Paranoid hitler 'didn't trust his closest Allies' and executed 400+ 'savage' Brownshirts in night of long knives- But did it really make a difference?
This article has been adapted from an essay written by me.
In early 1934, Adolf Hitler looked back on a year filled with successes. He had tightened his grip on Germany, used communist arson to declare a state of emergency, eradicated political opposition and established a propaganda state. He was on the brink of becoming Europe’s new emperor, of establishing what he believed would be a ‘Reich’ greater than any before.
But in the shadow of his triumphs lay a nation crippled by its failing economy and 'stabbed in the back' by the Versaille treaty. Most dangerous for Hitler, however, was opposition from his own ranks. The Brownshirt leader Ernst Röhm was a force to reckon with. Röhm, as the commander of a paramilitary organisation 20 times the size of Germany’s army, meant nothing but trouble. He had become all too powerful.
3 days that changed history
Alleging that Röhm was plotting a putsch, Hitler ordered a massacre in the luxury 'Kurheim Hanselbauer' hotel. The 3 day purge saw Röhm and other SA leaders killed by SS-men. Some of Hitler’s other enemies were also murdered, including the last chancellor of the Weimar Republic, Kurt von Schleicher. Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen narrowly escaped a brutal ending.
Many historians argue that the callous brutality with which former allies and friends of Adolf Hitler were assassinated in the purge first brought to light his true nature. While the killings were met with interest and widespread admiration among the German ‘Volksgemeinschaft’, it was on the international stage that the birth of tyranny was watched with horror and contempt. Once dubbed a “gentle dictator” by TIME magazine, Hitler had shown his true colors to anyone so much as considering opposition to his macchiavellian politics.
According to Nazi confidant Erich Ludendorff, the 'Führer' had “courageously, at the risk of his own life, suppressed all treasonable machinations at the outset”. But Hitler, torn between friendship, power and reluctance, was forced to act. Bloodshed had become inevitable.
Did the purge show Hitler's strength? Some say yes. They argue the Night of Long Knives revealed Hitler as a strong leader because it was under his command that the killings took place and he, ‘in self-critical demeanor’, recognized the pertinence of satisfying the demands of the German public while keeping possible threats to a minimum. But experts who think that friends helped him into power disagree.
Röhm: powerful agitator who 'loved company of men'
Ernst Röhm was one of the ‘DAP’s’ (German Workers Party) founders, helping Hitler win the support of the Bavarian army during Weimar unrest. Röhm, himself from a humble background, had been sympathetic to a second revolution intent on destroying social elites and replacing the military by a “people's army”. These radical ideas alienated Hitler once he had secured sufficient power in 1934 and was now less reliant on the democratic vote than the support of wealthy benefactors.
These historians maintain that the execution of over 400 SA members does not only demonstrate the influence of other powerful personalities such as Göring on Hitler, but that it strengthened their authority.
So, was resorting to means of brutal force really a measure of desperation rather than what German propaganda made out to be a valiant defense against revolutionary forces?
Hitler had initially been hesitant to suppress Röhm’s machinations. Under his command, the SA had become a powerful political institution that over 4 million men, drawn to militancy and radicalism, had entered. And the ‘humiliating’ Versailles treaty, which had not only weakened Germany economically but reduced the German army’s permitted size to 100 000, had allowed the proletarian SA to gain supremacy with regards to enrollment and power.
Many bourgeois-conservative army leaders such as Werner von Blomberg (Minister of war and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces) felt disgruntled by this development, considering the SA a threat to stability within the country and a force for communism. Chilling documents reveal Röhm had sent Blomberg a message saying he wanted the army to be replaced by the SA as the country's primary fighting force.
Because the the army leadership now considered Röhm an increasing threat to their position of power, the ‘weak dictator’ was left in an uncomfortable limbo between SA and Military interests. Even Goebbels, purported to be one of Hitler’s most enthusiastic subordinates, became discontent with Hitler’s apparent indecision. Writing in his diary, he commented that the ‘Führer’ “must act or we could go under”.
But due to sympathy to Hitler’s promises of bringing resolve to the Versailles treaty, Blomberg had brought around the army to an increasing open-mindedness towards the Nazi regime. Concessions to Nazi ideology such as the Aaryan paragraph (callously banning Jews from the army), showed support for Hitler was increasing within army ranks and contrasted to the greater alienation of SA forces to the ‘tail-coat’ Führer. Nazi-skeptical forces had united behind Hitler in their struggle to weaken Röhm.
There is today limited evidence that Röhm was actually planning a putsch in 1934. Indeed, even an aggressive speech to the SA calling for “ the energies of every SA fighter ” doesn’t explicitly mention subterfuge. This may reveal Hitler to be a leader plagued by fear of revolution rather than one acting upon valid reason.
But shocking evidence shows Hermann Göring (himself a former leader of the SA) had become so worried by developments that he agreed to hand his control of the Prussian military police over to Himmler, centralizing it and creating a counterweight to the SA. This indicates that the SA’s threat to Hitler’s sovereignty was recognized by leading Nazis, aware that they could use it to justify intrigue and conspiracy. The political police had already begun manufacturing ‘evidence’ of a supposed uprising planned by Röhm, presented to leading SS officers on the 24th June 1934.
tabloid terror: How german press reacted to purge
Calculating Nazis of every rank abused the purges’ chaotic momentum to eradicate many in opposition to not only Hitler but themselves. Anti-Nazi ‘savages’ (including the former prime minister of Bavaria, Gustav Ritter von Kahr) were slaughtered without second thought. The killings served as stark warnings to anyone willing to conspire against Hitler and ‘demonstrate his authority’.
Hitler had built up support within the old Institutions of the Reich while failing to resolve the chaos of new Nazi politics. Following the purge, Himmler said that a second revolution could have allowed “a foreign enemy to march into Germany with the excuse of order having to be created”, clearly suggesting his willingness to manipulate the ‘Führer’.
And unscrupulous Hitler instrumentalized the purge as propaganda. Speaking to cabinet, the dictator alleged that “it was not our intention to violate the will and the right of the German Volk’s self-determination, but to drive away those who violated the nation.” The undertaking was legalized retrospectively, a cunning act that manifested the ‘Night of Long Knives’ as a success in securing him absolute power over all elements of state.
Hitler may have not shown himself to be a strong leader initially, but the Night of Long Knives in itself was an act of decisive resilience against possibly subversive forces. Albert Speer remembers that the day after, Hitler said he “alone was able to solve the problem”, asserting that the ‘Führer’ was “inwardly convinced that he had come through a great danger”.
Fear had crept into German jubilation. The ‘Führerkult’ had gone from mere propaganda to dictatorial rule.
But history's darkest chapter had only just begun.
This article was written by me for UK magazine 'Railway Traveller';
Benedict Holland travelled through Germany on a leisurely train journey to discover Brunswick, Fulda and Baden-Baden
A train journey with Deutsche Bahn’s ICE service is always a pleasure, especially if you go first class from Germany’s capital to the lesser known beauty spots on its border to France.
The ride to Baden-Baden, which takes five and ¾ hours and departs every 2 hours from Berlin Central Station, takes you through some of Germany’s must-visit areas such Thuringia, famous for its sausages, natural beauty and cultural heritage.
In the first-class carriages you’ll enjoy travelling on big leather seats and looking out of the large windows at the passing scenery. There is good free Wi-fi on the train and passengers booked in the designated quiet areas can enjoy reading and relaxing without loud disturbances.
The popular train restaurant offers hot meals and cold beverages in the luxuriously furnished dining carriage. You can also order the barista-grade cappuccinos and americanos directly from your seat in English, which is understood by all members of staff.
"You'll pass a multitude of exciting cities and areas
On the train, you will pass a multitude of exciting cities and areas; Brunswick, famed for its eclectic mix of architecture and shopping is always worth a visit while Fulda, home to a magnificent palace and a baroque dome, offers great traditional German food.
Once you’ve arrived in Baden-Baden, a historic spa town in the west of Germany’s Baden Württemberg state, treat yourself to a stay in the luxurious Brenner’s Park Hotel & Spa for the night before visiting the Friedrichsbad, known as Europe’s ‘most avant-garde’ bath house during the 19th century.
Baden Baden’s world-renowned Casino is also worth a visit, while a traditional Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte in Cafe König is a delightful way to end the day. Baden Baden’s short proximity to Strasbourg gives Francophiles the opportunity to continue their journey through France. If you’re looking to see the ‘real’ Germany, this is a great way to do it in style.
Single first-class fares from Berlin to Baden-Baden start at £38.74 (£16.99 for standard class) if you book in advance. See Trainline.com for more. For rates at Brenner’s Park Hotel see Booking.com
Dear THE EDITORS,
America traditionally holds itself out to young people as a beacon of liberty, hope and freedom. It has in recent years become the opposite. Mass shootings and the horror of lawlessness have become normality and crime is surging once again. Americans feel less safe day by day. When I came across your article, “Gun control isn’t the answer”, I was appalled by the fact that you have ruthlessly instrumentalized and falsely interpreted data to fit your simple view. The fundamental premise of your article rests on the belief that additional restrictions on gun ownership would not prove effective, and that the police and state are to blame for the murders committed with guns, not the weak laws surrounding their ownership. You also seek to smear any sensible ideas about gun control as being “left wing” hypocrisy. There is no doubt that the Government and its agencies have failed in protecting its citizens from gun violence, but the Gun Lobby has been very successful in pursuit of its agenda in the White House too. Republicanism is synonymous with law and order, but republicans ignore anarchy created by the posession of guns.
"Republicanism is synonymous with law and order, but republicans ignore anarchy created by the posession of guns.
It may take time, but for America the war on terror should begin at home by changing gun laws.
The main argument that your article propagates, is that further restrictions on gun ownership would prove ineffective in reducing the number murders committed with guns. You state that “for homicidal spectaculars … additional gun-control measures are unlikely to prove effective”, which neglects to consider the implications of gun restrictions on the average civilian, where they would be effective in preventing the everyday gun crimes. Claiming that the “Florida shooter had no criminal record... and so he was able to purchase rifles...” and that “the police and FBI failed to look seriously into him after receiving credible warnings of his murderous intent” contradicts your general stance, as the current weak regulations evidently did not prevent this murderer from buying a gun in the first place and tragically massacring 17 innocent teenagers with it.
American politicians need only too look across the pond to save their children from bloodshed. In Australia, the total number of homicides involving a firearm more than halved after the so-called “gun law reform” was passed in the wake of a brutal mass shooting. The acquisition of guns was prohibited for most people, and self defense was not a valid reason for buying firearms anymore. With a bit of imagination the same could be possible in America.
You also make the argument that it would be beneficial to provide “better gatekeeping” and armed guards for increased protection in schools. However, it is unlikely that a gatekeeper or a armed guard would be able to secure a school from most threats or see if somebody is concealing a gun, if no expensive appliances like metal detectors are in place. Many schools have already taken extra security precautions and are still at great risk. The only thing that your suggestion would achieve is increased expenditure for an already strained educational system. It is obvious that the need for these precautions, and the general paranoia which results from them, would cease to exist if many American youths did not have easy access to lethal weapons in the first place.
"Endless rampages and mass shootings in the U.S
While endless rampages and mass shootings in the U.S continue, you choose to label the act of criticizing the use of an .223-caliber, AR-pattern rifle as “ignorant fear mongering”. Anybody that dares to question the current gun laws, like the acclaimed Dr. Ernest. E. Moore, is immediately denounced as pathetic, “fear-mongering” idiot. While Moore argues that; “an assault rifle is designed to deliver fatal wounds”, you state that “AR-style rifles are used in everything from small-game hunting to competitive marksmanship”. Are you that naïve, or are you just pretending to be? Let me remind you that just about anybody can purchase guns in your country, and the majority of people won’t be using them for field sports. The battle on terror should begin at home by combatting assault rifles not anyone daring to criticize the use of them.
Surely it would be possible to start by banning gun ownership for anyone with a criminal record, before introducing more specific restrictions. In the UK, an evaluation of a person's suitability to own a gun is a prerequisite for obtaining a gun license in addition to strict regulations on the storage of guns. It is a heavy responsibility to certify that a person could never be a risk to themselves or others. Of course it might “be found to be unconstitutional”, but a change in the constitution is the only way forward for America.
Don’t get me wrong; police and security forces have a crucial role to play in preventing gun murder, especially if terrorism is involved. And yes, the statement you make that “the police and FBI failed to look seriously into” the parkland shooter is correct, but it’s impossible for them to do so. Of the 38353 Americans killed by guns in 2016, only 71 people died in an mass shooting. 14,415 where homicides, and 22,938 were suicides. That’s more than 60%. If the primarily innocent and inconspicuous civilians committing suicide can easily access guns, then what has become of your perfect, American dream? The truth is, that about 18% of Americas adults face mental health issues, and 6.7 have depression. How can any health care, police or national security system seek out all of these people and prevent them from buying dangerous fire-arms, with which they could kill themselves or others? In a country with 325,7 million inhabitants, and a society where there have been 1,624 mass shootings in 1,870 days this might prove more than a challenge.
So, while your article ignores the plight of millions, let's dedicate ourselves to creating a meaningful change in American politics instead.
Exclaimer: This article does not represent my opinion anymore and was written in 9th grade.
When we think of tabloid-journalism, the first thing that comes to mind is page 3 girls, garish headlines and sensationalist stories. But tabloids are much more than that. At the height of their popularity, over 85% of Britain's population have regularly read them, and let’s face it; we have too. We’re all beguiled by these provocative papers, even if we might not want to admit it. Red-top reporting poses a real danger to British society and is eroding one of the pillars of democracy and culture that defines our country; independent journalism.
We all know that the press doesn’t hesitate when it comes to portraying facts in a biased manner in order shape the way we think. It’s become common practice in most British tabloids and has enabled many of the newspaper publishers to print articles that reflect their political views and to smear anyone daring to oppose them. Unfortunately, this corrupt misconduct is most evident prior to important elections where the newspaper can easily shape public opinion with bold statements and by printing articles in favor of a specific party. That’s why our press is regarded as the most "right wing" and "biased" in the EU, as shown by a recent study made by YouGov. It’s an embarrassment to our proud country. We've become the laughing stock of Europe.
"Our tabloid orientated society is blindly following the agenda of unscrupulous columnists
It’s a fact; tabloids (left or right) have been subverting British society for years and have fueled racist and harmful views. Simply looking at some of their headlines and lead stories published recently has revealed a shocking reality; our tabloid orientated society is blindly following the agenda of unscrupulous columnists. Would Brexit have happened without the constant propaganda of media institutions? Surely not. "BeLeave in Britain" (The Sun) or "EU's migrant crisis is colossal"(Daily Express) are headlines which speak for themselves. It’s not a coincidence that the working-class area of Essex, with one of the Sun's highest readerships, voted over 62.3% in favor of Brexit. The tabloid plague we are facing can also be seen in rising discrimination against Muslims during the last years. Headlines including; "Muslim vote could decide over 25 percent of seats" (Daily Star) or "1 in 5 Brit Muslims' sympathy for jihadis" (The Sun) have led to a nationwide islamophobia. According to the Metropolitain Police, crime against Muslim's rose by 70% in 2015 and hate crimes targeting mosques have doubled from 2016 to 2017. The only way to prevent this disgraceful behavior from endangering our society is to enforce stronger press regulations.
"more needs to be done
Stronger press regulations hold the key to solving all of these problems. Strict regulations forcing newspapers to publish their sources in order to authenticate the article’s legitimacy would be a simple first step, but more needs to be done. Germany has been a forerider for better press regulations, employing strict rules for the accuracy of articles while maintaining a free and democratic press. There are general guidelines in place to ensure ethically correct journalism. It’s even enshrined in the constitution. The rules include that no media institution is allowed to have exclusive access to information which is of public interest. During election times, all viewpoints need to be given equal weight, even if they don't portray the paper’s political persuasion. It’s a radically better and more responsible approach to journalism which prevents public opinion from being swayed into dangerous territories.
Tabloids in the hands of ruthless media moguls pose an immediate threat to civil society in the United Kingdom. We must stop tabloid poison before it demolishes our democracy for good.
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