The Night of the Long Knives (German: Nacht der langen Messer (help·info)), or the Röhm Purge, also called Operation Hummingbird (German: Unternehmen Kolibri), was a purge that took place in Nazi Germany from June 30 to July 2, 1934, when Adolf Hitler, urged on by Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler, ordered a series of political extrajudicial executions intended to consolidate his hold on power in Germany, as well as to alleviate the concerns of the German military about the role of Ernst Röhm and the Sturmabteilung (SA), the Nazis' own mass paramilitary organization. Nazi propaganda presented the murders as a preventive measure against an alleged imminent coup by the SA under Röhm – the so-called Röhm Putsch.
The primary instruments of Hitler's action, who carried out most of the killings, were the Schutzstaffel (SS) paramilitary force under Himmler and its Security Service (SD) under Reinhard Heydrich, and the Gestapo, the secret police, under Göring. Göring's personal police battalion also took part in the killings. Many of those killed in the purge were leaders of the SA, the best-known being Röhm himself, the SA's chief of staff and one of Hitler's longtime supporters and allies. Leading members of the leftist-leaning Strasserist faction of the Nazi Party, including its figurehead, Gregor Strasser, were also killed, as were establishment conservatives and anti-Nazis, such as former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher and Bavarian politician Gustav Ritter von Kahr, who had suppressed Hitler's Munich Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. The murders of SA leaders were also intended to improve the image of the Hitler government with a German public that was increasingly critical of thuggish SA tactics.
Hitler saw the independence of the SA and the penchant of its members for street violence as a direct threat to his newly gained political power. He also wanted to conciliate leaders of the Reichswehr, the German military, who feared and despised the SA as a potential rival, in particular because of Röhm's ambition to merge the army and the SA under his own leadership. Additionally, Hitler was uncomfortable with Röhm's outspoken support for a "second revolution" to redistribute wealth. In Röhm's view, President Hindenburg's appointment of Hitler as Chancellor on January 30, 1933 had brought the Nazi Party to power, but had left unfulfilled the party's larger goals. Finally, Hitler used the purge to attack or eliminate German critics of his new regime, especially those loyal to Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen, as well as to settle scores with old enemies.[a]
At least 85 people died during the purge, although the final death toll may have been in the hundreds,[b][c][d] with high estimates running from 700 to 1,000. More than a thousand perceived opponents were arrested. The purge strengthened and consolidated the support of the Wehrmacht for Hitler. It also provided a legal grounding for the Nazi regime, as the German courts and cabinet quickly swept aside centuries of legal prohibition against extrajudicial killings to demonstrate their loyalty to the regime. The Night of the Long Knives was a turning point for the German government. It established Hitler as the supreme administrator of justice of the German people, as he put it in his July 13 speech to the Reichstag.
Before its execution, its planners sometimes referred to the purge as Hummingbird (German: Kolibri), the codeword used to send the execution squads into action on the day of the purge. The codename for the operation appears to have been chosen arbitrarily. The phrase "Night of the Long Knives" in the German language predates the killings and refers generally to acts of vengeance.
|Night of the Long Knives|
|Native name||Unternehmen Kolibri|
|Duration||June 30 – July 2, 1934|
|Also known as||Operation Hummingbird, Röhm Putsch (by the Nazis), The Blood Purge|
|Officially 85; estimates range up to 1,000.|
President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor on January 30, 1933.[e] Over the next few months, during the so-called Gleichschaltung, Hitler dispensed with the need for the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic as a legislative body[f] and eliminated all rival political parties in Germany, so that by the middle of 1933 the country had become a one-party state under his direction and control. Hitler did not exercise absolute power, however, despite his swift consolidation of political authority. As chancellor, Hitler did not command the army, which remained under the formal leadership of Hindenburg, a highly respected veteran field marshal. While many officers were impressed by Hitler's promises of an expanded army, a return to conscription, and a more aggressive foreign policy, the army continued to guard its traditions of independence during the early years of the Nazi regime.
To a lesser extent, the Sturmabteilung (SA), a Nazi paramilitary organisation, remained somewhat autonomous within the party. The SA evolved out of the remnants of the Freikorps movement of the post-World War I years. The Freikorps were nationalistic organisations primarily composed of disaffected, disenchanted, and angry German combat veterans founded by the government in January 1919 to deal with the threat of a Communist revolution when it appeared that there was a lack of loyal troops. A very large number of the Freikorps believed that the November Revolution had betrayed them when Germany was alleged to be on the verge of victory in 1918. Hence, the Freikorps were in opposition to the new Weimar Republic, which was born as a result of the November Revolution, and whose founders were contemptuously called "November criminals". Captain Ernst Röhm of the Reichswehr served as the liaison with the Bavarian Freikorps. Röhm was given the nickname "The Machine Gun King of Bavaria" in the early 1920s, since he was responsible for storing and issuing illegal machine guns to the Bavarian Freikorps units. Röhm left the Reichswehr in 1923 and later became commander of the SA. During the 1920s and 1930s, the SA functioned as a private militia used by Hitler to intimidate rivals and disrupt the meetings of competing political parties, especially those of the Social Democrats and the Communists. Also known as the "brownshirts" or "stormtroopers," the SA became notorious for their street battles with the Communists. The violent confrontations between the two contributed to the destabilisation of Germany's inter-war experiment with democracy, the Weimar Republic. In June 1932, one of the worst months of political violence, there were more than 400 street battles, resulting in 82 deaths.
Hitler's appointment as chancellor, followed by the suppression of all political parties except the Nazis, did not end the violence of the stormtroopers. Deprived of Communist party meetings to disrupt, the stormtroopers would sometimes run riot in the streets after a night of drinking; they would attack passers-by and then attack the police who were called to stop them. Complaints of "overbearing and loutish" behaviour by stormtroopers became common by the middle of 1933. The Foreign Office even complained of instances where brownshirts manhandled foreign diplomats.
Hitler's move would be to strengthen his position with the army by moving against its nemesis, the SA. On July 6, 1933, at a gathering of high-ranking Nazi officials, Hitler declared the success of the National Socialist, or Nazi, brown revolution. Now that the NSDAP had seized the reins of power in Germany, he said, it was time to consolidate its control. Hitler told the gathered officials, "The stream of revolution has been undammed, but it must be channelled into the secure bed of evolution."
Hitler's speech signalled his intention to rein in the SA, whose ranks had grown rapidly in the early 1930s. This would not prove to be simple, however, as the SA made up a large part of Nazism's most devoted followers. The SA traced its dramatic rise in numbers in part to the onset of the Great Depression, when many German citizens lost both their jobs and their faith in traditional institutions. While Nazism was not exclusively – or even primarily – a working class phenomenon, the SA fulfilled the yearning of many unemployed workers for class solidarity and nationalist fervour.[g] Many stormtroopers believed in the socialist promise of National Socialism and expected the Nazi regime to take more radical economic action, such as breaking up the vast landed estates of the aristocracy. When the Nazi regime did not take such steps, those who had expected an economic as well as a political revolution were disillusioned.[h]
No one in the SA spoke more loudly for "a continuation of the German revolution" (as one prominent stormtrooper put it) than Röhm.[i] Röhm, as one of the earliest members of the Nazi Party, had participated in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, an attempt by Hitler to seize power by force in 1923. A combat veteran of World War I, Röhm had recently boasted that he would execute 12 men in retaliation for the killing of any stormtrooper. Röhm saw violence as a means to political ends. He took seriously the socialist promise of National Socialism, and demanded that Hitler and the other party leaders initiate wide-ranging socialist reform in Germany.
Not content solely with the leadership of the SA, Röhm lobbied Hitler to appoint him Minister of Defence, a position held by the conservative General Werner von Blomberg. Although nicknamed the "Rubber Lion" by some of his critics in the army for his devotion to Hitler, Blomberg was not a Nazi, and therefore represented a bridge between the army and the party. Blomberg and many of his fellow officers were recruited from the Prussian nobility, and regarded the SA as a plebeian rabble that threatened the army's traditional high status in German society.
If the regular army showed contempt for the masses belonging to the SA, many stormtroopers returned the feeling, seeing the army as insufficiently committed to the National Socialist revolution. Max Heydebreck, an SA leader in Rummelsburg, denounced the army to his fellow brownshirts, telling them, "Some of the officers of the army are swine. Most officers are too old and have to be replaced by young ones. We want to wait till Papa Hindenburg is dead, and then the SA will march against the army."
Despite such hostility between the brownshirts and the regular army, Blomberg and others in the military saw the SA as a source of raw recruits for an enlarged and revitalised army. Röhm, however, wanted to eliminate the generalship of the Prussian aristocracy altogether, using the SA to become the core of a new German military. With the army limited by the Treaty of Versailles to one hundred thousand soldiers, its leaders watched anxiously as membership in the SA surpassed three million men by the beginning of 1934. In January 1934, Röhm presented Blomberg with a memorandum demanding that the SA replace the regular army as the nation's ground forces, and that the Reichswehr become a training adjunct to the SA.
In response, Hitler met Blomberg and the leadership of the SA and SS on February 28, 1934. Under pressure from Hitler, Röhm reluctantly signed a pledge stating that he recognised the supremacy of the Reichswehr over the SA. Hitler announced to those present that the SA would act as an auxiliary to the Reichswehr, not the other way around. After Hitler and most of the army officers had left, however, Röhm declared that he would not take instructions from "the ridiculous corporal" – a demeaning reference to Hitler. While Hitler did not take immediate action against Röhm for his intemperate outburst, it nonetheless deepened the rift between them.
Despite his earlier agreement with Hitler, Röhm still clung to his vision of a new German army with the SA at its core. By early 1934, this vision directly conflicted with Hitler's plan to consolidate power and expand the Reichswehr. Because their plans for the army conflicted, Röhm's success could come only at Hitler's expense. Moreover, it was not just the Reichswehr that viewed the SA as a threat. Several of Hitler's lieutenants feared Röhm's growing power and restlessness, as did Hitler. As a result, a political struggle within the party grew, with those closest to Hitler, including Prussian premier Hermann Göring, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, and Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess, positioning themselves against Röhm. While all of these men were veterans of the Nazi movement, only Röhm continued to demonstrate his independence from, rather than his loyalty to, Adolf Hitler. Röhm's contempt for the party's bureaucracy angered Hess. SA violence in Prussia gravely concerned Göring, Minister-President of Prussia. Finally in the spring of 1934, the growing rift between Röhm and Hitler over the role of the SA in the Nazi state led the former Chancellor, General Kurt von Schleicher, to start playing politics again. Schleicher criticised the current Hitler cabinet while some of Schleicher's followers such as General Ferdinand von Bredow and Werner von Alvensleben started passing along lists of a new Hitler Cabinet in which Schleicher would become Vice-Chancellor, Röhm Minister of Defence, Heinrich Brüning Foreign Minister and Gregor Strasser Minister of National Economy. The British historian Sir John Wheeler-Bennett, who knew Schleicher and his circle well, wrote that Bredow displayed a "lack of discretion" that was "terrifying" as he went about showing the list of the proposed cabinet to anyone who was interested. Although Schleicher was in fact unimportant by 1934, increasingly wild rumours that he was scheming with Röhm to reenter the corridors of power helped stoke the sense of crisis.
As a means of isolating Röhm, on April 20, 1934, Göring transferred control of the Prussian political police (Gestapo) to Himmler, who, Göring believed, could be counted on to move against Röhm. Himmler envied the independence and power of the SA, although by this time he and his deputy Reinhard Heydrich had already begun restructuring the SS from a bodyguard formation for Nazi leaders (and a subset of the SA) into its own independent elite corps, one loyal to both himself and Hitler. The loyalty of the SS men would prove useful to both when Hitler finally chose to move against Röhm and the SA. By May, lists of those to be "liquidated" started to circulate amongst Göring and Himmler's people, who engaged in a trade, adding enemies of one in exchange for sparing friends of the other. At the end of May two former Chancellors, Heinrich Brüning and Kurt von Schleicher, received warnings from friends in the Reichswehr that their lives were in danger and they should leave Germany at once. Brüning fled to the Netherlands while Schleicher dismissed the tip-off as a bad practical joke. By the beginning of June everything was set and all that was needed was permission from Hitler.
Demands for Hitler to constrain the SA strengthened. Conservatives in the army, industry, and politics placed Hitler under increasing pressure to reduce the influence of the SA and to move against Röhm. While Röhm's homosexuality did not endear him to conservatives, they were more concerned about his political ambitions. Hitler for his part remained indecisive and uncertain about just what precisely he wanted to do when he left for Venice to meet Benito Mussolini on June 15. Before Hitler left, and at the request of Presidential State Secretary Otto Meißner, Foreign Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath ordered the German Ambassador to Italy Ulrich von Hassell – without Hitler's knowledge – to ask Mussolini to tell Hitler that the SA was blackening Germany's good name. Neurath's manoeuvre to put pressure on Hitler paid off, with Mussolini agreeing to the request (Neurath was a former ambassador to Italy, and knew Mussolini well). During the summit in Venice, Mussolini upbraided Hitler for tolerating the violence, hooliganism, and homosexuality of the SA, which Mussolini stated were ruining Hitler's good reputation all over the world. Mussolini used the affair occasioned by the murder of Giacomo Matteotti as an example of the kind of trouble unruly followers could cause a dictator. While Mussolini's criticism did not win Hitler over to acting against the SA, it helped push him in that direction.
On June 17, 1934, conservative demands for Hitler to act came to a head when Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen, confidant of the ailing Hindenburg, gave a speech at Marburg University warning of the threat of a "second revolution." Privately according to his memoirs, von Papen, a Catholic aristocrat with ties to army and industry, threatened to resign if Hitler did not act. While von Papen's resignation as vice-chancellor would not have threatened Hitler's position, it would have nonetheless been an embarrassing display of independence from a leading conservative.
In response to conservative pressure to constrain Röhm, Hitler left for Neudeck to meet with Hindenburg. Blomberg, who had been meeting with the president, uncharacteristically reproached Hitler for not having moved against Röhm earlier. He then told Hitler that Hindenburg was close to declaring martial law and turning the government over to the Reichswehr if Hitler did not take immediate steps against Röhm and his brownshirts. Hitler had hesitated for months in moving against Röhm, in part due to Röhm's visibility as the leader of a national militia with millions of members. However, the threat of a declaration of martial law from Hindenburg, the only person in Germany with the authority to potentially depose the Nazi regime, put Hitler under pressure to act. He left Neudeck with the intention of both destroying Röhm and settling scores with old enemies. Both Himmler and Göring welcomed Hitler's decision, since both had much to gain by Röhm's downfall – the independence of the SS for Himmler, and the removal of a rival for the future command of the army for Göring.
In preparation for the purge, both Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the SS Security Service, assembled a dossier of manufactured evidence to suggest that Röhm had been paid 12 million Reichsmark (EUR 24.6 million in 2019) by France to overthrow Hitler. Leading officers in the SS were shown falsified evidence on June 24 that Röhm planned to use the SA to launch a plot against the government (Röhm-Putsch). At Hitler's direction, Göring, Himmler, Heydrich, and Victor Lutze drew up lists of people in and outside the SA to be killed. One of the men Göring recruited to assist him was Willi Lehmann, a Gestapo official and NKVD spy. On June 25, General Werner von Fritsch placed the Reichswehr on the highest level of alert. On June 27, Hitler moved to secure the army's cooperation. Blomberg and General Walther von Reichenau, the army's liaison to the party, gave it to him by expelling Röhm from the German Officers' League. On June 28 Hitler went to Essen to attend a wedding celebration and reception; from there he called Röhm's adjutant at Bad Wiessee and ordered SA leaders to meet with him on June 30 at 11h. On June 29, a signed article in Völkischer Beobachter by Blomberg appeared in which Blomberg stated with great fervour that the Reichswehr stood behind Hitler.
At about 04:30 on June 30, 1934, Hitler and his entourage flew into Munich. From the airport they drove to the Bavarian Interior Ministry, where they assembled the leaders of an SA rampage that had taken place in city streets the night before. Enraged, Hitler tore the epaulets off the shirt of Obergruppenführer August Schneidhuber, the chief of the Munich police, for failing to keep order in the city on the previous night. Hitler shouted at Schneidhuber and accused him of treachery. Schneidhuber was executed later that day. As the stormtroopers were hustled off to prison, Hitler assembled a large group of SS and regular police, and departed for the Hanselbauer Hotel in Bad Wiessee, where Ernst Röhm and his followers were staying.
With Hitler's arrival in Bad Wiessee between 06:00 and 07:00, the SA leadership, still in bed, were taken by surprise. SS men stormed the hotel, and Hitler personally placed Röhm and other high-ranking SA leaders under arrest. The SS found Breslau SA leader Edmund Heines in bed with an unidentified eighteen-year-old male SA senior troop leader. Hitler ordered both Heines and his partner taken outside the hotel and shot. Goebbels emphasised this aspect in subsequent propaganda justifying the purge as a crackdown on moral turpitude. Meanwhile, the SS arrested the other SA leaders as they left their train for the planned meeting with Röhm and Hitler.
Although Hitler presented no evidence of a plot by Röhm to overthrow the regime, he nevertheless denounced the leadership of the SA. Arriving back at party headquarters in Munich, Hitler addressed the assembled crowd. Consumed with rage, Hitler denounced "the worst treachery in world history". Hitler told the crowd that "undisciplined and disobedient characters and asocial or diseased elements" would be annihilated. The crowd, which included party members and many SA members fortunate enough to escape arrest, shouted its approval. Hess, present among the assembled, even volunteered to shoot the "traitors". Joseph Goebbels, who had been with Hitler at Bad Wiessee, set the final phase of the plan in motion. Upon returning to Berlin, Goebbels telephoned Göring at 10:00 with the codeword Kolibri to let loose the execution squads on the rest of their unsuspecting victims. Sepp Dietrich received orders from Hitler for the Leibstandarte to form an "execution squad" and go to Stadelheim prison where certain SA leaders were being held. There in the prison courtyard, the Leibstandarte firing squad shot five SA generals and an SA colonel. Those not immediately executed were taken back to the Leibstandarte barracks at Lichterfelde, given one-minute "trials", and shot by a firing squad.
The regime did not limit itself to a purge of the SA. Having earlier imprisoned or exiled prominent Social Democrats and Communists, Hitler used the occasion to move against conservatives he considered unreliable. This included Vice-Chancellor Papen and those in his immediate circle. In Berlin, on Göring's personal orders, an armed SS unit stormed the Vice-Chancellery. Gestapo officers attached to the SS unit shot Papen's secretary Herbert von Bose without bothering to arrest him first. The Gestapo arrested and later executed Papen's close associate Edgar Jung, the author of Papen's Marburg speech, and disposed of his body by dumping it in a ditch. The Gestapo also murdered Erich Klausener, the leader of Catholic Action, and a close Papen associate. Papen was unceremoniously arrested at the Vice-Chancellery, despite his insistent protests that he could not be arrested in his position as Vice-Chancellor. Although Hitler ordered him released days later, Papen no longer dared to criticise the regime and was sent off to Vienna as German ambassador.
Hitler and Himmler unleashed the Gestapo against old enemies, as well. Both Kurt von Schleicher, Hitler's predecessor as Chancellor, and his wife were murdered at their home. Others killed included Gregor Strasser, a former Nazi who had angered Hitler by resigning from the party in 1932, and Gustav Ritter von Kahr, the former Bavarian state commissioner who crushed the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. Kahr's fate was especially gruesome. His body was found in a wood outside Munich; he had been hacked to death, apparently with pickaxes. The murdered included at least one accidental victim: Willi Schmid, the music critic of the Münchner Neuste Nachrichten newspaper. As Himmler's adjutant Karl Wolff later explained, friendship and personal loyalty were not allowed to stand in the way:
Among others, a charming fellow [named] Karl von Spreti, Röhm's personal adjutant. He held the same position with Röhm as I held with Himmler. [He] died with words "Heil Hitler" on his lips. We were close personal friends; we often dined together in Berlin. He lifted his arm in the Nazi salute and called out "Heil Hitler, I love Germany."
Some SA members died saying "Heil Hitler" because they believed that an anti-Hitler SS plot had led to their execution. Several leaders of the disbanded Catholic Centre Party were also murdered in the purge. The Party had generally been aligned with the Social Democrats and Catholic Church during the rise of Nazism, being critical of Nazi ideology, but voting nonetheless for the Enabling Act of 1933 which granted Hitler dictatorial authority. 
Röhm was held briefly at Stadelheim Prison[j] in Munich, while Hitler considered his future. In the end, Hitler decided that Röhm had to die. On July 1, at Hitler's behest, Theodor Eicke, Commandant of the Dachau concentration camp, and his SS adjutant Michel Lippert visited Röhm. Once inside Röhm's cell, they handed him a Browning pistol loaded with a single bullet and told him he had ten minutes to kill himself or they would do it for him. Röhm demurred, telling them, "If I am to be killed, let Adolf do it himself." Having heard nothing in the allotted time, they returned to Röhm's cell at 14:50 to find him standing, with his bare chest puffed out in a gesture of defiance. Eicke and Lippert then shot Röhm, killing him. In 1957, the German authorities tried Lippert in Munich for Röhm's murder. Until then, Lippert had been one of the few executioners of the purge to evade trial. Lippert was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
As the purge claimed the lives of so many prominent Germans, it could hardly be kept secret. At first, its architects seemed split on how to handle the event. Göring instructed police stations to burn "all documents concerning the action of the past two days." Meanwhile, Goebbels tried to prevent newspapers from publishing lists of the dead, but at the same time used a July 2 radio address to describe how Hitler had narrowly prevented Röhm and Schleicher from overthrowing the government and throwing the country into turmoil. Then, on July 13, 1934, Hitler justified the purge in a nationally broadcast speech to the Reichstag:
If anyone reproaches me and asks why I did not resort to the regular courts of justice, then all I can say is this. In this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people, and thereby I became the supreme judge of the German people. I gave the order to shoot the ringleaders in this treason, and I further gave the order to cauterise down to the raw flesh the ulcers of this poisoning of the wells in our domestic life. Let the nation know that its existence—which depends on its internal order and security—cannot be threatened with impunity by anyone! And let it be known for all time to come that if anyone raises his hand to strike the State, then certain death is his lot.
Concerned with presenting the massacre as legally sanctioned, Hitler had the cabinet approve a measure on July 3 that declared, "The measures taken on June 30, July 1 and 2 to suppress treasonous assaults are legal as acts of self-defence by the State." Reich Justice Minister Franz Gürtner, a conservative who had been Bavarian Justice Minister in the years of the Weimar Republic, demonstrated his loyalty to the new regime by drafting the statute, which added a legal veneer to the purge.[k] Signed into law by Hitler, Gürtner, and Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick, the "Law Regarding Measures of State Self-Defence" retroactively legalised the murders committed during the purge. Germany's legal establishment further capitulated to the regime when the country's leading legal scholar, Carl Schmitt, wrote an article defending Hitler's July 13 speech. It was named "The Führer Upholds the Law."
Almost unanimously, the army applauded the Night of the Long Knives, even though the generals Kurt von Schleicher and Ferdinand von Bredow were among the victims. The ailing President Hindenburg, Germany's highly revered military hero, sent a telegram expressing his "profoundly felt gratitude" and congratulated Hitler for "nipping treason in the bud." However, during the Nuremberg Trials Hermann Goring admitted the telegram was never seen by Hindenburg, and was actually written by the Nazis. General von Reichenau went so far as to publicly give credence to the lie that Schleicher had been plotting to overthrow the government. In his speech to the Reichstag on July 13 justifying his actions, Hitler denounced Schleicher for conspiring with Ernst Röhm to overthrow the government; Hitler alleged both were traitors working in the pay of France. Since Schleicher was a good friend of the French Ambassador André François-Poncet, and because of his reputation for intrigue, the claim that Schleicher was working for France had enough surface plausibility for most Germans to accept it. François-Poncet was not declared persona non grata as would have been usual if an ambassador were involved in a plot against his host government. The army's support for the purge, however, would have far-reaching consequences for the institution. The humbling of the SA ended the threat it had posed to the army but, by standing by Hitler during the purge, the army bound itself more tightly to the Nazi regime. One retired captain, Erwin Planck, seemed to realise this: "If you look on without lifting a finger," he said to his friend, General Werner von Fritsch, "you will meet the same fate sooner or later." Another rare exception was Field Marshal August von Mackensen, who spoke about the murders of Schleicher and Bredow at the annual General Staff Society meeting in February 1935 after they had been rehabilitated by Hitler in early January 1935.
Rumours about the Night of the Long Knives rapidly spread. Although many Germans approached the official news of the events as described by Joseph Goebbels with a great deal of scepticism, many others took the regime at its word, and believed that Hitler had saved Germany from a descent into chaos.[l] Luise Solmitz, a Hamburg schoolteacher, echoed the sentiments of many Germans when she cited Hitler's "personal courage, decisiveness and effectiveness" in her private diary. She even compared him to Frederick the Great, the 18th-century King of Prussia.
Others were appalled at the scale of the executions and at the relative complacency of many of their fellow Germans. "A very calm and easy going mailman," the diarist Victor Klemperer wrote, "who is not at all National Socialist, said, 'Well, he simply sentenced them.'" It did not escape Klemperer's notice that many of the victims had played a role in bringing Hitler to power. "A chancellor," he wrote, "sentences and shoots members of his own private army!" The extent of the massacre and the relative ubiquity of the Gestapo, however, meant that those who disapproved of the purge generally kept quiet about it.
Among the few exceptions were General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord and Field Marshal August von Mackensen, who started a campaign to have Schleicher rehabilitated by Hitler. Hammerstein, who was a close friend of Schleicher, had been much offended at Schleicher's funeral when the SS refused to allow him to attend the service and confiscated the wreaths that the mourners had brought. Besides working for the rehabilitation of Schleicher and Bredow, Hammerstein and Mackensen sent a memo to Hindenburg on July 18 setting out in considerable detail the circumstances of the murders of the two generals and noted that Papen had barely escaped. The memo went on to demand that Hindenburg punish those responsible, and criticised Blomberg for his outspoken support of the murders of Schleicher and Bredow. Finally, Hammerstein and Mackensen asked that Hindenburg reorganise the government by firing Baron Konstantin von Neurath, Robert Ley, Hermann Göring, Werner von Blomberg, Joseph Goebbels and Richard Walther Darré from the Cabinet. Instead, the memo asked that Hindenburg create a directorate to rule Germany comprising the Chancellor (who was not named), General Werner von Fritsch as Vice-Chancellor, Hammerstein as Minister of Defense, the Minister for National Economy (also unnamed) and Rudolf Nadolny as Foreign Minister. The request that Neurath be replaced by Nadolny, the former Ambassador to Moscow who had resigned earlier that year in protest against Hitler's anti-Soviet foreign policy, indicated that Hammerstein and Mackensen wanted a return to the "distant friendliness" towards the Soviet Union that existed until 1933. Mackensen and Hammerstein ended their memo with:
Excellency, the gravity of the moment has compelled us to appeal to you as our Supreme Commander. The destiny of our country is at stake. Your Excellency has thrice before saved Germany from foundering, at Tannenberg, at the end of the War and at the moment of your election as Reich President. Excellency, save Germany for the fourth time! The undersigned Generals and senior officers swear to preserve to the last breath their loyalty to you and the Fatherland.
Hindenburg never responded to the memo, and it remains unclear whether he even saw it, as Otto Meißner, who decided that his future was aligned with the Nazis, may not have passed it along. It is noteworthy that even those officers who were most offended by the killings, like Hammerstein and Mackensen, did not blame the purge on Hitler, whom they wanted to see continue as Chancellor, and at most wanted a reorganization of the Cabinet to remove some of Hitler's more radical followers.
In late 1934–early 1935, Werner von Fritsch and Werner von Blomberg, who had been shamed into joining Hammerstein and Mackensen's rehabilitation campaign, successfully pressured Hitler into rehabilitating Generals von Schleicher and von Bredow. Fritsch and Blomberg suddenly now claimed at the end of 1934 that as army officers they could not stand the exceedingly violent press attacks on Schleicher and Bredow that had been going on since July, which portrayed them as the vilest traitors, working against the Fatherland in the pay of France. In a speech given on January 3, 1935 at the Berlin State Opera, Hitler stated that Schleicher and Bredow had been shot "in error" on the basis of false information, and that their names were to be restored to the honour rolls of their regiments at once. Hitler's speech was not reported in the German press, but the army was appeased by the speech. However, despite the rehabilitation of the two murdered officers, the Nazis continued in private to accuse Schleicher of high treason. During a trip to Warsaw in January 1935, Göring told Jan Szembek that Schleicher had urged Hitler in January 1933 to reach an understanding with France and the Soviet Union, and partition Poland with the latter, and Hitler had Schleicher killed out of disgust with the alleged advice. During a meeting with Polish Ambassador Józef Lipski on May 22, 1935, Hitler told Lipski that Schleicher was "rightfully murdered, if only because he had sought to maintain the Rapallo Treaty." The statements that Schleicher had been killed because he wanted to partition Poland with the Soviet Union were later published in the Polish White Book of 1939, which was a collection of diplomatic documents detailing German–Polish relations up to the outbreak of the war.
Former Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was in exile in Doorn, Netherlands, was horrified by the purge. He asked, "What would people have said if I had done such a thing?" Hearing of the murder of former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher and his wife, he also commented, "We have ceased to live under the rule of law and everyone must be prepared for the possibility that the Nazis will push their way in and put them up against the wall!"
Hitler named Viktor Lutze to replace Röhm as head of the SA. Hitler ordered him, as one prominent historian described it, to put an end to "homosexuality, debauchery, drunkenness, and high living" in the SA. Hitler expressly told him to stop SA funds from being spent on limousines and banquets, which he considered evidence of SA extravagance. Lutze did little to assert the SA's independence in the coming years, and the SA lost its power in Germany. Membership in the organisation plummeted from 2.9 million in August 1934 to 1.2 million in April 1938.
According to Speer, "the Right, represented by the President, the Minister of Justice, and the generals, lined up behind Hitler ... the strong left wing of the party, represented chiefly by the SA, was eliminated."
The Night of the Long Knives represented a triumph for Hitler, and a turning point for the German government. It established Hitler as "the supreme leader of the German people", as he put it in his July 13 speech to the Reichstag. Hitler formally adopted this title in April 1942, thus placing himself de jure as well as de facto above the reach of the law. Centuries of jurisprudence proscribing extrajudicial killings were swept aside. Despite some initial efforts by local prosecutors to take legal action against those who carried out the murders, which the regime rapidly quashed, it appeared that no law would constrain Hitler in his use of power.[m] The Night of the Long Knives also sent a clear message to the public that even the most prominent Germans were not immune from arrest or even summary execution should the Nazi regime perceive them as a threat. In this manner, the purge established a pattern of violence that would characterise the Nazi regime.
Röhm was purged from all Nazi propaganda, such as The Victory of Faith, the Leni Riefenstahl film about the 1933 Nuremberg rally, which showed Röhm frequently alongside Hitler; a copy of the original survived and was found in the United Kingdom many years later.
A Fever Dream is the fourth studio album by English band Everything Everything. Recorded with producer James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco and mixed by Cenzo Townshend, it was released on 18 August 2017 on RCA Records. It peaked at number five on the UK Albums Chart, Everything Everything's joint-highest album charting position. The tracks "Can't Do", "A Fever Dream", "Desire", and "Night of the Long Knives" were released as singles throughout 2017.Edgar Jung
Edgar Julius Jung (6 March 1894 – 1 July 1934) was a German lawyer born in Ludwigshafen, in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.
Jung was a leader of the conservative revolutionary movement in Germany which stood not only in opposition to the Weimar Republic, whose parliamentarian system he considered decadent and foreign-imposed, but also to the mass movement of Nazism. He was killed by the Gestapo in the 1934 Night of the Long Knives purge. At the onset of World War I, Jung voluntarily joined the imperial armies and reached the rank of lieutenant. After the war, he participated in the suppression of the Bavarian Soviet Republic in the spring of 1919 and in the resistance against the French occupation of the Palatinate, during which he participated in the assassination of Franz Josef Heinz. Expelled by the French authorities, Jung moved to Munich, where in 1925 opened a law firm and dampened his political activism slightly.
Like Carl Schmitt, Jung believed the breakdown of liberal parliamentarism to be inevitable as the instability of Weimar Germany was unfolding before his eyes. Jung regarded Weimar Germany as teetering on the brink of revolutionary turmoil with the very real prospect of a "Red Revolution" sponsored by the Soviet Union or a "Brown Revolution" by the Nazis. After the formation of the "government of national concentration" under the leadership of Adolf Hitler on 30 January 1933, Jung became a political consultant and speechwriter for the vice-chancellor of the coalition cabinet, Franz von Papen.
In 1934, Jung wrote the Marburg speech that was delivered on 17 June by Papen at the University of Marburg. The speech articulated the conservative establishment's criticism of the violence of Nazism. The text sought to reassert the Christian foundation of the state and the need to avoid agitation and propaganda: "It is time", the speech declared "to join together in fraternal friendship and respect for all our fellow countrymen, to avoid disturbing the labours of serious men and to silence fanatics". The speech was banned from being printed in the press, and Hitler personally ordered the arrest of Jung and his transfer to Gestapo headquarters, Berlin.Jung was murdered by the SS during the Night of the Long Knives, being shot in the cellar at Gestapo headquarters. His body was found dumped in a ditch near the town of Oranienburg near Berlin on 1 July.The Rule of the Inferiour: Its Disintegration and Removal Through a New Reich by is his major political treatise which was originally published in 1930 as Die Herrschaft der Minderwertigen, ihr Zerfall und ihre Ablösung durch ein neues Reich ("Inferiour" is an obsolete spelling of "Inferior"). The translator, Alexander Jacob, produced the first and only English edition in 1995 with a large introduction and notes, sold in two volumes; the first volume being 428 pages and the second 396 pages.Edmund Heines
Edmund Heines (21 July 1897 – 30 June 1934) was a Nazi Party leader and Ernst Röhm's deputy in the Sturmabteilung or SA. He was executed in the purge that is known as the Night of the Long Knives.Erich Klausener
Erich Klausener (25 January 1885 – 30 June 1934) was a German Catholic politician who was killed in the "Night of the Long Knives", a purge that took place in Nazi Germany from 30 June to 2 July 1934, when the Nazi regime carried out a series of political murders.Ernst Röhm
Ernst Julius Günther Röhm (German: [ˈɛɐ̯nst ˈʁøːm]; 28 November 1887 – 1 July 1934) was a German military officer and an early member of the Nazi Party. As one of the members of its predecessor, the German Workers' Party, he was a close friend and early ally of Adolf Hitler and a co-founder of the Sturmabteilung (SA, "Storm Battalion"), the Nazi Party's militia, and later was its commander. By 1934, the German Army feared the SA's influence and Hitler had come to see Röhm as a potential rival, so he was executed during the Night of the Long Knives.Gregor Strasser
Gregor Strasser (also German: Straßer, see ß; 31 May 1892 – 30 June 1934) was an early prominent German Nazi official and politician who was murdered during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934. Born in 1892 in Bavaria, Strasser served in World War I in an artillery regiment, rising to the rank of first lieutenant. He joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in 1920 and quickly became an influential and important figure. In 1923, he took part in the abortive Beer Hall Putsch in Munich and was imprisoned, but released early on for political reasons. Strasser joined a revived NSDAP in 1925 and once again established himself as a powerful and dominant member, hugely increasing the party's membership and reputation in northern Germany. Personal and political conflicts with Adolf Hitler led to his death in 1934 during the Night of the Long Knives.Gustav Ritter von Kahr
Gustav Ritter von Kahr (Born Gustav Kahr; 29 November 1862 – 30 June 1934) was a German right-wing politician, active in the state of Bavaria. He helped turn post World War I Bavaria into Germany's center of radical-nationalism, but was then instrumental in the collapse and suppression of Adolf Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. In revenge for the latter, he was murdered later in the 1934 Night of the Long Knives.Hauptsturmführer
Hauptsturmführer ([ˈhaʊ̯pt.ʃtʊʁm.fyːʀɐ], "head storm leader") was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was used in several Nazi organizations such as the SS, NSKK and the NSFK. The rank of Hauptsturmführer was a mid-level commander and had equivalent seniority to a captain (Hauptmann) in the German Army and also the equivalency of captain in foreign armies.The rank of Hauptsturmführer evolved from the older rank of Sturmhauptführer, created as a rank of the Sturmabteilung (SA). The SS used the rank of Sturmhauptführer from 1930 to 1934 at which time, following the Night of the Long Knives, the name of the rank was changed to Hauptsturmführer although the insignia remained the same. Sturmhauptführer remained an SA rank until 1945.Some of the most infamous SS members are known to have held the rank of Hauptsturmführer. Among them are Josef Mengele, the infamous doctor assigned to Auschwitz; Klaus Barbie, Gestapo Chief of Lyon; Joseph Kramer, commandant of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp; Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann's assistant; and Amon Göth, who was sentenced to death and hanged for committing multiple waves of mass murder (liquidations of the ghettos at Tarnów and Kraków, the camp at Szebnie, the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp, as portrayed in the film Schindler's List).
The insignia of Hauptsturmführer was three silver pips and two silver stripes on a black collar patch, worn opposite a unit insignia patch. On the field grey duty uniform, the shoulder boards of an army Hauptmann were also displayed. The rank of Hauptsturmführer was senior to the rank of Obersturmführer and junior to Sturmbannführer.Karl Ernst
Karl Ernst (1 September 1904, Berlin – 30 June 1934, Berlin) was an SA-Gruppenführer who, in early 1933, was the SA leader in Berlin. Before joining the Nazi Party he had been a hotel bellboy and a bouncer at a gay nightclub.Night of the Long Knives (1962)
In British politics, the "Night of the Long Knives" was a major Cabinet reshuffle that took place on 13 July 1962. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan dismissed seven members of his Cabinet, one-third of the total. The speed and scale of the reshuffle caused it to be associated by its critics with the 1934 Night of the Long Knives in Nazi Germany.
The reshuffle took place against a backdrop of declining Conservative popularity in Britain. Conservative candidates fared poorly in several by-elections, losing ground to Liberal candidates. Concerned that traditional Conservative voters were expressing their disapproval with the government's economic policies by switching to the Liberals, Harold Macmillan planned to replace his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Selwyn Lloyd, with Reginald Maudling. Lloyd had already clashed with Macmillan over his economic strategies, and Maudling was considered to be more amenable to the economic policies Macmillan wished to implement. The reshuffle was also an attempt to reinvigorate the party, bringing in younger and more dynamic figures and replacing some of the older and less capable ministers. After discussions with Conservative Party chairman Iain Macleod and Home Secretary Rab Butler, a reshuffle was planned for Autumn 1962.
Macmillan was overtaken by events when Butler leaked the details of the reshuffle to press baron Lord Rothermere over lunch on 11 July. The newspapers reported the impending changes on 12 July, and Macmillan made the decision to press ahead with the reshuffle at once. Lloyd was called to a meeting that evening and dismissed. The remaining six were informed the following day, 13 July. Macmillan faced sharp criticism over the scale of the changes, and his political opponents both within the Conservative Party and in the Opposition characterised him as ruthless and opportunistic. Despite an initial sharp drop in his approval ratings, opinion eventually swung back in his favour and the Party recovered. Macmillan regretted the way the reshuffle was carried out, and was particularly concerned about his treatment of Lloyd, who was a loyal confidant. Despite the dramatic changes in the Cabinet, the Conservatives were rocked by a series of scandals in 1963 and Macmillan retired in October of that year after being misdiagnosed with cancer. He was replaced as Prime Minister by Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who was defeated in the 1964 general election.Night of the Long Knives (1992)
The Night of the Long Knives is the name given to the night in Belfast of 31 October 1992, when the Provisional IRA's Belfast Brigade launched a large military operation to wipe out the IPLO Belfast Brigade, who most Irish republicans in the city (especially in the IRA) felt were becoming an embarrassment to Irish republicanism due to their involvement in drug dealing, criminality and internal Irish republican feuds.Patriation
Patriation was the political process that led to full Canadian sovereignty, culminating with the Constitution Act, 1982. The process was necessary because under the Statute of Westminster 1931, with Canada's agreement at the time, the British parliament had retained the power to amend Canada's Constitution Acts (Statute of Westminster sec. 7(1)), and to enact more generally for Canada at the request and with the consent of the Dominion (sec. 4). That authority was removed from the UK by the passing of the Canada Act 1982 on March 29, 1982, by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, as requested by the Parliament of Canada.Patriation was subsequently confirmed by the Constitution Act, 1982, part of the Canada Act 1982. A proclamation bringing the Constitution Act, 1982 into effect was signed by Elizabeth II, as Queen of Canada, then–Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and then-Minister of Justice Jean Chrétien on April 17, 1982, on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa. The queen's constitutional powers over Canada were not affected by the act. Canada has complete sovereignty as an independent country, however, and the Queen's role as monarch of Canada is distinct from her role as the British monarch or the monarch of any of the other Commonwealth realms.The patriation process saw the provinces granted influence in constitutional matters and resulted in the constitution being amendable by Canada only and according to its amending formula, with no role for the United Kingdom. Hence, patriation is associated with the establishment of full sovereignty.Strasserism
Strasserism (German: Strasserismus or Straßerismus) is a strand of Nazism that calls for a more radical, mass-action and worker-based form of Nazism—hostile to Jews not from a racial, ethnic, cultural or religious perspective, but from an anti-capitalist basis—to achieve a national rebirth. It derives its name from Gregor and Otto Strasser, two brothers initially associated with this position.
Otto Strasser, who strategically opposed the views of Adolf Hitler, was expelled from the Nazi Party in 1930 and went into exile in Czechoslovakia, while Gregor Strasser was murdered in Germany on 30 June 1934 during the Night of the Long Knives. Strasserism remains an active position within strands of neo-Nazism.Sturmabteilung
The Sturmabteilung (SA; German pronunciation: [ˈʃtʊɐ̯mʔapˌtaɪlʊŋ] (listen)), literally Storm Detachment, was the Nazi Party's original paramilitary. It played a significant role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s. Its primary purposes were providing protection for Nazi rallies and assemblies, disrupting the meetings of opposing parties, fighting against the paramilitary units of the opposing parties, especially the Red Front Fighters League (Rotfrontkämpferbund) of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), and intimidating Romani, trade unionists, and, especially, Jews – for instance, during the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses.
The SA were also called the "Brownshirts" (Braunhemden) from the color of their uniform shirts, similar to Benito Mussolini's blackshirts. The SA developed pseudo-military titles for its members, with ranks that were later adopted by several other Nazi Party groups, chief amongst them the Schutzstaffel (SS), which originated as a branch of the SA before being separated. Brown-colored shirts were chosen as the SA uniform because a large number of them were cheaply available after World War I, having originally been ordered during the war for colonial troops posted to Germany's former African colonies.The SA became disempowered after Adolf Hitler ordered the "blood purge" of 1934. This event became known as the Night of the Long Knives (die Nacht der langen Messer). The SA continued to exist, but was effectively superseded by the SS, although it was not formally dissolved until after Nazi Germany's final capitulation to the Allies in 1945.Sturmführer
Sturmführer ([ˈʃtʊʁm.fyːʀɐ], "storm leader") was a paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party which began as a title used by the Sturmabteilung (SA) in 1925 and became an actual SA rank in 1928. Translated as "storm leader or assault leader", the origins of the rank dated to the First World War when the title of Sturmführer was used by leaders of German shock troops and special action companies.By 1930, Sturmführer had become the lowest commissioned officer (CO) rank of several Nazi Party paramilitary organizations, including the SA. The title was also used as an SS rank until 1934 when, after the Night of the Long Knives, the SS renamed the rank Untersturmführer, equivalent to a junior or second lieutenant (OF-1b) in the army. Other variations of Sturmführer included Obersturmführer and Hauptsturmführer, ranks paralleling an army first lieutenant and captain respectively.Treachery of the Long Knives
The Treachery of the Long Knives (Welsh: Brad y Cyllyll Hirion) was a pseudohistorical massacre of British Celtic chieftains by Anglo-Saxon soldiers at a peace conference on Salisbury Plain in the 5th century. The story is not included in any contemporary accounts, but does feature centuries later in the semi-mythological histories of the Historia Brittonum and the Historia Regum Britanniae. Though a popular cautionary tale in medieval Europe, no historical evidence for The Treachery of the Long Knives exists, and the story has been widely debunked as a purely literary construction by historians.Truppführer
Truppführer ([ˈtʀʊp.fyːʀɐ], "troop leader") was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was first created in 1930 as a rank of the Sturmabteilung (SA). Translated as "Troop Leader", the rank of Truppführer evolved from early Freikorps titles which traced their origins to World War I.
As an SA rank, Truppführer was considered the equivalent of a senior sergeant, or sergeant first class. The rank of SA-Truppführer was at first considered senior to that of SA-Scharführer, but after 1932 was ranked above the new rank of SA-Oberscharführer. The insignia for a basic Truppführer consisted of two button pips on a collar patch.
A Truppführer normally served as the SA-non-commissioned officer of platoon sized SA-Truppen, formed into company sized SA-Sturm. The responsibilities of a Truppführer typically increased upon promotion to Obertruppführer and Haupttruppführer, as did the number of troops under the Truppführer’s command.
Between 1930 and 1934, Truppführer was also used as an SS rank but was abolished after the Night of the Long Knives when the rank of SS-Truppführer was renamed SS-Oberscharführer.Unterscharführer
Unterscharführer ([ˈʊntɐ.ʃaːɐ̯.fyːʀɐ], "junior squad leader") was a paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party used by the Schutzstaffel (SS) between 1934 and 1945. The SS rank was created after the Night of the Long Knives. That event caused an SS reorganisation and the creation of new ranks to separate the SS from the Sturmabteilung (SA).
The insignia was a button pip centred on a collar patch opposite an SS unit insignia collar badge. The field grey SS uniform displayed the rank with silver collar piping and the shoulder boards of an Unteroffizier. Rank comparisons list the rank of Unterscharführer as equivalent to a corporal in other services, but that the rank held responsibilities of a sergeant in some other armies.Victims of the Night of the Long Knives
Victims of the Night of the Long Knives (German: Nacht der langen Messer) – the Nazi purge in which Hitler and the Nazi regime used the Schutzstaffel (SS) to deal with the problem of Ernst Röhm and his Sturmabteilung (SA) brownshirts (the original Nazi paramilitary organization), as well as past opponents of the party – numbered at least 85 people murdered. It took place in Germany between June 30 and July 2, 1934.
Although most of those killed in what came to be known as "The Night of the Long Knives" were members of the SA, other victims included close associates of Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen, several Reichswehr (German Army) generals – one of whom, Kurt von Schleicher, was formerly the Chancellor of Germany – and their associates; Gregor Strasser, Hitler's former competitor for control of the Nazi Party; at least one person killed in a case of mistaken identity; and several innocent victims killed because they "knew too much."
The total number of victims is heavily disputed between historians; some estimates put the number in the hundreds.