THE NIGHT OF THE LONG KNIVES
After Adolf Hitler’s imprisonment for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch, there began to be an uprising for his movement. His support did not end because of the failed attempt to overthrown the current regime. It could even be argued that the Nazi’s agenda gained even further momentum. After the first nine months of his five year sentence, Hitler was released from prison due to the urging of fellow Nazi’s who had influence in government. In the following years, Hitler and his colleagues were able to gain support from the masses, with their goals to influence the masses and win votes for eventual election into key governmental positions. This occurred in 1932, when the Nazi party finally achieved a majority in the German parliament – the Reichstag. Gaining the majority was crucial because even though Hitler would lose his bid for president the same year, the Nazi party now had influence, and Presidential winner Paul von Hindenburg felt the pressure to appoint Hitler to chancellor, granting the Nazi party some long awaited bite behind the bark they had been preaching for years.
With his new found power as Chancellor, Adolf Hitler wanted to try and make the most of this and put an end to democracy like he had always desired. Hitler enacted what is now known simply as the “Enabling Act” which essentially would give the Chancellor all of the power and make Hitler himself, the end all be all for legislative decisions in Germany. With the majority in the Reichstag on his side and through the threats by Nazi members to non-Nazi members of the parliament, the act was passed in March of 1933 by meeting the necessary two-thirds vote. Adolf Hitler had quickly become the only legislative power of meaning in Germany. One would think that would be enough for Hitler to believe he truly had unilateral control and no threats, but paranoia amounted for the Nazi leader.
Throughout the rise of the Nazi Party, Hitler had gained support from many groups who were sympathetic to the Nazi dream of socialism. The Sturmabteilung (SA) was one of those groups. Originally used as a specialized assault unit for Imperial Germany in World War I, this group was essentially the Nazi leadership’s muscle and protection throughout their rise to power. By the time the Nazi’s overthrew the democratic government, the SA was as strong as ever, with four million “brown shirts” as they were referred to, behind Hitler’s back in support. Everything seemed like the perfect storm for Hitler and the Nazi party to smoothly sail into world prominence. This changed when rumblings from SA leadership began going against the philosophies of some of Hitler’s high end supporters in the industrial leaders and regular army generals. The SA, led by Ernst Röhm had been perfect for the revolution, but their time of usefulness had ended when Hitler seized control and the group now seemed primed for a second revolution to overthrow Hitler.
Throughout June of 1934, subtle murmurings about an uprising and discontent between the German Army and the SA were now becoming outright public statements of discontent. Adolf Hitler was going to have to decide between the SA and the Army, as well as the rest of the German public leaders. On June 30, 1934, tensions were brought to a head, and Chancellor Hitler ordered a purge on fellow leaders of the Nazi party, specifically Röhm and the SA leadership. In the end, the total number of men killed in the purge are unknown, but it is estimated that it was somewhere between 250 and 1000. Hitler’s threat (real or otherwise) was mitigated, and his quest for world domination would continue.