The ranks and insignia of the Sturmabteilung (SA) were the first paramilitary rank system to be developed by the Nazi Party in 1920. The titles and phrases used by the SA were eventually adopted by several other Nazi paramilitary groups, among them the Schutzstaffel (SS). Early SS ranks were identical to the SA, since the SS was originally considered a sub-organization of the Sturmabteilung.
The first SA ranks were merely titles with no recognizable insignia. Typically, SA personnel would wear swastika armbands on a variety of paramilitary uniforms. At the start of the group’s existence, the SA had four primary ranks, those being:
In 1925, the SA was re-founded after having been disbanded following the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. At that time, a simple rank insignia structure was developed for display on the collars of the SA’s brown uniforms.
In 1928, the SA had adopted an expanded system of rank titles and began displaying a version of collar insignia consisting of pips and collar bars to denote rank and position. The SA also introduced collar unit insignia, worn opposite the badge of rank, as well as a shoulder strap system to denote an SA member as a trooper, leader, or senior leader.
|SA Rank||Army Equivalent|
In 1932, the year before Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, the SA adopted its final rank and insignia versions which would remain unchanged until the organization ceased to exist at the close of the Second World War.
|SA Rank||Translation||Army Equivalent|
|Stabschef||Chief of Staff||Field Marshal|
|Obergruppenführer||Senior Group Leader||General|
|Gruppenführer||Group Leader||Lieutenant General|
|Brigadeführer||Brigade Leader||Major General|
|Oberführer||Senior Leader||Brigadier General|
|Obersturmbannführer||Senior Storm Unit Leader||Lieutenant Colonel|
|Sturmbannführer||Storm Unit Leader||Major|
|Sturmhauptführer||Chief Storm Leader||Captain|
|Obersturmführer||Senior Storm Leader||First Lieutenant|
|Sturmführer||Storm Leader||Second Lieutenant|
|Haupttruppführer||Chief Troop Leader||Sergeant Major|
|Obertruppführer||Senior Troop Leader||Master Sergeant|
|Truppführer||Troop Leader||Sergeant First Class|
|Oberscharführer||Senior Squad Leader||Staff Sergeant|
|Sturmmann||Storm Trooper||Lance-Corporal/Private First Class|
The SA used uniform colors and collar patches to denote an SA member's unit ranging from the Sturmbann and Standarten level (Battalion and Regiment) to the SA-Gruppen (SA Division) to which an SA member belonged. From those ranking Obersturmbannführer and below, a unit collar patch was worn on the right collar, opposite the badge of the rank. The patch typically displayed a member’s battalion number followed by their regiment number. Variations to this system occurred if an SA member was assigned to a headquarters staff or some other special branch of the SA.
All SA members wore various uniform colors to indicate in which SA Division a member belonged. The following was the 1944 color scheme of SA uniforms:
Prior to 1932, when the Schutzstaffel wore the same uniform as the SA, black uniform colors also indicated membership in the SS.