SA Stormtroopers Found Guilty of Murder of Alleged Communist in Potempa Hot

SA Stormtroopers Found Guilty of Murder of Alleged Communist in Potempa

SA Stormtroopers Marching, 1923

Potempa Murder: In Beuthen, Germany, the trial of the SA stormtroopers accused of murdering Konrad Pietrzuch ends in a guilty verdict; five of the nine are sentenced to death.

The court erupts into a near riot when the sentence is announced, and brown-shirted Nazis go on a rampage in Beuthen, smashing the windows of Jewish shops and trashing the offices of any liberal or leftist political group.

Pietrzuch, an unemployed laborer living in Potempa, Upper Silesia, was beaten to death in front of his mother less than two weeks ago. There is some evidence that the SA members might have had a personal grudge against him, but the fact that he was a communist or at least a communist sympathizer was probably a primary motivation.

The murder of Pietrzuch occurred mere hours after Franz von Papen issued two decrees to combat terrorism, one of which imposed a death sentence for anyone found guilty of murdering a political opponent. This was the context of the trial, and it puts Adolf Hitler at odds with Franz von Papen.

Hitler condemns the guilty verdict as well as the sentence, but Papen cannot easily join him without looking weak — they stormtroopers were, after all, convicted under a decree he issued. On the other hand, executing them will probably lead to a massive backlash from the Nazis — a backlash that could become a civil war.

This now becomes a significant point of contention in the debates between Hitler, Papen, and President Paul von Hindenburg over the extent of Nazi participation in the German government.

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