Erhard Heiden was an early member of the Nazi Party and the third commander of the Schutzstaffel (SS). Heiden was a Nazi stormtrooper who, in 1925, joined a small stormtrooper bodyguard unit known as the Schutzstaffel. Heiden was an early advocate of separating the SS from its master organization, the Sturmabteilung (SA), and in March 1927 he was appointed as the Reichsführer-SS in an attempt to keep the SS from being disbanded under SA desires.
Under Heiden’s leadership the SS declined in membership from 1,000 to 280, with SA desires made public that the SS should be disbanded. As Heiden attempted to keep the tiny group from going under, he hired a young chicken farmer, named Heinrich Himmler, to serve as his deputy. Heiden regarded Himmler as a “keen young clerk” but did not see him as leadership material. Nevertheless, in 1929, Heiden stepped down as commander of the SS and allowed Himmler to succeed him. He faded into obscurity as the SS grew to unprecedented levels with Heinrich Himmler, who had once been an office clerk under Heiden, became one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany.