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Mind, power and violence. Heinrich Bennecke and the SA – a German career in the 20th century

Research field:Dictatorship Research
Research focus: Saxony during National Socialism
Period: 01.2020–12.2025
Coordination: Prof. Dr. Mike Schmeitzner


The project focuses on SA Obergruppenführer (General), National Socialist multi-functionary and historian Heinrich Bennecke (1902-1972), who shaped the image of brown-shirted militants in two ways: as one of its leading representatives in Saxony and in the Reich through 1945 and as one of the most influential moulders of history in the early Federal Republic. The first part of Mike Schmeitzner’s study concerns Bennecke’s life: it begins with his upper-class Dresden roots and the impact of his Freikorps activities on his life following the First World War. Fundamental to his rapid Nazi career, however, was the time spent in Munich: as a co-founder of the SA and full-time SA officer, he played a leading role in Hitler’s Putsch of 1923. Following his subsequent expulsion, he studied and received his doctorate in Leipzig, where he played a leading role in the Nazi Student League and the SA. From 1929 in Dresden as SA Führer, a member of the state parliament, editor in chief and chief press officer for the Gau he became one of the principal protagonists of the Nazi movement. This SA intellectual survived the ‘RöhmPutsch’ in key positions (as head of ‘SA Higher Education’ and the ‘SA Reichsführerschule’in Munich), and after 1945 advanced to one of the most influential interpreters of the history of the SA and political radicalism. The study will accordingly investigate how Bennecke managed to elude denazification and legal responsibility to later pursue his research on Nazi militancy and political radicalism in the inter-war period as an affiliate of the Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ) and the Bavarian School of Public Policy. In addition, the study will discuss the reception of Bennecke’s works and the range of historical images contained therein that not only in his time but up to the present have found their way into both the professional world and journalism.