I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at July – September 1934 in this post.
A Timeline of WWII, Summer 1934
July 1, 1934
The Night of Long Knives began on June 30 and continued to July 2 as Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, and Heinrich Himmler conducted a purge of the SA leadership.
The purge and shooting of the SA leadership continued into Sunday, July 1. To give the appearance that life was returning to normal, Hitler hosted a tea party on Sunday evening for cabinet members and their families in the garden of the Chancellery.
July 2, 1934
The purge ended by 4 a.m., early Monday morning, on July 2. An exact number of deaths is not known as all Gestapo reports were destroyed. Estimates range from 200 to over 1,000, less than half of which were SA officers. An unknown number were murdered by mistaken identity. That was the case for the music critic of a Munich newspaper, Dr. Willi Schmidt. Mistaken for another Willi Schmidt on the list, he was taken from his home by four SS men. His body was later returned to his wife and three young children in a sealed coffin by the Gestapo, who ordered that they were not to open it.
July 13, 1934
Hitler spoke before the Nazi controlled Reichstag (Parliament). He announced that seventy-four had been shot and justified the murders with:
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.
With these words, Hitler proclaimed himself the supreme judge of the German people. He placed himself above the law, making his word the law, which instilled a permanent sense of fear in the German people.
The killing of the horrific Night of Long Knives was over, but the aftermath was just beginning. By condoning the events, the regular German Army generals effectively supported Hitler and his actions.
Remaining SA members were eventually inducted into the regular German Army when Hitler re-introduced military conscription (the draft, or compulsory enlistment for state service) in 1935.
July 20, 1934
Hitler rewarded the SS by granting it independent status as an organization. It was no longer part of the SA. Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, now answered only to Hitler, and Reinhard Heydrich was promoted to SS Gruppenführer (Lieutenant-General). With Himmler and Heydrich at the helm, the SS would bring mass murder and terror for the next eleven years to the third Reich.
July 22, 1934
The Nazis prohibited Jews from getting legal qualifications.
July 25, 1934
In a coup attempt, Austrian Nazis murdered Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss. In early 1933, Dollfuss had shut down parliament, banned the Austrian Nazi party, and assumed dictatorial powers. Dollfuss was succeeded by Kurt von Schuschnigg.
August 2, 1934
German President Paul von Hindenburg died at 9 a.m. Within hours, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis announced the following law, dated August 1, before President Hindenburg’s death.
The Reich Government has enacted the following law which is hereby promulgated.
Section 1. The office of Reich President will be combined with that of Reich Chancellor. The existing authority of the Reich President will consequently be transferred to the Führer and Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler. He will select his deputy.
Section 2. This law is effective as of the time of the death of Reich President von Hindenburg.
Following the announcement, the German Officers’ Corps and every member of the German Army swore a personal oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler, not to the Nazi party, but to Hitler himself. A nationwide vote was scheduled, but Adolf Hitler had already officially become Der Führer, or absolute leader, of Germany, and seized total power in Germany.
In the interim, President Hindenburg’s last will and testament came out. His last wishes, in a personal letter to Adolf Hitler, included a desire for a return to a constitutional monarchy. Hitler ignored President Hindenburg’s wishes and likely destroyed the letter, as it was never seen again. However, the Nazis published a likely forgery complimenting Hitler, which was used as part of the election campaign to get the vote for Hitler.
August 19, 1934, in Germany
About ninety-five percent of registered German voters voted in the August 19 election and ninety percent of them voted for Adolf Hitler with thirty-eight million votes. Hitler claimed himself Führer of Germany by the direct will of the people, wielding absolute power in Germany. Adolf Hitler had become the law of Germany.
August 19, 1934, in China
Lasting until September 1934, Chinese Nationalist troops began an aggressive campaign to eject Chinese Communists from their occupied territory south of the Yangtze River.
August 20, 1934
The day after Adolf Hitler was voted Führer of Germany, mandatory loyalty oaths were introduced throughout the Reich.
The oath of loyalty for Public Officials:
I swear: I shall be loyal and obedient to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich and people, respect the laws, and fulfill my official duties conscientiously, so help me God.
The oath of loyalty for Soldiers of the Armed Forces:
I swear by God this sacred oath: I will render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich and people, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and will be ready as a brave soldier to risk my life at any time for this oath.
These oaths were pledged to Hitler personally, not the German State or German Constitution. The oaths were taken very seriously by members of the German Officers’ Corps, which now considered obedience to Hitler a sacred duty, and placed the German armed forces as the personal instrument of Hitler.
At the annual Nuremberg Nazi Party rallies, a euphoric Hitler proclaimed,
The German form of life is definitely determined for the next thousand years. The Age of Nerves of the nineteenth century has found its close with us. There will be no revolution in Germany for the next thousand years.
September 18, 1934
The Soviets join the League of Nations.
This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:
The History Place:
Most recent post from the series:
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018