In 1921 Hitler set up a group within the NSDAP that would protect his political meetings from attacks by rivals. It gave a military look, feel and discipline to the party. This group was known as the ‘stormtroopers’ (Sturm Abteilung – SA) or ‘Brownshirts’.
Many members of the SA were former soldiers unemployed since the end of the war. As the SA grew in size, rather than simply protecting Hitler and Nazi meetings from opponents, they began to disrupt the meetings of rival political groups.
As the Nazi Party grew in size and power the SA gained a reputation for violence. This polarised people. Some were repelled, but others were attracted by the unifiorm, organisation and discipline.
During the 1920s and early 1930s the SA were very important to Hitler; not just as protection, but also as a source of labour delivering propaganda leaflets and supporting the party's campaigns.