How The Night of the Long Knives changed the world By Sawyer Rossi-Wilson

The Night of the Long Knives was one of the most significant events, if not the most significant event that secured Hitler's power as complete dictator of Germany. From the date of June 30, 1934 to July 2, Hitler and his SS eliminated anyone who angered him in the past, as well as anyone who could potentially stand in his way of absolute power. The Night of the Long knives was Hitler's way of consolidating his power as absolute ruler of Germany.

After coming to power in the early 1930’s, the greatest challenge to Hitler's survival during the early years of the Third Reich came from his own brown-shirted storm troopers, the SA, or also known as the Sturmabteilung. This paramilitary organization of the Nazi party was led by Ernst Rohm. Rohm was a World War I combat officer who had been with Hitler from the start. Rohm's storm troopers played a massive role in putting Hitler into power. Standing at the head of the Nazi political revolution, the SA fought against the Communists for control of Germany's streets and destroyed anyone who stood in Hitler's way for full control. But by the beginning of 1934, a year after Hitler's seizure of power, things started to changed. The SA's usefulness as a violent revolutionary force had effectively ended. To maintain his position as dictator of Germany, Hitler needed the support of the all-powerful German General Staff with its 100,000-strong Army which had the power to put an end to his dictatorship if they wanted to. The big problem for Hitler was that Rohm and SA saw themselves as the leaders of the new "people's army" that would replace the traditional Germany Army. ​Many of the German citizens hated the SA for their anarchist way of beating people up, drinking all day, and killing for fun as well as wanting to move away from the values and ways of a "traditional Germany".

Ernst Rohm was known for having Socialistic views as well as being anti-capitalist. However, He knew that if he wanted to keep his power and the power of the SA, he would need to support Hitler. Many of Hitler's close advisors did not like Rohm, mostly because of his views on politics as well as being a known homosexual among the Nazi Party. Still, Hitler respected him for helping him on his quest for power. Rohm also was one who was not afraid of Hitler. If he felt he needed to remove Hitler for the good of what they called the "Revolution," he would have no problem doing it.

"Hitler can't walk over me as he might have done a year ago; I've seen to that. Don't forget that I have three million men, with every key position in the hands of my own people, Hitler knows that I have friends in the Reichswehr, you know! If Hitler is reasonable I shall settle the matter quietly; if he isn't I must be prepared to use force - not for my sake but for the sake of our revolution." - Ernst Rohm

After a meeting between Rohm and Hitler where Hitler told him the SA would be limited to certain functions instead of being a military force in Germany, Rohm reluctantly agreed. However, when he got back from the meeting he let his true feelings of disapproval of Hitler be known.

"What that ridiculous corporal says means nothing to us," Rohm told his Brownshirt cronies. "I have not the slightest intention of keeping this agreement. Hitler is a traitor, and at the very least must go on leave...If we can't get there with him, we'll get there without him."

Hitler was informed of the strong words Rohm had for him, and while Hitler considered him a close ally, he knew that if he wanted to eliminate everyone who posed a threat to his dictatorship, Rohm and his SA of nearly 3 million had to be dealt with as well as anyone else that could be a problem for him. Because the German people already hated the SA, Hitler's plot to assassinate those who he felt a threat to him came together even easier. To make sure that he had the support of the 100,000 strong German Army, Hitler made a pact to ensure them that if Rohm and other SA leaders were removed, the SA would be under the control of the German army, and they would be able to grow stronger. They agreed, and what was known to be "Operation Hummingbird" was beginning to take hold.

On June 28th, while attending a wedding, Hitler received a call from one of his closest officers Heinrich Himmler, who told Hitler that he was in danger of a possible overthrow and revolt by Rohm and his SA. Hitler knew he had to move quickly if he was going to keep his control over Germany. Hitler told Himmler and his SS soldiers to be on full alert in case the SA were planning to attack.

At around 6:30 am on June 30th, Hitler flew to Munich to put down the SA rebellion and confront Rohm and top SA leaders who were gathered at the resort town of Bad Wiessee near Munich near dawn on June 30th.

At 10 a.m, Hitler called one of his top-ranking officers, Goring in Berlin and gave him the code word "Kolibri" (hummingbird) which signaled a full go-ahead for the purge. This unleashed a wave of murderous violence by the SS in Berlin and 20 other cities. SS execution squads along with the Gestapo and Goring's private police roared through the streets hunting down SA leaders and anyone else on the prepared enemies list

Erich Kempka, was Hitler's chauffeur . In 1946 he gave an interview where he described what happened when Hitler arrived at the Hotel Hanselmayer that night. "Hitler entered Rohm's bedroom alone with a whip in his hand. Behind him were two detectives with pistols at the ready. He spat out the words; "Rohm, you are under arrest."

Some of the SA leaders, including Rohm, were known homosexuals. Before the purge however, Hitler mostly ignored their behavior because of their usefulness to him. However, now that they were considered enemies to Hitler, their homosexuality would be used as a partial excuse for their executions.

The arrests carried on for 2 more nights. Seventy seven men were executed on charges of treason though historians tend to think the figure is higher. One of the victims was Kurt Von Schleicher, the Vice-Chancellor of Germany. The SA was suddenly taken under control and placed under the command of the army. Hitler received an oath of allegiance from all those who served in the army. Because of Hitler's respect for Rohm, he gave him the opportunity to commit suicide, however, when Rohm refused, he was shot by SS officers. Some of the other officers were bludgeoned to death.

Although the Nazi Party Confirmed the death of about 77 people, who they said were traitors, The real number is not known due to the fact that obituaries were burned, and the Nazi Party was in charge of reporting the death toll. Many people argue that the real death toll of the Night of the long knives is in the hundreds. Hitler sold the story that members of the SA were traitors and that was the reason for their execution.

Hitler kept the Night of the Long Knives a secret until July 13, 1934 when he gave a speech admitting to the murders of seventy-seven people.

"If anyone reproaches me and asks why I did not resort to the regular courts of justice, then all I can say is this: In this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people, and thereby I became the supreme judge of the German people!...It was no secret that this time the revolution would have to be bloody; when we spoke of it we called it the 'Night of the Long Knives.' Everyone must know for all future time that if he raises his hand to strike the State, then certain death is his lot!"

-Adolf Hitler

The Night of the Long Knives Impact

After the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler became the most powerful man in Germany. With the president of Germany dead, Hitler merged the position of Chancellor and President and filled it for himself. Although I was never taught this in my history of WW2 and Hitler's rise to power, the Night of the Long Knives was arguably the single most significant event for Hitler's rise. He not only wiped out everyone who he deemed a threat to his thirst for power, but he was able to keep the support of the German people and the German Army because of their hatred for the SA. It also showed how much Hitler and his SS were willing to for their thirst for power and complete control in Germany.

With Hitler taking complete control in Germany after the night of the Long Knives, the world was never the same again, many of the events during Hitler's rule would not have been possible if he had not carried out these murders.

Works Cited

"Interview Quote from Erich Kempka." Interview. Spartacus Educational. N.p., Mar. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

Speer, Albert. "Page 188." Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs. New York: Ishi Int., 1970. N. pag. Print.

Trueman, CN. "The Night of the Long Knives." History Learning Site. N.p., 16 Aug. 2016. Web. 30 Mar. 2017

Maracin, Paul R. The Night of the Long Knives: Forty-eight Hours That Changed the History of the World. New York: Lyons, 2007. Print.

Overy, R. J. Introduction. The Third Reich: A Chronicle. London: Quercus, 2011. 101.Print

Bullock, Alan. Hitler, a Study in Tyranny. London: Odhams, 1964. 302.Print.

The History Place - World War II in Europe Timeline: June 30, 1934 - The Night of the Long Knives." The History Place - World War II in Europe Timeline: June 30, 1934 - The Night of the Long Knives. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

NAZI GERMANY: The Night of the Long Knives 1934. Dir. Lagan History. YouTube. YouTube, 16 Oct. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2017. <>.

Created By
Sawyer Rossi

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.