"Night of long knives"

80 years ago in Germany there was an action that went into history as "Night of long knives". 30 June 1934 began Operation Hummingbird, a large-scale massacre of Adolf Hitler and his entourage on objectionable German party leaders. In the course of this operation, the military and SS units crushed the leadership and assets of the assault detachments (German: Sturmabteilung, abbreviated SA). In fact, this action was a consequence of the internal conflict of the German elite.

Assault troops were created in the summer of 1921, on the basis of some units of the Volunteer Corps (a revanchist organization that emerged after the defeat of Germany in the First World War). The SA played the role of the power structure of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), participating in clashes with the militarized organizations of other parties and the authorities. The head of the "brown shirts" (by analogy with the Italian "blackshirts") was one of the leaders of the National Socialists, Ernst Julius Rehm. He, being an officer, went through the brutal school of the First World War, was wounded three times in the war and was awarded the Iron Cross.

From the very beginning, there were serious disagreements between Hitler and Remus. Hitler wanted to see in the SA only detachments of fighters who would fulfill any order of the party leaders. Ryom also wanted to create the core of the new army. Hitler created in the year 1923 from the SA a detachment of personal protection of the Fuhrer ("Headquarters security"). The members of Hitler’s guard wore black ski caps with a silvery image of a skull and crossbones (“dead heads”), which symbolized the willingness to give up life for the Fuhrer. Then the guard was transformed into the "Shock Detachment" Adolf Hitler. " In 1925, a new personal security guard and guard of the headquarters of the NSDAP - SS (German, SS, short from German. Schutzstaffel - “security detachments”) was created. Prior to 1934, the CC was organizationally part of the CA.


After the Beer Putsch, Hitler and Rom broke off relations. Ryom went to Bolivia, where he became a military instructor. In 1931, Ryom again headed the CA. Assault troops played a decisive role in the rise of the National Socialists, their number reached 400 thousand people. In the context of the global crisis, which hit Germany hard, joining the stormtroopers yielded good earnings. By the beginning of 1933, their number had increased to 600 thousand fighters, and by the end - to 3 million people. And their leader was Ryom, not Hitler.

However, by the summer of 1934, there was a split within the national socialist elite. Being a Reichsleiter (an imperial leader, the highest party functionary who led one of the main areas of activity for the Nazi Party) and a Reich Minister without portfolio, Rom began planning military reform. He believed that the army should be formed on the basis of the militia principle, and the SA would become the basis of the new German army. Ryom rejected and despised the old cadres of the German army, considering them to be incompetent, since they had lost the First World War. Ryom saw himself as the head of a new army. Given the fact that the SAs submitted to Ryom, with such a transformation, he received a leading role in the Reich. When Rome demanded the dissolution of the old army (Reichswehr) and the creation of a new army (“revolutionary people's militia”), he challenged Hitler, the army generals and the SS. Moreover, speaking of the “socialist” color of the new revolution, Rohm challenged the large German capital connected with world capital.

The strength advantage was on the side of Ryom and his supporters: the SA was many times larger than the Reichswehr (the SA had five armies and 18 corps and a headquarters of former officers). Socialist ideas supported the general population. However, believing in their superiority, Ryom and his supporters miscalculated their opponents' determination, believing that they could push through their ideas peacefully.

"Night of long knives"


It must be said that Ryohm’s idea of ​​a “new army” of Germany was later used by Hitler. The Fuhrer began to create the core of the army on the basis of the SS, forming the selective SS divisions. However, Rome was in a hurry, speaking for revolutionary changes. Hitler would be a supporter of a gradual, evolutionary path. Speaking on July 6 at a meeting of the Reichsthalters, Hitler noted: “A revolution cannot be a permanent state. The stream of revolution must be sent to a quiet course of evolution ... "In his opinion, those who would like to send the state machine in the other direction are" carriers of bacilli carrying harmful ideas, "and should be deprived of the opportunity to harm Germany, as they" pose a danger for the state and the nation. "

Did not like the elevation of Ryom and his plans, not only the military, but Himmler. Although Himmler was on good terms with Rom and to the last tried to keep him from rash actions. The head of the SS actively improved its structure and increased its strength. Special attention was paid to personnel policy. Intellectuals preferred the SS, the organization attracted the spirit of the "knightly", closed order. While the SA was noted in a number of defaming scandals.

In addition, Himmler, after the NSDAP came to power, was left out. So, the new imperial governor of Bavaria was General Franz von Epp, who had good contacts with Ryom (Röm was once the chief of staff of the 7 military district of the Reichswehr, commanded by Epp). Himmler was appointed police president of Munich. Then Himmler, using Hitler's fear of the assassination, created a special SS unit under the command of Hans Rattenhuber (Imperial Security Service). A major role in strengthening the SS was played by the Security Service (SD) created in 1931, under the command of the former naval officer Reinhard Heydrich. SD collected compromising evidence on politicians and people in prominent positions in society, including Ryom and his closest associates.

In addition, Himmler pressed over the police. Police departments in Germany were subordinate to local authorities and were not centralized. Himmler began sending out his representatives to lands and cities, where they were agitating the local authorities to transfer their law enforcement agencies under the wing of the Reichsführer SS. Such actions had some success, to become part of the SS looked much more preferable. The SS looked more "aristocratic" organization than the "common" attack aircraft, did not allow themselves scandals. Himmler tried to consolidate this collection of local structures officially, proving to Hitler that the “corrupt old regime police” must be given over to the control of the SS in order to fight the enemies of the Reich. As a result, gradually, during 1933 — 1934, in addition to Bavaria, Himmler became the police chief of Hamburg, Mecklenburg, Lübeck, Thuringia, Hesse, Baden, Württemberg, Anhalt, Bremen and Oldenburg. He subjugated himself and Saxony.

Hermann Goering was also an opponent of Ryom. The former ace of the First World War picked up positions and powers. He became President of the Reichstag, Minister of President of Prussia, Reich Minister of Aviation. In addition, Goering was the head of Prussia’s police, and in April 1933 created the Gestapo (from him, Geheime Staatspolizei, the “secret state police”). It so happened that Goering and Himmler independently organized two police centers. But the political situation said that they had better be allies than enemies. Both Goering and Himmler at that time were inferior to Ryom. Therefore they made an alliance. In April, 1934, Goering, appointed Himmler the chief of the Prussian Gestapo.

Goering and Himmler acted as ardent advocates of legality. The press began to receive facts about the crimes of stormtroopers. In the courts began scandals. Goering, as Minister of President of Prussia and the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Prussia, closed part of the concentration camps on his territory, which were controlled by the SA. Himmler proved to Hitler that a similar function should be assigned to the “best sons of the fatherland” - SS. At Himmler, everything looked fine in Dachau - the prosecutor Walter Shtepp, who was digging against Himmler, received the title of Hauptsturmführer SS and calmed down. The management and security of the remaining concentration camps were transferred to the SS. It was a great success of Himmler, the "black order" won a whole field of activity. For the protection of places of detention, Himmler received the right to form detachments "Dead Head" (German SS-Totenkopfverbände, SS-TV). This was the second SS unit - after the "Leibstandart SS" Adolf Hitler "(some were engaged in guarding the Fuhrer and performing ceremonial-guard functions), which received weapon.

As a result, in 1934, Himmler had two “armies” - the SS and the Gestapo. The SS consisted of 200 thousand people organized in the 85 regiments. The SS was much inferior to the SA, but it represented a formidable guard, since the selective units were superior in all respects to the attack aircraft. Nor could the Gestapo be underestimated. Almost every day, Himmler’s reports provided Hitler with information that Rohm criticized him, entered into contact with right-wing opposition figures, creating a growing sense of anxiety in the Führer. The situation worsened the behavior of Ryoma. He did not hide his "harem" of young young people, gave several disgusting orgies. Neither did comrades Ryom, who were noted in corruption scandals, behave better.


Hitler was in a difficult situation. Despite the defeat of the main political opponents, the victory of the National Socialists looked fragile. The party was torn apart by contradictions. Hitler had a powerful opposition in his own party. The "permanent revolution" threatened to sweep away the government, and Hitler, and the state itself. The social lower classes were eager to "deepen" the revolution. Representatives of the socialist wing of the Nazi Party criticized Hitler for his racism and extreme nationalism, offering to focus on the socialist program. The leaders of the socialist wing of the Nazi Party attacked harsh criticism of capitalists and large landowners. Thus, the chief president of the Frontier Mark Posen - West Prussia Wilhelm Cuba (the future general commissioner of the Belorutenia General District and the executioner of Belarus) demanded that the national socialist government "force major landowners to divide their lands and transfer most of them to the peasants." The opinion of Hitler’s treachery and the need for a second, “truly socialist” revolution led by one of the founders of the NSDAP, a representative of the socialist wing of the party, Gregor Strasser and Ernst Röhm, grew stronger.

And if Hitler managed to get rid of the main "socialist" in the ranks of the NSDAP - Strasser (he went to Italy), then the problem of Röhm could not be solved by means of backstage intrigues and permutations. Ryom was not a socialist, but he claimed power, and behind him were millions of attack aircraft. Hitler’s statement that the revolution was over was not accepted by the brown shirts. Authority for the leaders of the SA Hitler was not. He was treated with disdain. 28 February 1934, Hitler invited the leadership of the CA and the army to the meeting room of the war ministry to reconcile the opposing parties. Reich Defense Minister Werner von Blomberg and Röhm signed an agreement, the Reichswehr was declared the defender of the Reich, and the SA pledged to conduct pre-conscription and reserve training. The next day, a reconciliation ceremony was held at Ryome’s headquarters. However, as soon as it ended, Ryom declared: “What this corporal announced was not our concern. I'm not going to stick to the agreement. Hitler is a treacherous and should go, at least, on vacation. If he is not with us, then we will do our work without Hitler. ”

Revolutionary open-minded attack aircraft said that "from the dead Hitler more benefits than from the living." They shouted: “Down with the clown!” They even compared Russia 1917 of the year with Germany, saying that Hitler was a fleeting period of the German revolution, something like Kerensky. Ryoma compared with Lenin. The slogan of attack aircraft in those days was the cry "Do not take off belts!", Which called for increased vigilance. Ryom was not ashamed at all, defamed the Fuhrer, said that "Adolf is a scoundrel, he betrayed us all," communicates only with the reactionaries. Hitler was trying to somehow negotiate with a longtime comrade, but Rem wanted more.

18, April, in a speech to foreign journalists, Rohm said: “The revolution that we have carried out is not only national, it is a national socialist revolution. And we insist even on the special underlining of the second word - socialist ”. His first assistant, Haynes, said at the end of May in Silesia: “We have fulfilled the task of the revolutionaries. However, this is only the beginning. And we will rest when the German revolution is complete. "

It should be noted that at this time the attack aircraft did not have a plan to start an uprising (revolution), as their opponents wanted to present. Incendiary speeches Ryom and his colleagues were intended only to exert pressure on the Fuhrer, so that he was more compliant. He wanted to resolve the issue peacefully and believed in success, leading the most powerful force in Germany. Realizing that he went too far, Ryom announced the decision to send all attack aircraft from 1 July 1934 on a month's vacation, and the head of the SA was sent for medical treatment for health reasons.

But it was too late. Goering, Himmler and Heydrich have already made "black lists", mobilized their units. The leaders of the Reichswehr were also ready for action. Parts of the SS and the Reichswehr 29 Jun raised the alarm. The army did not plan to conduct military operations, the action was an "internal" affair of the party. But the military supplied the SS with rifles, machine guns and ammunition. Two messages from Himmler were given to Hitler: the first was about the upcoming 30 June uprising of the stormtroopers in Berlin; in the second - about the atrocities of attack aircraft in Munich. Both messages were false.

Under pressure from big capital, the military, Goering, Hess, Himmler and his Gestapo, Hitler made the decision. After a long period of uncertainty, a sharp decision followed. 29 June Hitler went to Westphalia and at the Dresden Hotel in Bad Godesberg let himself be “persuaded”. The financial and industrial circles of Germany have long expressed their opinions, and Goering and Himmler began to act, it was impossible to retreat.

Hitler and Goebbels flew to Bavaria, Goering and Himmler to Berlin. The Nazi ideologists came up with the beautiful name of the slaughterhouse - “The Night of the Long Knives”. The name is beautiful, loud, although in content it did not correspond to reality. There were no knives, rifles and pistols - more efficient. And the "night" was not. Hitler arrived in Bavaria in the morning, arrested the local CA leaders in Munich. Then a convoy of SS and military men moved to Bad Wiessee to the Henzlbauer Hotel. Ryoma and his comrades-in-arms were taken “lukewarm”, after drunkenness and orgy, surrounded by cute “adjutants.” Nobody thought of any rebellion. Some were shot, others were detained.

Ryoma was first put in prison. Hitler still doubted. He remembered the services Ryom, even wanted to pardon. But he had a lot of pressure. Overnight from 30 June to 1 July, Goering and Himmler persuaded the Fuhrer to eliminate Ryom. Hitler eventually succumbed to the entreaties. 1 July Ryoma was shot.

On June 30, after seizing Ryom, Hitler ordered Goebbels to give Goering the code word "hummingbird." SS units raised the alarm, printed envelopes with firing lists were printed, and a wave of terror swept across the Reich. The documents of the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1946 indicated that during this operation 1076 people were killed, most of them were members of the Nazi Party, including several dozen high-ranking functionaries. In particular, Gregor Strasser was killed.

The army took this action favorably. The massacre of attack aircraft satisfied von Blomberg and the rest of the generals. Now they planned to restore the army in the traditional way, through universal military service and the preservation of the traditional (Prussian) system. President Hindenburg was informed that the revolution was about to be crushed, but the chancellor did not blunder and crushed it in the bud. Hindenburg even sent a telegram to Hitler expressing "gratitude and sincere gratitude."

The assault troops were not destroyed, they were reorganized. The number of SA was reduced three times, to 1,5 million. Now the SS was the main fighting organization of the Nazi Party. Many attack aircraft became members of the SS or joined the Wehrmacht. The attackers no longer played any role in politics, their tasks were limited to parade events during party congresses, military pre-conscription and post-conscription training, youth education, civil defense, and the elimination of emergency consequences. SS removed from the SA, the SS became a separate organization. Now Himmler obeyed only Adolf Hitler.

Hitler after the death of Hindenburg received power equal to the imperial. Parts of the Reichswehr swore him in a new form, swearing not to Germany, not to the people, but to Adolf Hitler personally. 12 August was promulgated by Hindenburg. 19 August, Hitler held a plebiscite, following which new powers and concentration of power in the hands of the Fuhrer were approved by the majority of the people (38,4 million votes against 4,3 million).

The whole Western world at that time admired Hitler. The British Daily Mail wrote: "The outstanding personality of our time is Adolf Hitler ... among the great leaders of humanity who rarely appear in history."
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