Gregor Strasser

Timofei Mikhailov

Gregor Strasser, the brother of Otto Strasser, was born at Geisenfeld on 31st May, 1892.

Strasser joined the German Army and during the First World War he advanced to the rank of lieutenant and won the Iron Cross (First and Second Classes) for bravery.

Strasser was a member of the Freikorps before joining the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). He took part in the Beer Hall Putsch and after its failure was briefly imprisoned. On his release he sold his apothecary shop and used the money to devote himself wholly to the party.

Gregor Strasser moved to North Germany where he quickly became one of the most important figures in Sturm Abteilung (SA). He developed a large following and became leader of the revolutionary wing of the NSDAP. Strasser was a committed socialist who believed in "undiluted socialist principles". Like Ernst Roehm, opposed Hitler's policy of trying to win the support of the country's major industrialists. His outspoken views caused a deep rift with Hitler and other leaders of the party.

Gregor Strasser and the NSDAP

In 1924 he joined forces with his brother, Otto Strasser, to establish the Berliner Arbeiter Zeitung, a left-wing newspaper, that advocated world revolution. It also supported Lenin and the Bolshevik government in the Soviet Union. Later that year, Strasser was elected to the Bavarian Legislature. His biographer, Louis L. Snyder, has argued: "In this capacity he proved to be an able organizer, an indefatigable if weak speaker, a shrewd politician, and a lover of action.... Using his parliamentary immunity to protect him from libel suits and holding a free railway pass, he turned his energy to seeking the highest post in the National Socialist Party. He would push Hitler aside and replace him. Strasser regarded himself as a proud intellectual who had far more to offer the party than the emotional and unstable Hitler."

In one speech Strasser argued: "The rise of National Socialism is the protest of a people against a State that denies the right to work. If the machinery for distribution in the present economic system of the world is incapable of properly distributing the productive wealth of nations, then that system is false and must be altered. The important part of the present development is the anti-capitalist sentiment that is permeating our people."

Hitler and Gregor Strasser

Ernst Hanfstaengel has claimed that Adolf Hitler was deeply jealous of Gregor Strasser. "He was the one potential indeed actual rival within the party. He had made the Rhineland his fief. I remember during one tour through the Ruhr towns seeing Strasser's name plastered up against the wall of every railway underpass. He was obviously quite a figure in the land. Hitler looked away."

Rudolf Olden, the author of Hitler the Pawn (1936) has pointed out: "Gregor Strasser, a chemist of Landshut in Bavaria, had borne the brunt of the agitation in North Germany.... In one year he made one hundred and eighty speeches and was for a long time better known and respected than Hitler among the volkisch groups on the further side of the Main. He had sold his pharmacy and invested his capital in politics. The first National Socialist papers that appeared in Berlin were started with his money. Strasser was a useful helper, but an awkward subordinate. He considered himself a Socialist, although his Socialism was little else than Bavarian self-assurance... At one time something that looked very much like a conflict of opposing schools of thought existed in the National Socialist Party."

On 14th February, 1926, at the NSDAP annual conference, Strasser called for the destruction of capitalism in any way possible, including cooperation with the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union. At the conference Joseph Goebbels supported Strasser but once he realised the majority supported Adolf Hitler over Strasser, he changed sides. From this point on Strasser began to call Goebbels "the scheming dwarf".

Hitler was deeply jealous of Gregor Strasser. He was the one potential indeed actual rival within the party. He had made the Rhineland his fief. I remember during one tour through the Ruhr towns seeing Strasser's name plastered up against the wall of every railway underpass. He was obviously quite a figure in the land. Hitler looked away. There was no comment about "Strasser seems to be doing well", or any approving sign.

Gregor Strasser forced to Resign

In December 1932, Paul von Hindenburg invited Kurt von Schleicher to become chancellor and invited Strasser to be his deputy. Ernst Hanfstaengel has pointed out: "His plan was to split off the Strasser wing of the Nazi Party in a final effort to find a majority with the Weimar Socialists and Centre. The idea was by no means so ill-conceived and amidst the momentary demoralization and monetary confusion in the Nazi ranks, very nearly came off." Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering challenged the move claiming it was an attempt to create a split in the NSDAP.

In order to maintain party unity Strasser resigned all party positions and found work in a large chemical firm. He told a friend: "Dr. Martin, I am a man marked by death. We shall not be able to go on seeing each other for long and in your own interests I suggest you do not come here any more. Whatever happens, mark what I say: From now on Germany is in the hands of an Austrian who is a congenital liar, a former officer who is a pervert, and a clubfoot. And I tell you the last is the worst of them all. This is Satan in human form."

Night of the Long Knives

In 1933 Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. Industrialists such as Albert Voegler, Gustav Krupp, Alfried Krupp, Fritz Thyssen and Emile Kirdorf, who had provided the funds for the Nazi victory, were unhappy with people such as Strasser and Ernst Roehm, who argued that the real revolution had still to take place. Many people in the party also disapproved of the fact that Roehm and many other leaders of the SA were homosexuals.

On 29th June, 1934. Hitler, accompanied by the Schutzstaffel (SS), arrived at Bad Wiesse, where he personally arrested Ernst Roehm. During the next 24 hours 200 other senior SA officers were arrested on the way to the meeting. Erich Kempka, Hitler's chauffeur, witnessed what happened: "Hitler entered Roehm's bedroom alone with a whip in his hand. Behind him were two detectives with pistols at the ready. He spat out the words; Roehm, you are under arrest. Roehm's doctor comes out of a room and to our surprise he has his wife with him. I hear Lutze putting in a good word for him with Hitler. Then Hitler walks up to him, greets him, shakes hand with his wife and asks them to leave the hotel, it isn't a pleasant place for them to stay in, that day. Now the bus arrives. Quickly, the SA leaders are collected from the laundry room and walk past Roehm under police guard. Roehm looks up from his coffee sadly and waves to them in a melancholy way. At last Roehm too is led from the hotel. He walks past Hitler with his head bowed, completely apathetic."

A large number of the SA officers were shot as soon as they were captured but Adolf Hitler decided to pardon Roehm because of his past services to the movement. However, after much pressure from Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler, Hitler agreed that Roehm should die. At first Hitler insisted that Roehm should be allowed to commit suicide but, when he refused, Ernst Roehm was killed by two SS men.

Death of Gregor Strasser

On 30th June 1934 Gregor Strasser was arrested by the Gestapo as part of the purge of the socialists. He was taken to Gestapo Headquarters where he was shot in the back of the head. The purge of the SA was kept secret until it was announced by Hitler on 13th July. It was during this speech that Hitler gave the purge its name: Night of the Long Knives (a phrase from a popular Nazi song). Hitler claimed that 61 had been executed while 13 had been shot resisting arrest and three had committed suicide. Others have argued that as many as 400 people were killed during the purge. In his speech Hitler explained why he had not relied on the courts to deal with the conspirators: "In this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people, and thereby I become the supreme judge of the German people. I gave the order to shoot the ringleaders in this treason."


Primary Sources

(1) Gregor Strasser, speech in the Reichstag (May, 1934)

The rise of National Socialism is the protest of a people against a State that denies the right to work. If the machinery for distribution in the present economic system of the world is incapable of properly distributing the productive wealth of nations, then that system is false and must be altered. The important part of the present development is the anti-capitalist sentiment that is permeating our people.

(2) Ernst Hanfstaengel, Hitler: The Missing Years (1957)

Hitler was deeply jealous of Gregor Strasser. He was the one potential indeed actual rival within the party. He had made the Rhineland his fief. I remember during one tour through the Ruhr towns seeing Strasser's name plastered up against the wall of every railway underpass. He was obviously quite a figure in the land. Hitler looked away. There was no comment about "Strasser seems to be doing well", or any approving sign.

November brought Reichstag elections again, but in spite of a frenzied campaign, the Nazis lost ground. Their representation was reduced to 196, and it was at this point that Schleicher became Chancellor, to exercise the power he had so long controlled from the wings. His plan was to split off the Strasser wing of the Nazi Party in a final effort to find a majority with the Weimar Socialists and Centre. The idea was by no means so ill-conceived and amidst the momentary demoralization and monetary confusion in the Nazi ranks, very nearly came off. With the failure came the final break between Hitler and Strasser, who, two years later, paid for this disloyalty with his head.

(3) Rudolf Olden, Hitler the Pawn (1936)

Gregor Strasser, a chemist of Landshut in Bavaria, had borne the brunt of the agitation in North Germany. Even during Hitler's detention in the fortress he had made contacts in the North. An untiring worker, he made ample use of the free railway pass which he enjoyed as a member of the Reichstag, and travelled from place to place, appealing and collecting. In one year he made one hundred and eighty speeches and was for a long time better known and respected than Hitler among the volkisch groups on the further side of the Main. He had sold his pharmacy and invested his capital in politics. The first National Socialist papers that appeared in Berlin were started with his money.
Strasser was a useful helper, but an awkward subordinate. He considered himself a Socialist, although his Socialism was little else than Bavarian self-assurance and middle-class aversion to the "big noises." At one time something that looked very much like a conflict of opposing schools of thought existed in the National Socialist Party...

Strasser had discovered and brought out Dr. Goebbels, an unsuccessful writer. It was as Strasser's Socialist confederate that he first approached Hitler, and, immediately understanding on which side the balance of power was tipped, he went with colours flying over to the stronger battalions. Against his glowing ambitions, he had to set the obstacles nature had placed in his way. A dwarf, with a club foot and the dark, wrinkled face of a seven-months child-what had he to look for in circles where blond Nordic heroes were worshipped and idolised? The head of the Party publishing house, Amann, called him " the Mephisto of the Party, branded by God with a cloven foot." But the little man was clever, adaptable and tough, and so he succeeded in making his way.

It is possible that he really admires Hitler as his ideal, for he shares his most prominent quality: the instinct for power. However, it was certainly not admiration but downright policy that made him write to Hitler: "Before the Court in Munich, you grew in our minds to the stature of a leader. The words you spoke there were the greatest uttered in Germany since Bismarck... It is the catechism of a new political faith, in the desperation of a crumbling, God-bereft world... Like every great leader, you grew with your task; you grew great as your task grew greater, until you became a miracle."

Hitler was far too receptive to flattery not to recognise the talents of the young doctor. He made Goebbels his district leader in Berlin. He deprived Strasser of the province he himself had founded, appointed him "Director of Organisation for the Reich" and kept him under his eye. Rohm's affectionate friendship for Hitler survived the meanest treatment unscathed; Gregor Strasser likewise, in spite of all their differences, remained firm in his personal devotion to the Leader.

At the Party Congress which followed the alliance with Hugenberg, Strasser made himself the mouthpiece of the critics. Hugenberg's hopes of the alliance were his fears: the National Socialists would now no longer be able to fight against the "respectable" elements in the German Nationalist reaction; they would be overwhelmed by the others' superior financial strength; they would now be nothing but an appendage of the stronger party. He under-estimated Hitler. A man who, like an hysterical child, is only really alive when he is in the centre of the picture, does not easily become an "appendage." He did not understand Hitler either. He took the support of the masses for an end in itself. But Hitler thought of it only as the dowry he would contribute to the match he had at last arranged.

(4) On 9th December, 1932, Gregor Strasser talked to his old friend Dr. Martin, about Adolf Hitler, Ernst Roehm and Joseph Goebbels.

Dr. Martin, I am a man marked by death. We shall not be able to go on seeing each other for long and in your own interests I suggest you do not come here any more. Whatever happens, mark what I say: From now on Germany is in the hands of an Austrian who is a congenital liar, a former officer who is a pervert, and a clubfoot. And I tell you the last is the worst of them all. This is Satan in human form.