1934: Night of the Long Knives in Hitler’s Germany

1934: Night of the Long Knives in Hitler’s Germany
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/ „Bundesarchiv Bild 102-15282A, Ernst Röhm“ von Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-15282A / o.Ang. / CC-BY-SA. Lizenziert unter CC BY-SA 3.0 de über Wikimedia Commons.

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 30 June 1934
  • The Gestapo and SS conducted a bloody liquidation of Hitler's political rivals and opponents. Everybody from radical "brownshirts" to peaceful Catholics was attacked.

On this day one of the most famous episodes in the history of Nazism took place. 

Namely, Hitler purged the Nazi Party of his competitors. The so-called “brownshirts” i.e. members of Storm Detachment (Sturmabteilung – SA) were targeted in particular.

Their leader, Ernst Röhm, was Hitler’s rival who believed that the Nazis must carry out a “social” revolution, i.e. redistribution of wealth between rich and poor. Hitler opposed this leftist radicalism and disliked Röhm’s ambition and growing independence and arrogance of the SA members.

Specifically, “brownshirts” committed violence on the streets of Germany and Röhm even want to integrate the entire German army within the SA. To placate members of the German army who despised SA, Hitler decided to deal with Röhm and his “brownshirts”.

On this day, Hitler flew to Munich and personally had Röhm arrested. Röhm’s deputy, who was, according to the words of Hitler’s driver, caught in bed with an 18-year-old boy, was also arrested. Hitler personally entered the room and ordered for the Röhm’s deputy and the young man to be carried out and executed.

SS-members offered Röhm a pistol while he was in prison and told him he had ten minutes to kill himself or they would do it for him. He replied: “If I am to be killed, let Adolf do it himself.”

When the SS-members returned 10 minutes later, Röhm defiantly bared his chest. They shot him on the spot. Not only members of the SA were targeted. Hitler ordered the liquidation of other critics of his regime.

Thus, the Gestapo entered the office of Erich Klausener, the leader of Catholic Action (Catholics opposed the Nazi regime), and shot him dead at his desk.

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