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Gregor Strasser

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Gregor Strasser
Bundesarchiv Bild 119-1721, Gregor Strasser.jpg
Strasser in 1928
Gauleiter of Munich & Bayreuth
In office
26 February 1925 – 1 November 1929
Leader Adolf Hitler
Succeeded by Adolf Wagner (Munich)
Hans Schemm (Bayreuth)
Member of the Reichstag
In office
7 December 1924 – 6 November 1932
Constituency Upper Bavaria
Member of the Bavarian Landtag
In office
4 May 1924 – 7 December 1924
Constituency Pfaffenhofen
Personal details
Born (1892-05-31)31 May 1892
Geisenfeld, Bavaria, German Empire
Died 30 June 1934(1934-06-30) (aged 42)
Berlin, Germany
Political party Völkischer Block (1922–1925)
Nazi Party (1925–1930)
Black Front (1930–1934)
Profession Pharmacist
Military service
Allegiance  Germany
 Germany
Service/branch Bavarian Army
Years of service 1914–1919
Rank First lieutenant
Unit Freikorps
Battles/wars World War I
German Revolution
Awards Iron Cross

Gregor Strasser (31 May 1892 – 30 June 1934) was a prominent German Nazi official and politician.

Born in 1892 in Bavaria, Strasser served in World War I in an artillery regiment, rising to the rank of first lieutenant. He joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in 1920 and quickly became an influential and important figure. He took part in the abortive putsch in Munich in 1923 and was imprisoned, but released early on for political reasons.

Strasser joined a revived NSDAP in 1925 and once again established himself as a powerful and dominant member, hugely increasing the party's membership and reputation in northern Germany. Personal and political conflicts with Adolf Hitler led to his death in 1934 during the Night of the Long Knives.

Early life[edit]

Gregor Strasser was born on 31 May 1892 into the family of a Catholic judicial officer who lived in the Upper Bavarian market town of Geisenfeld.[1][2] He grew up alongside his younger brother Otto, who was considered the more intellectual of the two.[3] He attended the local Gymnasium and after his final examinations, served an apprenticeship as a pharmacist in the Lower Bavarian village of Frontenhausen from 1910 until 1914.[2]

World War I[edit]

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, Strasser suspended his studies at Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich to enlist as a volunteer in the German Imperial Army. He served in the 1st Bavarian Field Artillery Regiment, rising to the rank of First Lieutenant and winning the Iron Cross of both classes for bravery.[2][4] In 1918, he resumed his studies at Friedrich-Alexander-University, Erlangen-Nuremberg. He passed his state examination in 1919 and in 1920 started work as a pharmacist in Landshut.[1]

Paramilitary career[edit]

In 1919, Strasser and his brother joined the right-wing Freikorps led by Franz Ritter von Epp. The aim of the group was to suppress Communism in Bavaria. He established and commanded the Sturmbataillon Niederbayern ("Storm Battalion Lower Bavaria"), with the young Heinrich Himmler employed as his adjutant.[2] By March 1920, Strasser's Freikorps was ready to participate in the failed Kapp Putsch, whereas his brother Otto had turned to the left of the political spectrum and helped combat this right-wing coup d'état.[2]

Political career[edit]

Hitler and other top SA officials at a party rally, 1928

Nazi Party activities[edit]

By 1920, Strasser, and his paramilitary group, had joined forces with Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party (NSDAP), another far-right political party seated in Munich.[1][4] During the autumn of 1922, Strasser officially became a member of the Nazi Party and the SA.[3] Strasser's leadership qualities were soon recognized and he was appointed as regional head of the Sturmabteilung ("Storm Detachment"; SA) in Lower Bavaria.[5] In November 1923, he took an active part in the unsuccessful Beer Hall Putsch, a coup attempt by Hitler and Ludendorff against the Weimar Republic. He was tried with other putschists shortly after Hitler's trial, convicted of aiding and abetting high treason on 12 May and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment and a small fine.[6]

After a few weeks Strasser was released because he had been elected a member of the Bavarian Landtag for the Nazi-associated "Völkischer Block" on 6 April and 4 May (in the Palatinate) 1924, respectively.[7] In December 1924 Strasser won a seat for the "völkisch" National Socialist Freedom Movement in the Reichstag. He represented the constituency Westphalia North.[8]

Because Strasser led up to 2,000 men in Landshut and was overworked, he began looking for an assistant.[9] Heinrich Himmler, who obtained the job, was tasked with expanding the organization in Lower Bavaria.[10] After the refoundation of the NSDAP by Adolf Hitler on 26 February 1925, Strasser became the first Gauleiter of Lower Bavaria[11] and Upper Palatinate. After the partition of this Gau, he was Gauleiter of Lower Bavaria from October 1928 until 1929.[12] From September 1926 until the end of December 1927, he was the NSDAP's national leader for propaganda.[13]

Role in NSDAP's national organisation[edit]

In January 1928, Strasser became leader of the NSDAP's national organisation. He reorganised the party's structure, both in its regional formation and its vertical management hierarchy.[14] The party became a strictly centralist organization with the party's own control machinery and high capability for propaganda.[12][15] Through much of 1925 Strasser took full advantage of his liberties as a member of the Reichstag, traveling extensively throughout northern and western Germany appointing Gauleiters, setting up party branches and delivering numerous public speeches.[16]

After 1925, Strasser's organizational skills helped the NSDAP make a big step from a marginal south German splinter party to a nationwide mass party, appealing to the lower classes and their tendency towards nationalism.[12][15] While it received 2.6 per cent of the national vote in the 1928 General Election, it rose to become the second largest party in the Reichstag with 18.3 per cent of the vote in September 1930.[17] Strasser established the NSDAP in northern and western Germany as a strong political association which quickly attained a higher membership than Hitler's southern party section.[12][15] The party's own foreign organization was formed on Strasser's initiative.[18] Together with his brother Otto, Strasser founded the Berlin Kampf-Verlag ("Combat Publishing") in March 1926, which went on to publish, among others, the left leaning weekly newspaper the Berliner Arbeiterzeitung ("Berlin Workers Newspaper").[12][19]

The Strasser brothers advocated an anti-capitalist social revolutionary course for the NSDAP which at the same time was also strongly antisemitic and anti-communist.[15]

Conflicts with Hitler[edit]

The Great Depression greatly impacted Germany and by 1930 there was a dramatic increase in unemployment. During this time, the Strasser brothers started publishing a new daily newspaper in Berlin, the Nationaler Sozialist.[20] Like their other publications, it conveyed the brothers' own brand of Nazism, including nationalism, anti-capitalism, social reform, and anti-Westernism.[21] Goebbels complained vehemently about the rival Strasser newspapers to Hitler, and admitted that their success was causing his own Berlin newspapers to be "pushed to the wall".[22] In late April 1930, Hitler publicly and firmly announced his opposition to Gregor Strasser and appointed Goebbels as Reich leader of NSDAP propaganda. When Hitler visited Goebbels' on 2 May 1930, Goebbels banned the evening edition of the Nationaler Sozialist. Gregor Strasser distanced himself from his brother and relinquished his position as publisher of the Nationaler Sozialist by the end of June, while Otto left the Party at the beginning of July.[23]

In August 1932, Hitler was offered the job of Vice-Chancellor of Germany by then Chancellor Franz von Papen at the behest of President Paul von Hindenburg, but he refused to take it. Hitler saw this offer as placing him in a position of "playing second fiddle" in the government.[24] While many in his inner circle, like Goebbels, saw his resistance as heroic, Strasser was frustrated and believed Hitler was wrong to hold out for the Chancellorship. The ideological and personal rivalry with Hitler worsened dramatically when the successor Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher had discussions with Strasser as to becoming Vice-Chancellor in December 1932.[25] Schleicher hoped to disunite the Nazi Party with Strasser's help and to pull the left wing of the Nazi Party over to his "national conservative" side, so as to prevent a revolution or takeover by Hitler.[12] Hitler was furious and demanded that Strasser refuse Schleicher's offer.[12]

Strasser resigned from his party offices on 8 December 1932.[26] He officially exited politics by renouncing his Reichstag seat in March 1933.[27]

Later life[edit]

The Black Front[edit]

Strasser continued acting as a publicist, as he did before his fall from power. From June 1931 until its ban in February 1933, he published the weekly newspaper Die Schwarze Front ("The Black Front"), named after Otto's Black Front political organisation, which had little impact on contemporaries because of its small circulation.[28]

Death[edit]

Having achieved national power in January 1933, Hitler and the NSDAP began eliminating all forms of opposition in Germany. In what became known as the Night of the Long Knives, the entire SA leadership was purged, which took place from 30 June to 2 July 1934. Hitler, along with other top Nazis, such as Hermann Göring and Himmler targeted Ernst Röhm and other SA leaders who, along with a number of Hitler's political adversaries were rounded up, arrested, and shot by members of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and Gestapo.[29] Among these was Strasser. Whether he was killed on Hitler's personal orders, is not known.[30] He was shot once in a main artery from behind in his cell, but did not die immediately. On the orders of SS general Reinhard Heydrich, Strasser was left to bleed to death which took almost an hour.[31] His brother Otto had emigrated in 1933.[32][33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Evans 2004, p. 202.
  2. ^ a b c d e Wistrich 2013, pp. 246–247.
  3. ^ a b Read 2005, p. 117.
  4. ^ a b Hamilton 1984, p. 347.
  5. ^ Kershaw 2000, p. 270.
  6. ^ Stachura 1983, p. 33.
  7. ^ Read 2005, p. 118.
  8. ^ Stachura 1983, p. 34.
  9. ^ Read 2005, p. 119.
  10. ^ Anna Rosmus, Hitlers Nibelungen, Samples Grafenau 2015, pp. 36f
  11. ^ Read 2005, pp. 123–124.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Nicholls 2000, p. 253.
  13. ^ Stachura 1983, p. 62.
  14. ^ Stachura 1983, pp. 64–65.
  15. ^ a b c d Fulbrook 2015, p. 45.
  16. ^ Read 2005, p. 126.
  17. ^ Fulbrook 2015, p. 44.
  18. ^ Newton 1992, p. 38.
  19. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 100–101.
  20. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 125, 126, 127.
  21. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 200.
  22. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 125, 126.
  23. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 128, 129.
  24. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 233, 234.
  25. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 244, 245.
  26. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 245.
  27. ^ Stachura 1983, p. 121.
  28. ^ Stachura 2014, p. 127.
  29. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 309–314.
  30. ^ Stachura 1983, p. 123.
  31. ^ Read 2005, p. 372.
  32. ^ Nicholls 2000, pp. 253–254.
  33. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 130.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]