The Night of the Long Knives - 1934

Saturday, 12 July 2008 18:33 phil stokes
After the initial rise to power of the Nazis, many of them, including the head of the SA Ernst Roehm, wanted to see a further change in the power structure of Germany by taking over control of big businesses and installing the SA as the main army of Germany with the existing army subordinate to it. Hitler however thought differently and wanted to keep the German economy in good shape, reduce unemployment and enable him to quickly re-arm the Wehrmacht. To Hitler, the SA was purely a political force not a military one. Also the ageing President Hindenburg would not survive much longer and Hitler needed the support of the Army if he was to be named as Hindenburg's successor. In May of 1934 Hitler proposed to the chiefs of the Army and the Navy that he would suppress the SA and at the same time expand the Army and Navy if they would support him as the successor to Hindenburg. The chiefs of the forces readily agreed to Hitler's endorsement. In June Hitler ordered the SA to go on leave for the entire month. However, by that time the rowdiness and lawlessness perpetrated by Nazi thugs had grown to a point where President Hindenburg and his senior generals were considering declaring a state of marshal law and Hitler was threatened with this recourse if he didn't do something to curb these excesses. These threats, coupled with rumours generated by Himmler and Goering concerning Roehm's loyalty to the Fuehrer and an impending coup against Hitler, finally prompted Hitler to order Himmler and Goering to take action against the leaders of the SA. On June 30th 1934 Himmler's SS and Goering's special police arrested and executed the leaders of the SA, including Ernst Roehm, and many others not connected with the SA, but against whom the Nazi leaders had a score to settle. These others included General von Schleicher, the former Chancellor.