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Study Notes

Night of the Long Knives

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 10 Apr 2018

The Night of the Long Knives was the term given to the process whereby Hitler, in 1934, purged the Nazi Party of all those who were a threat to Hitler. The result was that it was made Hitler the undisputed leader of the Nazis and by extension Germany.

The biggest threat to Hitler was Ernst Röhm. Röhm was the leader of the Nazi Brownshirts, the SA. Under his leadership the SA had grown to three million people, who were all loyal to Röhm and not Hitler. Röhm was also more socialist than other members of the party, and disagreed with Hitler over some of the nationalist ideas. Hitler also listened to German Generals who were worried about the SA too. The Treaty of Versailles limited the size of the German Army, and the SA were a threat. The tipping point in events came when Hitler was warned about a possible coup by the SA. Hitler had Röhm and other leaders arrested and shot.


Hitler used the Night of the Long Knives to remove internal threats to his leadership and this extended to members of the Government. Von Papen was placed under house arrest and members of his staff were killed. Hitler justified the kills to Germany by stating that they were plotting to overthrow him and that the killings were in the interests of Germany. 

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