Gregor Strasser, the brother of Otto Strasser, was born at Geisenfeld on 31st May, 1892. He 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.
He 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.
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."
Ernst Hanfstaengel has claimed that "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."
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.
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."
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.
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."