Peter von Heydebreck
Hans-Adam Otto von Heydebreck (1 July 1889 – 30 June 1934), better known as Peter von Heydebreck, was a German Freikorps, SA leader, and member of the Reichstag. He was shot by the LSSAH during the so-called Röhm Purge.
Early life and education
He was born in Köslin, the second son of the Prussian major general Otto Ernst von Heydebreck (1859–1917) and his wife Edda von Blankenburg (1863–1944). His younger brother was the journalist Otto von Heydebreck.
In his youth Heydebreck was given up for education in the cadet corps in Köslin and Lichterfelde. Then he joined the Prussian Army and came to the 2nd Silesian Jäger Battalion No. 6 in Oels. There he was promoted to lieutenant on June 19, 1908.
Service during World War I
As such, he took part in the World War I with his battalion. A few weeks after the start of the war, on September 26, 1914, he suffered a gunshot wound from a short distance while attacking a French barricade position in the Forest of Argonne, and his left humerus was shattered. As a result, his left upper arm had to be amputated. Later it was repeatedly wrongly assumed that Heydebreck had only lost his arm in free corps battles after the war. Since the stump of the arm became “gangrenous”, further “slices” of the arm had to be cut off again and again later.
After a lengthy stay in the hospital, Heydebreck returned to the front in the spring of 1916: In the following years he was deployed as a company and battalion commander in front of Verdun, in Romania, Italy and on the Somme. In 1917 he was company commander in the Reserve Jäger Battalion No. 6. From January 8, 1918, he represented the commander of the Goslar Reserve Jäger Battalion No. 23 for one month and from April 14, 1918 he was a replacement for the day before by an explosive grenade put out of action Captain Gustav Stoffleth, commander of the Ratzeburg Reserve Jäger Battalion No. 18.
The November Revolution and after
After the end of the war and the outbreak of the November Revolution of 1918, Heydebreck, at that time with the rank of captain, founded the Heydebreck Freikorps named after him from his cycling battalion, a military volunteer association (Freikorps) to take part in the fight against the revolution. Heydebreck fought with his Freikorps in Silesia and Upper Silesia until 1923: During the Polish uprisings in Upper Silesia, organized by Wojciech Korfanty, Heydebreck's Freikorps was deployed together with the Black Reichswehr to put down the unrest. His successes in the fighting on the Battle of Annaberg — storming Kandrzin on June 5, 1921 — during the Polish uprising of 1921 led to him being given the epithet "hero of Annaberg".
In the Reichstag election on May 4, 1924, Heydebreck was nominated as a candidate for the Reichstag by the German Völkisch Freedom Party (DVFP) on their list of candidates (14th place). Heydebreck won the election and was a member of the parliamentary group of the DVFP and the National Socialist Freedom Movement for almost six months, from May to December 1924. He left the Reichstag after the dissolution of parliament in December 1924 and did not run again in the following Reichstag election.
As a member of parliament, Heydebreck enjoyed parliamentary immunity, which protected him from arrest and prosecution for his paramilitary activities against the Weimar Republic. Accordingly, his membership in Heydebreck was only a formality that was of little importance to him: He never spoke up in the plenary and used the premises of the Reichstag for target shooting exercises.
Work in the nationalist movement was Heydebreck's main area of activity even while he was a member of the Reichstag: after Ernst Röhm had founded the Frontbann in the spring of 1924 as a catch-all organization for the banned paramilitary combat units (in particular the SA and the Reich War Flag), Heydebreck also joined the new organization at. On the German Day in mid-August 1924, he was given the leadership of the Central Group (Frontbann Mitte) of this organization, which, however, largely disappeared as early as 1925.
After the re-establishment of the NSDAP in the spring of 1925, Heydebreck joined it in the same year. In 1925, he founded the SA in Upper Silesia. He also took part in the organization of the Upper Silesia Party Gau of the NSDAP.
During the 1920s, Heydebreck also developed a strong alcohol problem: In order to numb the pain of the wound on his arm, which never completely healed, Heydebreck got used to drinking increasing amounts of alcohol every day, which ultimately made him an alcoholic. His friend Ernst von Salomon reported:
Whether every cell of his tissue was so soaked with alcohol that a single schnapps was enough to get him drunk, or whether he was deliberately kept in the state of intoxication, he was almost always drunk and when he was drunk he overwhelmed him a loud disgust for himself. Then he shot in the mirror and yelled: You drunk pig are still alive!
After Ernst Röhm took over the leadership of the SA at the beginning of the 1930s, Heydebreck was also reactivated: With effect from April 1, 1932, he was made available to the staff of the Supreme SA leadership, at the same time being awarded the rank of Standartenführer. After the temporary SA ban in the spring and early summer of 1932, it was again stipulated in Führer's order No. II that Heydebreck should be at the disposal of the OSAF.
After the National Socialists came to power in the spring of 1933, Heydebreck was transferred from OSAF to the staff of SA Upper Group I and transferred to Breslau under Edmund Heines. Heydebreck was promoted to SA Oberführer there on August 20, 1933.
On September 15, 1933, Heydebreck, as Ernst Röhm's old confidante, was entrusted with the management of the SA Group Pomerania (SA Group IV), which in turn was subordinate to SA Upper Group II. On April 20, 1934 helwani was appointed regular leader of the Pomeranian group and at the same time promoted to SA Brigadeführer.
Heydebreck then received a mandate as a member of the National Socialist Reichstag in November 1933. He represented constituency 6 (Pomerania) until his death. After Heydebreck's death, Hermann Harbauer continued his mandate for the remainder of the electoral term that lasted until 1936.
In the early days of NS government, Heydebreck was a highly respected person as a war and volunteer corps hero. Accordingly, he was showered with numerous public honors in 1933 and 1934: In 1933, for example, the council of the Upper Silesian community of Kandrzin decided to change its name to Heydebreck, but the Deutsche Reichsbahn decided to not recognize this renaming at the time. In 1934, the name change was made official by a decree of the Prussian State Ministry, so that on March 16, 1934 the community became legally binding in Heydebreck O.S. was renamed.
Arrest and death
On the morning of June 30, 1934, Heydebreck was arrested and shot as part of the Röhm Purge.
Most versions of events state that Heydebreck was personally arrested by Adolf Hitler on the morning of June 30 on the way to an SA leaders' meeting in Bad Wiessee: Heydebreck's car was stopped by members of the police when it came towards Hitler's motorcade — which had just returned from Wiessee, where Ernst Röhm and several others had been arrested. When Heydebreck answered in the affirmative to Hitler's question whether he was on Röhm's side, Hitler declared him deposed and put him in the back of a bus with the other prisoners. Other versions state that Heydebreck was arrested at Munich Central Station.
Heydebreck was taken to the Stadelheim Prison together with the other prisoners. Together with five other high SA leaders (Hans Hayn, Edmund Heines, Wilhelm Schmid, August Schneidhuber and Hans Erwin von Spreti-Weilbach) he was shot by SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler under Sepp Dietrich in the early evening of the same day. The shooting of the six men — as well as the group leader Karl Ernst who was executed in Berlin — was announced on the evening of June 30, 1934 in special editions of the newspapers and on the radio.
Just a few days before his death, Heydebreck had told the writer Ernst von Salomon:
I live for my leader! The thought of him is the only thing that keeps me going. If I could no longer believe in my leader, then I would rather die!
Heydebreck was posthumously expelled from the SA on July 1, 1934. His position as leader of the SA group Pomerania was transferred in July 1934 to Hans Friedrich, the previous leader of the SA sub-group Pomerania-West.
The city of Heydebreck O.S. kept the name after June 30, 1934, despite his execution and ostracism. Heydebreck O.S. existed until the incorporation of Silesia into the Polish state in 1945.
- Wir Wehr-Wölfe (1931)
- Gustav Stoffleth, Geschichte des Reserve-Jäger-Bataillons Nr.18. Berlin: Verlag Bernard & Graefe (1937).
- Wolfram Selig, "Ermordet im Namen des Führers. Die Opfer des Röhm-Putsches in München." In: Winfried Becker, Werner Chrobak (eds.), Staat, Kultur, Politik. Beiträge zur Geschichte Bayerns und des Katholizismus. Festschrift zum 65. Kallmünz/Opf: Geburtstag von Dieter Albrecht (1992), pp. 341–56.
- Ernst von Salomon, Der Fragebogen (1951), p. 438.
- Helmut Neubach, "Vom Freikorps zur SA. Peter von Heydebreck und seine Erinnerungen «Wir Wehrwölfe»," Oberschlesisches Jahrbuch 20 (2004), pp. 125–49.