I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at April – June 1934 in this post.
A Timeline of WWII, Spring 1934
Nazi Storm Trooper or Sturmabteilung (SA) leader Ernst Röhm held a press conference in which he proclaimed,
The SA is the National Socialist Revolution!!
At the time, the Shutzstaffel (SS) was a part of the SA. The SS was formed in 1925 as Adolf Hitler’s personal body guards and were highly disciplined. Heinrich Himmler was the SS Chief and his second-in-command was Reinhard Heydrich. Himmler, Heydrich, and Hermann Göring (see Note) plotted to turn Hitler against Röhm.
May 5, 1934
The Soviet Union and Poland reaffirmed the Soviet-Polish Non-aggression Pact originally signed in 1932 in which both sides agreed to renounce violence in bilateral relations, to resolve their problems through negotiations, and to forgo armed conflict or alliances aimed at each other.
May 17, 1934
The Nazis disallowed Jews from receiving national health insurance.
June 4, 1934
Adolf Hitler met privately with SA leader Ernst Röhm for five hours. As a result, a few days later Röhm announced he was taking time off due to a ‘personal illness’ and that the SA would go on leave for the month of July. Röhm also announced a conference, which Hitler promised to attend, of top SA leaders on June 30 at a resort town near Munich.
June 14 – 15, 1934
Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini met in Venice in their first face-to-face meeting.
June 17, 1934
Franz von Papen, Vice-Chancellor under Adolf Hitler, made a speech in which he criticized the behavior of the SA and denounced Nazi excesses. Papen also spoke about the possibility of a revolution by Röhm and the SA and pushed Hitler to prevent it. Papen’s speech increased tensions between German Army leaders and SA leaders and jeopardized Hitler’s position.
June 21, 1934
Adolf Hitler had been summoned to the East Prussia country estate of German President Paul von Hindenburg, who was in failing health and confined to a wheelchair. Hitler met with President Hindenburg and German Defense Defense Minister General Werner von Blomberg. Hitler was told to solve the SA problem or President Hindenburg would declare martial law and let the German Army run the country, which would mean the end of the Nazi regime.
At the time, Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich were spreading false rumors that Ernst Röhm and the SA were planning a putsch, a violent attempt to overthrow the government.
June 25, 1934
SS Chief Heinrich Himmler and the regular Army generals worked out a secret agreement of cooperation for a planned action against the SA. Leaves were canceled for the regular German Army troops and they were confined to their barracks where they would remain during the action. They would provide weapons and any requested support while the SS handled things.
June 28, 1934
Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, and Nazi Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels attended the wedding of Gauleiter (a political official governing a district under Nazi rule) Josef Terboven in Essen, Germany. Hitler received a phone call warning him of the possibility of a violent overthrow by Röhm’s SA and also the possibility of a revolt by non-Nazis who wanted President Hindenburg to declare martial law and remove Hitler and the Nazi government. Hitler sent Göring back to Berlin to make preparations against the SA and conservative government leaders there. The SS was put on full alert.
June 29, 1934
Adolf Hitler inspected a labor service camp and stayed in a hotel near Bonn, Germany for the night. That evening Heinrich Himmler informed Hitler by phone that SA troops in Munich knew of the coming action and had taken to the streets. Hitler decided to fly to Munich to put down the SA rebellion and to confront Röhm and the top SA leaders who had gathered near Munich at the resort town of Bad Wiessee.
June 30, 1934
The Night of Long Knives began as Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, and Heinrich Himmler conducted a purge of the SA leadership.
Adolf Hitler arrived in Munich near dawn on Saturday, June 30. First, he ordered the arrest of the SA men who were inside Munich Nazi headquarters. He then proceeded to the Ministry of the Interior building and confronted the top SA man in Munich after his arrest, where he tore off the man’s insignia in a fit of hysteria. Hitler next went after Röhm at the resort hotel in Bad Wiessee, accompanied by Rudolf Hess and others.
The SS likely secured the hotel before Hitler arrived, but legend says that Hitler arrived around 6:30 a.m and rushed inside with a pistol to arrest Röhm and other SA leaders. Hitler sent them to Stadelheim prison near Munich to be shot later by the SS.
In the raid, one SA leader, Edmund Heines, had been found in bed with a young man. Hitler ordered him executed immediately at the hotel. It seems that many of the SA leaders, including Ernst Röhm, were gay. In fact, Ernst Röhm, who today is called the highest-ranking gay Nazi, opposed his party’s stand on Paragraph 175 of the German penal code, which made male homosexual acts illegal. Hitler had been ignoring their behavior because of their usefulness to him during his rise to power. But their usefulness and Hitler’s tolerance to them had ended. Their homosexual conduct would become Hitler’s excuse for their murders.
At 10 a.m, Adolf Hitler placed a phone call to Hermann Göring in Berlin. Hitler spoke the prearranged code word ‘Kolibri’ (hummingbird), beginning a wave of murderous violence in Berlin and over twenty other cities. SS execution squads and Göring’s private police force hunted down SA leaders and anyone else on the Reich List of Unwanted Persons.
Included on the Reich List of Unwanted Persons were:
- Gustav von Kahr, who was hacked to death in a swamp near Dachau. He had opposed Hitler during the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923.
- Father Bernhard Stempfle, who was shot and killed. He knew too much about Hitler since he had taken some of the dictation for Hitler’s book Mein Kampf.
- Kurt von Schleicher, who, along with his wife, was shot and killed. He was a former Chancellor of Germany who had helped put Hitler in power.
- Gregor Strasser, one of the original members of the Nazi Party.
- Berlin SA leader Karl Ernst, who helped torch the Reichstag building in February 1933.
- Vice-Chancellor Papen’s press secretary.
- Catholic leader Dr. Erich Klausener.
On Saturday evening, Hitler flew back to Berlin. He was met at the airport by Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Göring. A Gestapo official who was present, Hans Gisevius, later described the scene:
On his way to the fleet of cars, which stood several hundred yards away, Hitler stopped to converse with Göring and Himmler. Apparently he could not wait a few minutes until he reached the Chancellery…From one of his pockets Himmler took out a long, tattered list. Hitler read it through, while Göring and Himmler whispered incessantly into his ear. We could see Hitler’s finger moving slowly down the sheet of paper. Now and then it paused for a moment at one of the names. At such times the two conspirators whispered even more excitedly. Suddenly Hitler tossed his head. There was so much violent emotion, so much anger in the gesture, that everybody noticed it…Finally they moved on, Hitler in the lead, followed by Göring and Himmler. Hitler was still walking with the same sluggish tread. By contrast, the two blood drenched scoundrels at his side seemed all the more lively…
Reportedly, Hitler ordered a pistol with a single bullet be given to Ernst Röhm to commit suicide, but Röhm refused to do it, saying “If I am to be killed let Adolf do it himself.” Theodore Eicke, Commander of the Totenkopf (Death’s Head) guards at Dachau, and another SS officer waited fifteen minutes, then entered Röhm’s cell and shot him point blank. Reportedly, Röhm’s last words were “Mein Führer, mein Führer!”
The Night of the Long Knives continued until July 2.
Hermann Göring created the Gestapo, the secret state police, in the German state of Prussia. Göring was the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, President of the Reichstag, Prime Minister of Prussia, Plenipotentiary (a person having full power to take independent action on behalf of his government) for the Implementation of the Four Year (economic) Plan, and designated successor to Hitler.
This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:
The History Place:
The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline
Wikipedia: Soviet-Polish Non-Aggression Pact
World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.
Most recent post from the series:
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018