Reviews By Amos

Book review: Stormtrooper Families, written by Andrew Wackerfuss, PhD

I must admit that this is a book I did not. think I would ever see. I am also not to sure that I want to see it now because as a Jewish gay male, I do not want to be lumped into a group of people such as the Nazi stormtroopers. However, history being what it is, I am not surprised that this book came out and now perhaps we have all reached that time in our lives that we can look at something like this objectively even though it may be hard to do. I sat down to read this book and was amazed at the research that Andrew Wackerfuss did in order to produce this book. He has taken archival material,

personnel records, Nazi Party autobiographies, published and unpublished memoirs, personal letters, court records, and police-surveillance records in order to provide a look the stormtrooper movement as “an organic product of its local community, its web of interpersonal relationships, and its intensely emotional internal struggles”. We have seen time and again that homosexuality is a topic for debate and even now with the changing opinions and the new freedoms that the LGBT community has gained, debates still rage regardless of aspect of gay life being spoken about.

Going back to the Nazis, we now know that there was a great deal of debate regarding homosexuality and not only was it important in terms of the actual presence on gay people in the regime but generally so in fascist and antifascist politics.

Stormtroopers witnessed the first German debates over homosexuality and political life. We must not forget that Germany before the rise of Hitler was sexually and it seemed as if everything was ok. Those that later became the stormtroopers had once battled over the definitions of homosexuality and during the Weimar Regime both homosexuality and masculinity took center stage. The other aspect that must be considered was Hitler’s plan to eliminate homosexuals from the world yet the ranks of his soldiers were filled with gay men.

This book chronicles the personal, political, and sexual struggles of the stormtroopers as it explains not only how individual gay men existed within the Nazi movement but also how the public meaning of homosexuality affected fascist and antifascist politics–a public controversy still alive today.

We may wonder why there is still such interest in the stormtroopers and the answer to this is provided by Wackerfuss. It seems to be that the reason is because of a series of strange associations with sexuality, homosexuality and the political meaning of sexual orientations. There was a significant number of people who believed that the stormtroopers rise to power brought them political power and victory but that it also caused their downfall that made permanent the link between sexuality and violence in the politics of the Nazi party. We see here how Nazi sexuality combined with forms of politics connected them to experiences that detracted attention from whatever negative goals that they had.

There is a great deal of information here and it provides for a fascinating read. The author covers his subject wonderfully and it seems to me that he has left no stone unturned. He starts off by giving us a “Stormtrooper Primer” which greatly aids understanding of what is to come in later chapters and what their role was in the Nazi state of Germany as well as how historians have understood them and their role. What is interesting is that the Germans were fanatical record keepers, but until this book came along there was a very small numbers of stormtrooper histories. Here we have both their private and public lives and we see them not only as individual soldiers but also as groups.

Detailed, well informed, and highly readable–an important and most welcome contribution to the still relatively small number of SA histories, and Wackerfuss has undertaken a huge amount of research into local primary sources. I learned here that contrary to what I had always been taught about the Nazis that there was no united front and at times there was serious infighting. I have always thought that those who became stormtroopers did so because of the power that came with the job and I see that was a correct assumption. But what is ever more interesting is that these soldiers felt an allegiance to their Fuhrer, the infamous Adolf Hitler, the one man who felt her had the power to change the course of history. He ultimately did do that but in the way he thought he world and infamy is all that is left of him.

Reviewed by Amos Lassen