What was the Night of Long Knives?

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. It was a turning point for the German government. Hitler launched the Night of Long Knives to consolidate his power.

Carried out primarily by the SS and the Gestapo, over 150 people were murdered, and hundreds more were arrested. Hitler feared that the SA and Ernst Röhm, their leader, potentially threatened his leadership. This fear was intensified by Göring and Himmler, who gave Hitler news of Röhm organizing a potential coup, which caused Hitler to eliminate the SA.

(Eingeschränkte Rechte für bestimmte redaktionelle Kunden in Deutschland. Limited rights for specific editorial clients in Germany.) Germany Third Reich Ceremony in Munich marking the first anniversary of the takeover of power of the Nazis; Nazi leaders from the right: Commissioner for Justice Hans Frank, the Head of the Nazi district of Munich, Adolf Wagner, SA Chief of Staff Ernst Roehm, Adolf Hitler, Franz Ritter von Epp, Hermann Esser, Hans Schemm; far left: photographer Hanns Hubmann – (Photo by Hanns Hubmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Why was the Night of Long Knives launched by Hitler?

One reason Hitler launched the Night of Long Knives was to consolidate his power. The night of long knives would cement an agreement between the Nazi Regime and the German army (Reichswehr). This would enable Hitler to proclaim himself Führer of National Socialist Germany and claim absolute power. The SA had two million members, and it wanted to take over the much smaller army. Hitler did not want to antagonize the military because it could overthrow him, and he needed them to cooperate with his ambitious foreign policy.

During the previous regime, the Weimar Republic, the army had helped to undermine the government. Hitler was determined this would not happen to him. To gain control of the army, he eliminated the SA. The army disliked the SA because it was setting itself up as a rival. Hitler knew that eliminating the SA would help him gain the support and trust of the army. This was correct as when Paul von Hindenburg died, the military agreed to allow Hitler to become Chancellor and President.

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