On June 30, 1934, the leader of the National Socialist Party of Germany, Adolf Hitler, ordered the bloody wound up of his party by prospective political enemies. This was the famous “Night of the Long Knives”, as history named it.
Partners and direct collaborators of Hitler to this operation were Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels and Reinhard Heydrich.
All the leaders of the paramilitary organization of Sturmabteilung (SA – Infantry Division) and right-wing politicians who were not related to the SA were murdered. In the early 1930s, the National Socialist Party of Germany had two armed forces operating as paramilitary organizations: the SA (Sturmabteilung, the invasion section) and the SS (Schutzstaffel, battalion of protection), which they mainly consisted of the elite of the party members and were fully controlled by the leadership of Adolf Hitler.
At that time, the combat divisions numbered four million members and contributed actively to Hitler’s rise to power.
The official Nazi version described these actions as a preventative measure against a coup supposedly planned by Ernst Rohm, SA leader and Hitler’s friend.
For this reason he used the term Röhmputsch, meaning a coup organized by Rohm.
SA men carry Deutschland Erwache (Germany Awake) standards at the 1st Nazi Party Day, January 1928.German War Machine
The Causes Of The Rupture Between Hitler And Rem
The difference between the two bodies was not only quantitative but also social-political. The SA was staffed mainly by the masses and hoped that after Hitler’s rise to power he would immediately implement the anti-capitalist declarations of the National Socialist program.
On the other hand, the SS consisted mainly of the elite of party members and were completely under the orders of Nazi leaders. With the participation of the National Socialist Party in the right coalition government in 1933, the SA became practically unmanageable especially because of the chronic Hitler promises to restore the military glory of the past and annulment of the Versailles Treaty, which limited the German army to 100,000 men!
SA’s real ambition was to replace the traditional German army, something that the leaders of the armed forces and their conservative political and financial supporters already knew. The military knew that Rohm was pushing his friend to remove the existing army and to replace it by the SA.
However the industrialists and the bankers were disturbed by their anti-capitalist rhetoric, the aristocrats also feared that they could be used as a means of expropriating their land, and the middle class was frightened by their violent methods.
Hitler saw SA as a barrier, but he hesitated to take action because the men of SA did all the dirty work for his party. He decided to act only in the spring of 1934, when the old conservative political world threatened to weigh his parliamentary support to the government if he did not limit the arbitrariness of Rohm’s men.
The Opearation Kolibri
The operation, which was named “Kolibri,” began with the construction of a fake indictment by Heinrich Himmler that Rohm received 12,000,000 marks from France to overthrow Hitler. The indictment was necessary so that Hitler could persuade SS executives to take over the business without emotional hesitation.
The envelope also made reference to Rohm’s homosexual tendencies, which was something terribly unacceptable at that time, considering the fact that National Socialist Party persecuted homosexuality.
On the morning of June 30th, Hitler gathered the Bavarian SA leaders in Munich and criticized them severely because they were allegedly unable to impose the Nazi law on the streets of the city. This was the beginning of persecution, which was carried out with mass arrests and dozens of executions of SA executives by SS men without a trial.
In the turmoil, Hitler found the opportunity to exterminate a number of other political opponents irrelevant to the SA, such as Gregor Strasser the old leader of the National Socialist Party, General Ferdinand von Bredow, former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher, and former Bavarian Prime Minister Gustav Ritter von Kahr.
Rohm was arrested in his country house and was taken to Munich’s Stadelheim prison without realizing what had happened. There, the head of the bailiffs, Theodor Eicke, left a revolver in his cell and left, hoping that he would commit suicide. However this never happened, as Rohm shouted that “if I must die let Adolf do it”. Eventually the SA chief was executed on July 2, 1934.
Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler and Ernst Röhm in 1933.Spartacus Educational
The Legalisation Of The Massacre
Among the dead are the following key figures: The head of the Berlin SA Karl Ernst, who was ready for his honeymoon. He was the only one who really knew who put the fire in the Reichstag on the eve of the 1933 elections.
Berlin’s Catholic Chief of Staff Erich Klausener, the right hand of anti-Chancellor von Papen, and the head of his own office. Father Stempfle, a Catholic priest and an old fellow of Hitler, who knew about something immoral letters that Adolf, had written some years before to his niece Geli Raubal. The accurate number of victims was never made known.
The new SA leader, Viktor Lutze, later said that 81 people were executed. But it is estimated that during three days approximately 200 people were assassinated, mostly from the SS with the help of Gestapo (secret police) and the Army. Nazi propaganda presented Hitler as a victim of Rohm’s conspiracy.
On July 3, the Night of the Long Knives was officially legalized as a state’s self-defense on the basis of the Ermächtigungsgesetz, a law of the Weimar Republic constitution that was still in force. After the “Kolibri operation” it was clearly obvious that the structures of the German state were becoming more and more Nazi.
At the same time, Hitler proclaimed himself as the only leader of the National Socialist Party by making the Waffen SS as a regulator not only of the party but also of the German state. The ruthless and evil action of the bloodthirsty dictator had just begun.