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The Sturmabteilung also known as the SA functioned as the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party. It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s. Their main assignments were providing protection for Nazi rallies and assemblies, disrupting the meetings of the opposing parties, fighting against the paramilitary units of the opposing parties (esp. the Rotfrontkämpferbund) and intimidating Jewish citizens (e.g. the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses).
The SA was the first Nazi paramilitary group to develop pseudo-military titles for bestowal upon its members. The SA ranks were adopted by several other Nazi Party groups, chief amongst them the SS, itself originally a branch of the SA. SA men were often called "brownshirts" for the colour of their uniforms (similar to Benito Mussolini's blackshirts). Brown-coloured shirts were chosen as the SA uniform because a large batch of them were cheaply available after World War I, having originally been ordered during the war for colonial troops posted to Germany's former African colonies.
The SA became disempowered after Adolf Hitler ordered the "Blood purge" of 1934. This event became known as the Night of the Long Knives. The SA was effectively superseded by the SS, although it was not formally dissolved and banned until after the Third Reich's final capitulation to the Allied powers in 1945.
- Emil Maurice (1920–1921)
- Hans Ulrich Klintzsche (1921–1923)
- Hermann Göring (1923)
- None (1923–1925)The NSDAP and its organs and instruments (including the Völkischer Beobachter and the SA) were banned in Bavaria (and other parts of Germany) following Hitler's abortive attempt to overthrow the Weimar Republic in the Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923. The Bavarian ban was lifted in February 1925 after Hitler pledged to adhere to legal and constitutional means in his quest for political power. See Verbotzeit.
- Franz Pfeffer von Salomon (1926–1930)
- Adolf Hitler (1930–1945)
In September 1930, to quell the Stennes Revolt and to try to ensure the personal loyalty of the SA to himself, Hitler assumed command of the entire organization and remained Oberster SA-Führer for the remainder of the group's existence to 1945. The day-to-day running of the SA was conducted by the Stabschef-SA (SA Chief of Staff). After Hitler's assumption of the supreme command of the SA, it was the Stabschef-SA who was generally accepted as the Commander of the SA, acting in Hitler's name. The following personnel held the position of Stabschef-SA: