Throughout the period of Hitler's rise to power, Ernst Röhm represented the militant wing of the Nazi Party as the
chief organizer of the party militia known as the S.A. (Sturmabteilung)
or the Brownshirts.
Wounded three times in World War I, he later was one
of the original founders of the Nazi
Party. In the 1920s, he helped Hitler secure the support of the
army in Bavaria and was later imprisoned for his role in Hitler's failed
1923 Beer Hall putsch.
Throughout his years of service to the Nazi cause,
Röhm remains dog-loyal to his master. Röhm's Nazi zeal lead
him to advocate that the Nazi seizure of power should culminate in the
SA absorbing if not replacing the Reichswehr as the new German army,
nazified from the ground up.
After Hitler wins power in January 1933, he becomes
increasingly alarmed by Röhm who is now demanding that his multi-million
man militia be placed on an equal footing with the Nazi
Party. Hitler, the German Army High Command, and Röhm's arch-rival, SS leader Heinrich
Himmler, now see Röhm and his SA as a common threat.
In the early morning hours of June 30, 1934, SS forces,
accompanied by SS commander Sepp
Dietrich and followed by Adolf Hitler himself, burst into a country
inn near Munich where Röhm and his SA staff had gathered together
for a general conference. Röhm and his staff are literally dragged
out of their beds and thrown into prison where Röhm and the entire
SA command are summarily executed. The German people and the rest of
the world are then told that Hitler has foiled a plot by Röhm and
his SA sympathizers to seize power and subvert the Nazi revolution.
of the Long Knives as the June 30th massacre came to be called is
the Nazi regime's baptism of fire. It secures for Hitler the German
Army's gratitude and unquestioning loyalty thereafter. It also translates
into a big power gain for Himmler and the SS who now represent
the new armed wing of the Nazi Party with the SA neutralized and absorbed
into its ranks.
On the same day that Röhm and his SA staffers
are massacred, Nazi assassins seize the opportunity to pay two discreet
visits to the homes of the two highest ranking officers in the German
Army - General (and former Weimar Chancellor) Kurt von Schleicher
and General Kurt von Bredow. Schleicher and Bredow happened to be anti-nazi
in their beliefs and strongly opposed to Hitler's plans to nazify the
German Army. In both cases, a knock on the door is followed by a hail
of bullets that kills Schleicher and Bredow.
The German conspirators who attempted to overthrow
Hitler and the Nazi regime from 1938 to 1944 never forgot the June 30th
massacre. Many held it up as proof that Hitler would stop at nothing
to achieve his demonic ends and could only be removed in the same manner.