A hero of the World War One, Ernst Rohm was a highly decorated soldier who was wounded twice during his years in the trenches. He was awarded Iron Cross First Class and ended the war as a captain. His first wound left him a large scar on his face, something he was extremely proud of.
Just before the war ended, Rohm contracted Spanish Influenza, a virus that killed millions around the globe. Remarkably, against all odds, Rohm survived the illness. After the war, he remained in German Army and helped extinguish the Munich Soviet Republic as well as several other communist uprisings.
In 1919, he joined German Workers’ Party, which would become National Socialist German Workers Party or the Nazi Party the following year. It was then he met Adolph Hitler and the two became very close friends and political allies. On November 9th, 1923, Hitler and Rohm were among the main organizers of the Beer Hall Putsch, which failed and they were arrested, together with other conspiracy leaders. Rohm only got a suspended sentence, while Hitler spent nine months in prison.
In 1925, they had a falling out over the future shape of Rohm’s infamous SA or Sturmabteilung. Rohm, angered by his friend, resigned all his party and public positions and spent the next three years living in seclusion. Tired of waiting for the revolution to come, he left Germany and went to South America. He took a position of an adviser in the Bolivian Army in 1928.
In 1930, Hitler called Ernst back to Germany, in preparation for his ascent to power. Rohm accepted and became SA’s new chief of staff, a position he used to reorganize the organization and fill it with his close friends. His relationship with Hitler was mended, and they continued to be close friends, with Rohm being the only person in Germany allowed to call the leader Adolph or even Adi, instead of Mein Fuhrer.
Even after 1933 and Hitler’s appointment as the Reich Chancellor, Rohm continued to push for National Socialist revolution. Soon, he clashed with Hitler again, but this time he had a full might of SA behind him. Among the senior Nazi party leadership, he was considered a grave threat and Hitler was forced to deal with him. Even the German president Hindenburg was pressuring him to resolve “the Rohm situation.”
In the series of events that would later become known as The Night of the Long Knives, on June 30th, 1934, Hitler used SS (until then a detachment of SA), German police and even some army units to eliminate the entire SA leadership and kill a majority of its senior leaders. Rohm was arrested and placed in prison. Hitler was reluctant to order his death, but finally caved in under pressure and offered him a suicide. Rohm refused and was killed in his cell by Theodor Eicke and Michael Lippert. Lippert was trialed for his part in Rohm assassination in 1957 and sentenced to 18 months in prison.