On this day: The Night of the Long Knives

June 30 1934: Hitler’s power grows

By Deborah Weitzmann, June 30, 2011

The Night of the Long Knives, as it became known, was Adolf Hitler's purge of SA members. The Nazi leader personally led the well-planned rush of arrests, assassinations and execution on an ordinary Saturday, June 30 1934.

This event cemented Hitler's position of ultimate authority in Germany. It saw the elimination of SA head Ernst Roehm and other former comrades who were now viewed as "enemies of the party".

Ernst Roehm met his fate on June 30 when one of his competitors, Reinhard Heydrich, gave fabricated evidence suggesting that he had been paid to overthrow Hitler by the French. Like most of Hitler's powerful supporters, Heydrich was threatened by the SA leader's tremendous power.

Roehm had been one of Hitler's first supporters and helped his rise to power. Leading the SA, Roehm obtained army funds in the early days of the Nazi movement, and successfully crushed opposition during the 1932 and 1933 elections.

However the SA was becoming a hindrance to Hitler, with demands to refocus the Nazi party on its socialist agenda, and for the SA to take over the army. So, with the SA no longer useful, Hitler turned against Roehm.

What the JC said: Hitler's brownshirts had their "radical" leadership who actually believed in "national socialism" too literally. The Roehms and Dtrassers were butchered or fled from Hitler's night of the long knives. They could not stomach Hitler's alliance with the ruling elite and big businesses, the Establishment without which he would not have risen to power.

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    Last updated: 4:00pm, June 30 2011