Night of the Long Knives
The 30th of June 1934 AD
If the British press and political establishment could have had any honest doubts about the nature of Hitler and the Nazis before, the so-called Night of the Long Knives at the end of June 1934 should surely have put an end to them. The brutality of the extra-judicial action against opponents and potential opponents which took place over a summer’s weekend was evidence that Hitler stood outside civilised politics.
The senior figures beneath Hitler in the Nazi pyramid were competing for power, exploiting their leader’s paranoia when it suited them. Goering and Himmler managed to persuade Hitler with whispers and a dodgy dossier prepared by Heydrich that the Brownshirt chief Ernst Roehm was planning a coup. This was false, but with more than three million armed men under his command Roehm could have been a threat. His homosexuality was also embarrassing for the Nazi Party; and his quasi-socialist views on economics dismayed German industrialists; the army feared being taken over by the larger Brownshirt organisation. Hitler thus decided to remove him from the scene.
Roehm’s closest supporters within the Brownshirts were added to a list of those to be dealt with. Others joined them: diplomats; communists; journalists; policemen; Kurt von Schleicher, the Chancellor before Hitler, and his wife, un-cooperative officials. In all at least 85 (some believe up to 400) were ‘executed’, most shot, though one was hacked to death with pick-axes, and another probably drowned.
Such a death-toll could not be hidden: Hitler told the German people he had saved them from revolution and chaos. Legislation was quickly passed which post-facto made the killings legal acts of state self-defence. Remaining opponents knew their fate should they be deemed dangerous.
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