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Night of the Short Knives

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  • Night of the Short Knives

    Ernest Roehm & other SA leaders become convinced they must move against Hitlers supporters in the nazi party, so they can ensure their power and continuation to the "Second Revolution". Acting swiftly, before the intent can be recognized they manage to purge the top ranks of the party & destroy the SS. In the following few days SA member occupy all government offices and Roehm begains issuing directives in the name of the captive (or dead) Hitler & Hindinberg. How does this play out as the Reichwehr and the business leaders realize what is happening?

    Could Roehm retain the support of the portion of the middle class who voted for the nazi party?

    Could the SA resist the Reichswehr?

    With legal government ostensiblly in the hands of the SA via the names of Hitler and Hindenberg would the Reichwehr leaders act decisively? Otherwise what legal basis might they use to fight the SA?

    If Goering, Heydrich, or any others survived the SA coup where would they stand with the Reichswehr leadership, and how many of them would have the courage to come out of hiding to actively oppose the SA?

    My first thought was the SA could actually take over, subsequent reading however suggests Roehm & Co may not have been compentent enough for a friction free coup. Any experts here on this period who could comment?

  • #2
    A blood bath anyway you look at.
    1.The industrialists would have to get behind the Reichswer or flee the country.
    2.The SS would fight back those units that didn't would be absorbed.
    3. The Recihswer would be defeated 100,000 vs 3.5 million for the SA
    4. The leaders of the Nazi party would be murdered, put on trial and executed or flee.
    5.Germany would have a Socialist government instead of a Corporatist one. An evil Socalist one but a Socialist one.

    Comment


    • #3
      Wasn't one of the reasons for the Night of the Long Knives to appease the army? The army apparently becoming concerned that the SA was large enough that it seemed to be forming the core of a new Nazi army?

      The army was restricted by the Treaty of Versailles to 100,000 men. But the SA was a paramilitary force estimated at over 2 million.

      By beheading the SA, Hitler made plain that the Heer would be his army and they shortly afterward swore their fealty to him.

      If the leadership of the SA had managed to strike first, they likely would have had to take down the Heer as well. This would have led to a pretty nasty civil war.

      The results of that are hard to calculate.
      Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
        Ernest Roehm & other SA leaders become convinced they must move against Hitlers supporters in the nazi party, so they can ensure their power and continuation to the "Second Revolution". Acting swiftly, before the intent can be recognized they manage to purge the top ranks of the party & destroy the SS. In the following few days SA member occupy all government offices and Roehm begains issuing directives in the name of the captive (or dead) Hitler & Hindinberg. How does this play out as the Reichwehr and the business leaders realize what is happening?

        Could Roehm retain the support of the portion of the middle class who voted for the nazi party?

        Could the SA resist the Reichswehr?

        With legal government ostensiblly in the hands of the SA via the names of Hitler and Hindenberg would the Reichwehr leaders act decisively? Otherwise what legal basis might they use to fight the SA?

        If Goering, Heydrich, or any others survived the SA coup where would they stand with the Reichswehr leadership, and how many of them would have the courage to come out of hiding to actively oppose the SA?

        My first thought was the SA could actually take over, subsequent reading however suggests Roehm & Co may not have been compentent enough for a friction free coup. Any experts here on this period who could comment?
        I'm no expert on the subject, but I don't think Roehm had that all important and highly necessary, intelligence network within his SA, to pull off such a coup detat, like Hitler had with Himmler's SS, Goering's Gestapo and the Sicherheitsdienst at his side. When Hitler designed and decided to carry out the "Night of the Long Knives" on that particular date, he knew that Roehm would be at that hotel in Austria along with his boyfriend, as well as the locations of all key SA leaders and any other enemies of the Nazi Party throughout Germany. I think Roehm stupidly believed in his Fueher and paid the ultimate price for trusting in Hitler too much. In one fell swoop, Hitler destroyed all of the opposition within and outside his party, while being able to claim leadership unquestioned and unopposed.
        "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

        Comment


        • #5
          Yes this assumes Roehm was a bit more astute at the proper moment, and his staff was a bit quicker on the uptake as well. The advantage of the SA would be its brute mass, able to intervene at a lot of locations, still its not the same as pushing Jews off the sidewalk or beating up strikebreakers and polling station officials.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
            Ernest Roehm & other SA leaders become convinced they must move against Hitlers supporters in the nazi party, so they can ensure their power and continuation to the "Second Revolution". Acting swiftly, before the intent can be recognized they manage to purge the top ranks of the party & destroy the SS. In the following few days SA member occupy all government offices and Roehm begains issuing directives in the name of the captive (or dead) Hitler & Hindinberg. How does this play out as the Reichwehr and the business leaders realize what is happening?

            Could Roehm retain the support of the portion of the middle class who voted for the nazi party?

            Could the SA resist the Reichswehr?

            With legal government ostensiblly in the hands of the SA via the names of Hitler and Hindenberg would the Reichwehr leaders act decisively? Otherwise what legal basis might they use to fight the SA?

            If Goering, Heydrich, or any others survived the SA coup where would they stand with the Reichswehr leadership, and how many of them would have the courage to come out of hiding to actively oppose the SA?

            My first thought was the SA could actually take over, subsequent reading however suggests Roehm & Co may not have been compentent enough for a friction free coup. Any experts here on this period who could comment?
            Not an expert, but know a bit. Here's my take.

            The SA isn't well enough organized to completely behead the Nazi party/nazi state/SS/Reichwehr in one fell swoop - which is what they will have to do to win. Keeping Hitler alive is a big gamble, as he provides a popular figurehead in the way that Goering etc. do not. Hindenburg is a more useful hostage, though he will probably die while all this is happening. There are going to be a number of Nazis and other politicians & a lot of Generals running about the place organizing resistance.

            The SA will be able to take over Berlin, some other important cities & parts of the infrastructure of the state...but taking isn't holding. Some senior Nazis will escape - not least because news of this will leak out. The size of the SA will tell against it in that respect. Size is also a probem in another respect - the SA wasn't a single body, but an amalgam. Several hundrecd thousand members were from the Stalhelm, another fascist group with a somewhat less socialist worldview. They have just recently been forced to merge with the SA and many are probably still unhappy. Their leadership has split - one is a Nazi minister, the other was arrested (and later released) on the night of the long knives. Some of these men may leak information on the impending coup. Others may refuse to participate or even change sides. The SA is going to be an unweildy beast to control.

            Initially the opposition will be in some disarray, but only some. The Reichswehr will begin to move quickly, as will the SS, remaining Nazis & the remnants of other right wing parties who have no love for the SA. Given that the SA will be killing people on day one AND overthrowing the government they will struggle to get popular support. Their best bet will actually be to try to get some of the working class. The middle classes tended to plump for the more 'civilized' elements of the party. These anti-SA forces will also have the backing of the monied folk. Whatever they think of Hitler, he is preferable to the SA.

            My bet is the first move here is that the Reichswehr & SS begin by seizing states as bases to hit back. There will be places where the SA is weak. The plot against Rohm had been building for a while. One part of it was doctored evidence that he was working for the French. Expect this to appear very quickly. This will rapidly take the form of a civil war, though probably not a long one. I can't see the SA winning. It is bigger than the Reichswehr, but less well organized & disciplined. Organizations such as the SS & Gestapo are smaller & better organized. Ultimately these forces will be able to overcome. They will also be able to pitch to public opinion - 'restoring order' and eliminating a 'threat to the nation'. The presence of the Reichswehr in hte frontline against the SA will make that a much easier sell. No doubt a few prominent Weimar politicians will also join the anti-SA forces. Not sure if any will actually join with the SA - they didn't seem to make many friends.

            The aftermath of all this depends very much on who lives & who dies. In any case, the senior Nazi leadership has been crippled. Can the party re-assert itself? Will it actually have a stronger grasp on power now, or is it weaker? Will the Reichswehr assert its power more now that it has effectively bailed out the Nazis? If Hitler lives I suspect the Nazi party survies in much better shape. If he dies then they have a problem, especially if someone like Goering, Goebbels of Himmler are left as leader.

            Not really sure where this ends up.
            Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn't got one - Hunter S. Thompson

            Comment


            • #7
              What will the Social Democrats and communists be doing?
              1. Laying low gathering strength.
              2. Joining the anti-SA forces and picking off both sides for a coup.
              3. Getting the hell out of the country.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by The last bullet View Post
                What will the Social Democrats and communists be doing?
                1. Laying low gathering strength.
                2. Joining the anti-SA forces and picking off both sides for a coup.
                3. Getting the hell out of the country.
                The Communist Party had already been wrecked, its key leaders and lesser lights in the KZ or dead. What leaders remained were underground as were the remainder of the faithfull. In 1934 the principle communist party activity was painting slogans on building walls at night and organizing a underground that might not be infiltrated by the Gestapo. The SA had drawn off a portion of the socialist inclined from the Communist party much earlier.

                Neither of those two could do much of practical value in the short run, so #1 is the most likely. Tho some fanatics or common sense challenged might attempt some public action or other.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                  The Communist Party had already been wrecked, its key leaders and lesser lights in the KZ or dead. What leaders remained were underground as were the remainder of the faithfull. In 1934 the principle communist party activity was painting slogans on building walls at night and organizing a underground that might not be infiltrated by the Gestapo. The SA had drawn off a portion of the socialist inclined from the Communist party much earlier.

                  Neither of those two could do much of practical value in the short run, so #1 is the most likely. Tho some fanatics or common sense challenged might attempt some public action or other.
                  The Hitler Nazis were able to pull off their coup because it was more of a well conducted and long planned, overnight surgical strike, rather than a concerted campaign that lasted for weeks, if not months.
                  "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Indeed, key SA leaders had been assembled with Roehm specifically for a conference with Hitler to resolve the tensions between the SA and Hitlers wing of the party.

                    At this point we are assuming the SA was incapable of that much precision. However given the fear within the army leadership of the SA I dont think it makes a large difference in the wider context. A SA coup in whatever form is likely to be a excuse for the army to restore order and legitimate government. The army had moved quickly & decisively enough against the Communists in the 1920s.

                    Exactly where the various police organizations stood is a complication. The former Reichwehr had counted on 'police reservists' to fill out the ranks in emergencies. How many of those might have been SA members or sympathisers I dont know. The Gestapo was certainly in Hilters control historically in 1934 and if IRC the Prussian state police were as well. Perhaps some expert can account for the rest of them?

                    The army of early 1934 was already considerablly larger than the 100,000 man Reichwehr. Officers and NCOs of the hidden reserve had been returning to uniform fairly quickly and expansion of the ranks started. By early 1934 it may have still been under 200,000, tho I am not certain. In any case the ranks are suposed to have still very disciplined and reliable.

                    I guess two questions are:

                    1. How fast would the Army react & take action against the SA?

                    2. How quickly could they take down or isolate the leadership of the SA?

                    A third question, raised earlier here, would be how many active members of the SA would take up arms against Hitlers faction and the Army?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      [QUOTE=Carl Schwamberg;2215907]
                      At this point we are assuming the SA was incapable of that much precision. However given the fear within the army leadership of the SA I dont think it makes a large difference in the wider context. A SA coup in whatever form is likely to be a excuse for the army to restore order and legitimate government. The army had moved quickly & decisively enough against the Communists in the 1920s.
                      I think we can safely assume a repeat.

                      Exactly where the various police organizations stood is a complication. The former Reichwehr had counted on 'police reservists' to fill out the ranks in emergencies. How many of those might have been SA members or sympathisers I dont know. The Gestapo was certainly in Hilters control historically in 1934 and if IRC the Prussian state police were as well. Perhaps some expert can account for the rest of them?
                      Again, I don't know, but I'm prepared to take an educated guess. My guess is that the police side with the army where possible. The SA are essentially jumped up street thugs with delusions of grandeur. it is hard to imagine much sympathy for them in police ranks. I wonder how many police are ex-army? Veterans perhaps? My bet is that wit won't take much persuading for them to side with an institution they most likely respect against a group they probably don't much like. Sell them on the idea of 'defending order' and 'defending the state' and I suspect you have the argument won.

                      This is the sort of thing I was getting at with the idea that the anti-coup forces would use states as the basis for re-asserting control. Police forces would have been invaluable allies.


                      1. How fast would the Army react & take action against the SA?

                      2. How quickly could they take down or isolate the leadership of the SA?
                      We would need to know where units were deployed & how easily they could call up members. We should also assume that the SA seize some (though not all) bases/officers/weapons. There will be areas where the Reichswehr is up and about in days. Other areas where it takes weeks. The other variable here is warning. I am assuming that there are rumours of an SA coup bubbling about the place for weeks or days beforehand. Some army units may already be on heightened alert.

                      If the SA is well organised & unified this could take months to deal with. if they only grab Berlin & a few other cities & begin to fragment early it could be weeks.

                      A third question, raised earlier here, would be how many active members of the SA would take up arms against Hitlers faction and the Army?
                      This is a key question, and it doesn't just relate to former Stalhelm members. How many of these guys will still be keen to fight when they discover that the coup is against Hitler? How many will want to fight the Army? If counter-coup leaders are smart they begin to appeal over the heads of Rohm & the SA leadership to the troops. Something like 'We understand that you are patriots & love your country. You have been misled. You have been lied to by your leaders. If you surrender now or simply return to your homes you will not be punished.' That sort of thing. The assumption that the wole 2-3 million SA will all joinn in & then all stay loyal is wildly optimistic. I doubt even Rohm would believe this. My bet is that each local loss or setback erodes SA numbers elsewhere. Some hardcore supporters will fight to the end, but others will melt away.
                      Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn't got one - Hunter S. Thompson

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        All it would have taken was one phone call to tip the SA off, and they could have turned the tables my ambushing the attackers.
                        Since Hitler took personal part in arresting Rhoem, the results could have been very interesting indeed.
                        And if Rhoem had stopped at Czechoslovakia, WW2 might ever have happened.
                        "Why is the Rum gone?"

                        -Captain Jack

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                        • #13
                          Or on the other hand that the leadership of the SA gets information very early on that Hitler is ready to betray them from a source deep within the Nazi establishment, meaning that the Heirachy of the SA know before hand that the Nazis are going to move aginst them.

                          The betrayal of the SA wasn't an overnight decision but took weeks to plan, the Nazis had to be in the right place at the right time to carry out such a huge undertaking.

                          However just suppose the SA was able with inside knowledge are to place its own people in the right place and at the precise time (say 24hrs beforehand) to strike and in one night thousands of Nazis are arrested including Hitler and all of his henchmen, also including the leadership of the Reichwehr and the SS/Police/Gestapo.

                          In one night the SA have carried out an effective decapitation of the Nazi leadership, the problem is without the leaders of the Nazis and other functionaries orders can't be given out to act upon, no one knows what to do, confusion reigns and within weeks the SA has purged the Nazis.

                          What follows is anyones guess.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Unless a bloody fight is avoided I'd not think there would be any Sudentenland takeover, or even a Austrian anschluss. Roehm lacked Hitlers politcal skills and agenda. My guess he would have focused on creating the workers socialist state and eliminating internal enemies. If he did act externally it could resemble Mussolinis grandiose comedy, particularly with the SA substituted for the army.

                            Were this nazi version of Germany to stumble into war with the Cezchs, Poles, & French it will be without Guderians tested ideas, Halders razor sharp staff, and all the rest of what made the early Wehrmacht victories. Instead it will be the equivalent of the Italian Black Shirt legions advancing ill coordinated into modern artillery and machine gun fires.

                            Were the Army to win this one the internal focus will be even more pronounced. With both the Communists and nazi parties wrecked German government will return to the several 'safe' parties under the watch full eye of the Army. Dealing with the wreckage of the Gestapo, the KZ, the anti Semtism, the euthnasia of the "defectives" will be a problem.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Roddoss72 View Post
                              Or on the other hand that the leadership of the SA gets information very early on that Hitler is ready to betray them from a source deep within the Nazi establishment, meaning that the Heirachy of the SA know before hand that the Nazis are going to move aginst them.

                              The betrayal of the SA wasn't an overnight decision but took weeks to plan, the Nazis had to be in the right place at the right time to carry out such a huge undertaking.

                              However just suppose the SA was able with inside knowledge are to place its own people in the right place and at the precise time (say 24hrs beforehand) to strike and in one night thousands of Nazis are arrested including Hitler and all of his henchmen, also including the leadership of the Reichwehr and the SS/Police/Gestapo.

                              In one night the SA have carried out an effective decapitation of the Nazi leadership, the problem is without the leaders of the Nazis and other functionaries orders can't be given out to act upon, no one knows what to do, confusion reigns and within weeks the SA has purged the Nazis.

                              What follows is anyones guess.
                              The problem then becomes the SA lacking the political machine of the wider Nazi party. The SA was large and fairly popular, but it was the party that really ran things. The SA had too many possible targets in too many different organizations to take down. They lacked access to the same intelligence assets/services that Hitler had, so any attempt to preemptively stop Hitler would really have to be a more straight up fight or a quick military campaign. But they would have to get a lot of targets in one go, or face much resistance.

                              Not to mention their socialist leanings meant they would face difficulties winning the support of the wealthy industrialists that grew to support Hitler.

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