The Night of the Long Knives:
The SA Crumbles
The SA was a group that had about 4,000,000 Nazi storm troopers that wanted to be the official German Army. They believed in the true Nazi beliefs. The real German Army thought that this group was a threat to old military beliefs and ranks. At the time, Adolf Hitler had been promising that he would restore German military from the points of the Treaty of Versailles, which limited the Army to 100,000 men. Adolf Hitler thought that the SA was a problem that could mess up his future plans for Germany.
Friends Until the Very End: Or Are They?
The leader of the SA was Ernest Rohm who had been with Hitler for his whole life He had the SA help Hitler rise to power by taking charge of the streets and getting his competition out of the way. By early 1934, the SA was no longer useful to Germany. Hitler now was trying to get support from the regular Army generals to try to rebuild Germany due to the Great Depression. He also wanted to get new weapons for the military and reach his final goal of more land for German people. The average German didn't like the SA and their gang like actions. They believed they were gangs because they stole money from shops, drove around in new cars showing off, they got drunk a lot, and they beat up and murder innocent people.
At the end of February 1934, Hitler held a meeting with many Army generals and SA generals like Rohm. At this meeting, Hitler told Rohm that the SA would not be the regular German Army. He informed them that the SA would also have a limit to political actions. Rohm agreed and signed the papers.
Soon after, Rohm said that we would not keep the agreement. In April at a press meeting, he shouted out, "The SA is the National Socialist Revolution!" Within the SA was a group known as the SS, which was made to be Hitler's bodyguard. They wanted to get rid of Rohm and lead the SA on their own.
On June 17, Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen, who helped Hitler become Chancellor, made a speech criticizing the actions of the SA. He mentioned a "second revolution" that Rohm and the SA were planning. He tried to convince Hitler to stop it. His speech turned SA leaders and German Army leaders even more against each other. This put Hitler's leadership in question. Hitler was nervous about maybe going against his long time friend, Rohm.
A Big Decision is Made
Four days later, on June 21, Hitler went to see German President Paul von Hindenburg. The President was the head of state. He chose Adolf Hitler as Chancellor. The President chooses the leaders and officials and the Chancellor runs Germany. He told Hitler that either the SA problem must be solved or he would allow the German Army to take control of the country, which would overthrow the Nazis and Hitler. At the same time, other Nazi officials and SS officials were spreading rumors that that Rohm and the SA were planning to take over Germany in the near future.
Hitler Secures His Leadership
On June 25, the German Army and the SS joined forces to ensure the SA not taking over Germany. The Army would give the SS a lot of weapons, and the SS would do all of the fighting. These groups were put onto slight alert of the SA attempt at power.
On June 28, Hitler was informed of the possible take over by the SA while he was at a wedding. He realized that he and his Nazis might be overthrown. Hitler sent on of his friends at the wedding back to Berlin to stop of the SA. At this time, the SS was put on full alert.
One day later, on June 29, Hitler was informed that the SA troops in Munich, Germany knew about the action that was coming and that they were rioting in the streets. Hitler soon decided to fly down to Munich to put an end the SA efforts and to talk to Rohm and other top SA leaders. He arrived on June 30, and he made the order to arrest all SA men inside the Nazi headquarters in Munich. He then went to see Rohm. He took many troops and Nazi officials to see him. All alone, Hitler went into the hotel to see Rohm.
Hitler had many of the SA members executed. Hitler before had ignored the behavior of the SA because they helped him come to power. Now, Hitler just couldn't stand them. A few days later, Hitler made a secret phone call to a leader in Berlin. He said the pre-chosen code word, Kolibri (hummingbird). The saying of this one word created a lot of murders in Berlin and over 20 other cities. SS squads along with private police forces hunted down SA leaders and anyone else on the pre-made list of political enemies, which was known as the Reich List of Unwanted Persons. Some of the people on the list were Gustav von Kahr who was against Hitler during the Beer Hall Putsch, Father Bernhard who was against Hitler's book, Mein Kampf, and knew too much about Hitler, Kurt von Schleicher, the former Chancellor of Germany, and many other enemies to Germany.
That night, Hitler flew back to Berlin. He met with two other men who had the list of killed people. He ran his finger town the list while the men whispered to him. His finger paused, the men seem very excited and Hitler laughed with joy. The three men walked away, two of them drenched in blood.
As for Rohm...
As for Rohm, Hitler had given him a pistol with one bullet so that he would commit suicide. Rohm refused, and he said that if Hitler wants him dead, he should do it himself. Two SS guards came in, saw that Rohm had not killed himself, and shot him dead.
On July 2, the list was done. Estimates of deaths range from 200-1,000. Less than half of the murders were actually SA officers. On July 13, Hitler made a speech that said 74 people had been shot.
A few weeks later, Hitler rewarded the SS by raising its status from a part of the SA, to its own group. Now, the leader of the SS would only answer to Hitler and nobody else. From then on, the number of SA members got gradually lower, and the SA eventually disappeared. The SS soon became Hitler's main group for mass murders and terror. They helped him carry out more bloody and terrible acts for another 11 years.
The Night of the Long Knives. <http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/roehm.htm> Last visited: February, 2002.
Pollock, James E. "Germany." World Book Encyclopedia, 1965.