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Why did Hitler purge the SA on the Night of
the ‘Long Knives’ June 30th 1934?
The SA were becoming a liability.
There were key groups who Hitler wanted to
have support from:
 The
 The Industrialists
 The Junkers
The Army
Ernst Rohm wanted a Nazi army in which the
Reichswehr (traditional German army) would
play a subordinate (less important) role.
The Reichswehr were absolutely appalled.
Rohm said:
“The grey rock must be drowned in brown
Hitler tried to reassure the Reichswehr that the
army would be the:
“Sole bearer of arms in the nation”.
The Industrialists
The SA wanted:
 Destruction of chain stores and co-operatives.
 Abolition of cartels & monopolies.
 Restructuring of banking and industrial corporations.
Hitler reassured the industrialists in July 1933:
“The ideas in our programme do not oblige us
to act like idiots and overturn everything”.
Schacht said that:
“Spinning wheels and folk dancing were very
nice and pretty but only big business could
produce guns and machines”.
------------For a few months Hitler issued statements that
“Revolution was over and that evolution was
the order of the day”.
Goering and Frick hinted at:
“Concealed Bolshevik elements within the Nazi
Hitler needed support from the Industrialists
for Economic motives.
Once his political levelling was complete he
wanted to firm up his economic programme
and needed the support of the Industrialists as
his base.
The SA were attacking department stores and
proving a problem for him.
Guise of Legality
Hitler’s Gleichschaltung was under the guise of
‘legality’ and ‘respectability’. Propaganda
talked of restoration of order and stability. The
violent actions of the SA had played its part in
the background of his consolidation of power.
However, he was keen to gain support of the
traditional elites and leave behind the ‘socialist’
elements of his programme.
Hitler distanced himself from revolutionary
Nazism and had support from the traditional
elites who were appalled by the SA.
Rohm a Threat
Hitler wanted to get rid of a potential threat to
his power.
Rohm was critical of Hitler for leaving behind
the ‘socialist’ and ‘permanent revolution’
aspects of the programme.
Hitler now wanted to stabilise the economy and
focus on ruling Germany.
The SA were a thorn in his side, demanding a
more socialist set up.
SA wanted a permanent Revolution
The 2 million SA members saw themselves as
“Watchdogs of the revolution” and refused to
submit to the bureaucratic controls and
demanded the removal of the old elites from
power. They swore to continue the struggle for
the creation of a new National Socialist
They had been devoted in helping bring Hitler
to power. Terrorising opponents and street
Once Hitler was chancellor, they were a
Events in the Night of the Long Knives
30th June – 2nd July 1934
22nd June: Himmler & Gestapo chief called
the SS leaders and told them to work with
the Reichswehr to destroy the SA.
A fabricated (made up) list of the SA’s
intended victims was produced. This
included several prominent generals. This
helped persuade the army to join them.
Hitler made much of Rohm’s treachery and
homosexuality. A lurid and partly
fabricated story unfolded which shocked
respectable Germans.
30th June: The SS and the Army waged a
‘coup’ against the SA.
Many prominent SA leaders were at a
meeting in Bad Wiesee.
The meeting was raided and then there was
a spate of killings across Germany.
 Mainly SA leaders.
 Sundry opponents of the regime
across Germany.
 Many old scores were settled.
 Some unfortunates were killed by
 Hundreds were killed.
 Von Schliecher, his wife and General
Von Bredau (his right hand man). They
were army Generals but the army still
supported the coup.
 Edgar Jung and Von Bose
(conservative critics of the regime).
 Erich Klausener (head of the Catholic
regime in Berlin).
Outcome of the Night of the Long Knives
The Will of the Fuhrer became law:
Carl Schmitt (Germany’s leading legal expert)
argued that in a state of emergency the true
leader could use virtually limitless power to
destroy the enemies of the nation.
Ended myth of ‘legal’ changes:
It set the precedent that from now on Hitler
would depend on a permanent state of
There was now nothing to stop the use of
coercion and terror. It was to open the way to
the later systematic attack on the Jews which
really took off in 1935 with the Nuremberg
laws. No longer was everyone to have the right
of trial. It opened the way for future
persecution of groups who the Nazis deemed a
‘threat’ to their cultural beliefs or power.
The SA diminished
They dwindled into little more than a sporting
and social club. They were unleashed in the
‘Night of Broken Glass” – a pogrom (killing and
violent spree) against helpless Jewish people.
The SS became powerful
The SS were the real winners. They had
originally been formed as Hitler’s bodyguard.
Heydrich: Founded the SD (Security Service)
which acted as a secret police force.
Himmler: Control of all secret police forces
across the states.
The SS and the Gestapo officially united in 1934
providing a firm base for the regime.
The Army supported Hitler
Delighted despite the fact that two
distinguished generals had been brutally
Reichswehr Minister Von Blomberg talked of
“Soldierly determination and exemplary
courage” in destroying “traitors and
He ordered no officer attend the funerals of
their murdered colleagues.