Saturday, April 9, 2022

HISTORY: 'The Night of Long Knives,' The Historical Moment 'Bootlickers' Learned the Hard Way Not to Serve the Establishment

By: The Holocaust Explained

The Night of Long Knives, also known as the Röhm Putsch, was the purge of the SA leadership and other political opponents from 30 June 1934 to 2 July 1934. Carried out primarily by the SS and the Gestapo, over 150 people were murdered and hundreds more were arrested.

In August 1932 there were approximately 445,000 members of the SA. By June 1934 this had grown to over 3,000,000 members. They were often given a free rein on their activities and were violent and difficult to control.


Hitler feared that the SA and Ernst Röhm, their leader, were a potential threat to his leadership. This fear was intensified by Göring and Himmler, who gave Hitler news of Röhm organising a potential coup .

In addition to this, there was a mutual dislike between the traditional conservative elite – who maintained many key positions in the government and the army during the first years of the Third Reich – and the SA. During the years of the rise of the Nazi Party, the SA had been instrumental in helping the party to gain support.

However, following Hitler being elected chancellor, the SA, and particularly Röhm, were keen to continue the ‘revolution’ and replace the traditional conservative elite with Nazis. Hitler and the rest of the Nazi leadership disagreed with their approach. They understood the need to appear moderate and take over slowly by democratic means where possible, maintaining the stability and illusion of a democracy. The tension between the SA and the Nazi leadership grew.

On 30 June 1934 these tensions came to a head. The leaders of the SA were ordered to attend a meeting at a hotel in Bad Wiesse, Bavaria. Hitler arrived and personally placed Röhm and other high ranking SA leaders under arrest.


Over the next two days, most of the SA leadership were placed under arrest and murdered without trial. Röhm, who was initially pardoned , was then given the choice of suicide or murder. Refusing to take his own life, he was shot on 1 July 1934 by two SS guards.

Whilst the purge focused on the SA, the Nazis also used the event to eliminate other political opponents, such as the former chancellor Kurt von Schleicher.

The Night of the Long Knives (in addition to Hindenburg’s death a few months later) helped Hitler and the Nazi Party to consolidate absolute power in Germany by removing their political opposition.

From 20 August onwards, the Reichswehr , who had previously been a separate organisation, now swore a personal allegiance to Hitler. The SA were dramatically reduced in size, dropping by 40% to 1.8 million by 1935.

Goebbels engineered the media coverage following the attack to present it as a preventative measure, in response to the SA’s ‘plan to overthrow the government’. As the SA were known for being violent and unruly, many saw this as a legitimate move by the government to ensure public order.

On 13 July 1934 the Reichstag retrospectively approved a bill legalising the purge as emergency defence measures.

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