reichsführer-SS.[a]
In April 1933 Erhard Heiden was arrested on orders of Heinrich Himmler by members of the SS-Sicherheitsdienst (SD, Security Service) and executed. His corpse was found in September 1933 and he was buried on 15 September 1933.
- At that time Reichsführer-SS was only a titled position, not an actual SS rank (McNab 2009, pp. 18, 29).
- Hamilton, Charles (1984). Leaders & Personalities of the Third Reich, Vol. 1. R. James Bender Publishing. ISBN 0-912138-27-0.
- Lumsden, Robin (2002). A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine — SS. Ian Allan Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-7110-2905-9.
- McNab, Chris (2009). The SS: 1923–1945. Amber Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-906626-49-5.
- Weale, Adrian (2010). The SS: A New History. London: Little, Brown. ISBN 978-1408703045.
|Reich Leader of the SS
1927 – 1929