Night of the Long Knives (ePub)
Hitler's Excision of Rohm's SA Brownshirts, 30 June–2 July 1934
In the summer of 1934 Adolf Hitler planned and conducted the most ruthless purge of his thirteen-year period as leader of Germany. The victims were not political opponents but friends, colleagues and fellow fascists who had helped the Nazi Party in its rise to power.
The Night of the Long Knives broke the back and the will of the Sturmabteilung, the SA, the brawling street thugs who had bludgeoned political opposition into submission. The SA’s ruthless bullyboy tactics played no small part in Hitler’s establishment of a dictatorship that was to influence affairs in Germany – and the world – throughout the 1930s and beyond.
In some respects the purge was inevitable. Hitler had to eliminate all potential rivals if he was to consolidate his position of power. And that meant that friends like Ernst Röhm, former German Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher, and even former party comrades like Gregor Strasser were summarily shot without trial. Above all it was the SA that the army, the industrialists and, more than anyone else, Adolf Hitler feared. Röhm enjoyed a popularity that almost rivalled Hitler’s and so he had to go.
It was also an opportunity to settle personal scores. The Night of the Long Knives was a cull that eliminated somewhere between 300 and a thousand victims, the exact number has never been clear, many of them innocent of any intention to rival Hitler. It remains one of the most significant killings of modern times.
The thugs of Ernst Röhm's Sturmabteilung had played their part in helping the Nazi Party to power in 1933, but soon became a threat to their retention of it and to Hitler's position as leader. On the 30th June 1934, the Gestapo and SS ruthlessly purged the SA leadership in a night of bloody terror which ended with Röhm and hundreds of others dead. This book explores how the members of the SA, who had expected to be rewarded for their years of brutality after Hitler's ascension yet saw no change in their situation, were unable to curb their excesses and became a liability to the party. It also examines the complex relationship between Hitler and Röhm who, despite rumours of a coup apparently remained his loyal friend to the end, yet was oblivious of the threat posed by his considerable popularity and dangerous ambitions to take control of the Wehrmacht. Other key personalities who fell foul of Hitler on that night are also discussed, as are those who had no connection to the SA but had been a thorn in the party's side and so were simply disposed of at this convenient time. The book concludes with the future of the severely chastened SA, and the immediate aftermath of the killings when the Nazi leadership, far from being shy about what they had done before the world, were quite euphoric.Pegasus Archive
Read the full review here