Night of the Long Knives

After making Germany a one party-state, in order to consolidate his power Hitler had to make sure he was the unrivalled leader of the Nazi party.

Hitler started to fear how powerful the SA was becoming. Ernst Röhm, their leader, was well-respected and powerful in his own right

  • SA members totalled 3 million – all loyal to Röhm (putting him in a strong position to challenge Hitler if he wanted to)
  • Röhm opposed Hitler’s policies. He wanted more socialist policies (tax the rich to help the working classes)

The SA was bigger than the German Army (3 million SA whereas only 100,000 men in German Army). Röhm wanted the SA to replace army.

The SA and SS developed a rivalry which meant led to leaders of the SS (Himmler and Heydrich) wanting to reduce the power of the SA so they could increase power and status of the SS.

30 June 1934 – Night of the Long Knives

In 1934 leaders of the SS and the German army warned Hitler that Röhm was planning to seize power. We don’t know how true this was or whether it was set-up so Hitler had an “excuse” or justification for going after Rohm (similar to the Reichstag Fire being an excuse for going after the Communists)

On 30 June 1934 Hitler arranged for Röhm and other members of the SA to be arrested, imprisoned and shot.

Röhm was shot in Stadelheim Gaol on 1 July 1933. 6 other SA supporters were also shot at Stadelheim.

Von Papen (still vice-chancellor at this time) protested, but had no impact. The SS shot his press secretary and arrested his staff. This is significant as it shows that he could not control Hitler.

Over 4 days about 400 people (150 senior SA members) were shot without trial. These included:

  • Von Schleicher (former chancellor)
  • Gregor Strasser (Nazi member with socialist views)

Hitler was acting illegally – murdering his rivals for power, though he claimed to be acting in Germany’s interests.

Some German’s objected to the violence but few knew how bad it had been, and were grateful that the SA (known for brutality) were restrained.

The SA continued after 1934 but it was now firmly under Hitler’s control.