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Street Fighters with Insurance Coverage: The Insurance System of the Nazi Storm Section (Sturmabteilung)

Journal of Historical Sociology

Published online on

Abstract

["Journal of Historical Sociology, EarlyView. ", "\nAbstract\nThe Storm Section (Sturmabteilung, or SA) was organized throughout the Weimar Republic as a paramilitary force entrusted with the ‘fight for the streets’ during the so‐called ‘time of struggle’ (Kampfzeit). To offset the potentially paralyzing effects of activism entailing risks of injury or death, the leaders of the movement devised and implemented an insurance system, which was retained throughout the following years. This insurance system smoothed the way for the most radical uncivility to hold sway without restriction during the final years of the Republic. Starting from late 1926, the National Socialist mechanism for overcoming the barriers to participation in violent activities that could potentially involve a high cost was to introduce an insurance system to facilitate their activists' willingness to ‘sacrifice’ themselves. The visceral anti‐Semitism of the Nazis was central to the negotiations and agreements reached with different insurers. The Nazis introduced an insurance policy for their activists that would cover them while carrying out their obligations as militants in the ‘fight’ against Social Democrats and, more often, Communists. By lowering the potential costs of participation in a high‐risk instance of activism, the insurance system contributed to stoking a ‘latent civil war’ in the German streets during the final years of the Republic. Relaying on archival and other primary sources and looking at them from a collective action perspective, this paper delves into the history of the SA insurance system, as well as on its functions.\n"]