Der Röhm-Putsch (German Edition)
The Freikorps was notorious for its brutality in eradicating the communists and socialists that helped, along with others, to destabilise the early years of the Weimar Republic. He could never accept that Germany lost World War One. He also believed that the hated Treaty of Versailles had been imposed on the Germans by hated and traitorous socialist politicians.
For many of similar beliefs, there was not a huge difference between the socialists and communists in Germany. He was still an army officer but resigned his commission after spending some time in prison prior to his trial. In effect, he was given a conditional discharge. However, a popular revolt against the government in Bolivia and improving election results for the Nazis in Germany prompted him to return — as did a personal request by Hitler. He took up his position in January In the Great Depression , the environment was right for a blossoming of support for left wing parties.
Many German workers were unemployed with few prospects. Violence was common. He offered a new alternate — if you crushed the enemy, you will get stability in Germany. The years to saw a large growth in the electoral support for the Nazi Party. By , the SA was three million strong.
Within hours, word had flown through regular army channels as well, and Reichswehr troops were also placed on standby for imminent action. Hitler, conveniently, was away from Berlin, attending the wedding of a minor party functionary in Essen. As if on cue, Hitler received a call at the wedding reception.
At the other end of the line was Himmler, who read off a series of new and alarming reports concerning alleged SA preparations for a coup, scheduled to begin at 5 p.
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He even arranged a luncheon banquet with special food for the vegetarian Hitler. Hitler, outwardly calm but inwardly furious, dutifully followed through with a planned schedule of visits to local youth camps before he checked into the Hotel Dreesen at Bad Godesberg.
Bridgeman Images. In the meantime, Hitler would also fly to Munich and direct events on the ground. He had not slept all night. Hitler rejoined his motorcade and set out for Bad Wiessee. Meanwhile, other cars began leaving SS headquarters, dispersing across Munich and other cities across Germany. Himmler and Heydrich silently watched them drive away.
The officer wisely said nothing. No one heard the cars drive into the courtyard at the Hotel Kurheim Hanselbauer. Even before they had come to a stop, armed SS officers leaped down and fanned out across the driveway, silently directing their troops into position. In the distance, church bells were summoning the faithful to early-morning mass. Inside the hotel, SA leaders were sleeping off a long night of drinking and revelry.
The ground floor was deserted, the banquet hall already set for the midday feast to honor Hitler. Behind him stood an year-old storm trooper who had spent the night with him.
Night of the Long Knives
When Heines resisted arrest, an SS soldier knocked him to the ground. SS troops went from room to room, arresting other SA officers, many of whom, like Heines, were sleeping with younger storm troopers. They were surprised, however, by the SS soldiers aiming rifles and Lugers at them. A brief standoff took place; Operation Kolibri hung in the balance. Hitler, thinking quickly, ordered the SA men to return to Munich. In another spur-of-the-moment decision that seemed in retrospect almost operatic in symbolism, Hitler decided against returning to Berlin and went instead to SA headquarters, the infamous Brown House, in Munich.
The Night of the Long Knives, as the operation would come to be called, had begun. To avoid attracting attention, the squads were kept small—two to five men each. Heil Hitler! We are innocent. The executions continued every 20 minutes throughout the day. At Lichterfelde Barracks, 20 miles southeast of Berlin, another SA members were thrown into a cellar at the cadet school. As in Munich, men were brought out four at a time to be shot.
In full view of his fellow captives, each man was led before a red-brick wall in the school courtyard, his shirt was ripped off, and a circle drawn with charcoal around his left nipple before a squad of eight SS sharpshooters blasted away at a killing range of five or six yards. The executions were so brutal that the unnerved firing squads had to be changed frequently.
In the midst of a grotesquely ill-timed tea party in the garden of his Berlin chancellery, Hitler excused himself to phone the Interior Ministry. Theodor Eicke, the commandant of Dachau concentration camp and the de facto leader of the executions in Munich, answered the phone.
If he refused, Eicke knew what to do. Proceeding to Cell No. Fifteen minutes later Eicke and Lippert returned.
In the Shadow of Sudhoff: German Medical History in the Weimar Republic
Soon, it would be too late for millions. The world was about to enter its own night of the long knives. And none of these groups could say they knew nothing about the matter. Everyone knew what had happened. And, in my opinion, this was the beginning of the end, because from now on the move was from the lawful and legal to the illegal and unlawful, and from now on there could be no turning back the clock. The hands were frozen at Roy Morris Jr. This article appears in the Autumn issue Vol.