The Night of the Long Knives
Review Date: 8 Sep 2006
Guest Reviewer: Iain Martin
The Night of the Long Knives documents one of the lesser known episodes of Hitlerís rise to power on June 30th 1934 when he and his closest followers set about an organized mass murder of the Nazi partyís enemies. Ernst Rohm was the leader of the SA brownshirts, the military muscle of the Nazi party and a possible challenge to Hitlerís rule. The conservative elements of Germany who backed Hitler, the army and the industrialists, feared Rohmís power and the anarchy he could inflict with his SA. In a secret deal, they backed Hitlerís campaign to rebuild Germany if he would get rid of Ernst Rohm. The event was also used as a means to eliminate the enemies of the party and silence anyone else who dared speak out. On the night of June 30th, assassination teams scoured Germany for the people Hitler, Goring and Heydrich had listed for eradication. The list included Hitlerís principle rival for Chancellor, Otto Strasser.
Heinrich Himmler followed up the killings by a massive cover-up. Documents were destroyed, and people threatened and killed. In the end, total numbers arenít known but at least over one thousand people were murdered, many completely innocent of crimes: the speech writers for Franz von Papen, the priest who knew too much about Hitlerís affair with his niece Geli Raubal, the restaurant host and wine server who witnessed Goebbels meeting secretly with Rohm before the assassinations, the Berlin police chief who knew too much about the Reichstag fire. The list goes on and on.
What this book accurately conveys is the tightening noose Hitler pulled around Germanyís neck to destroy the democracy from within. Following president Hindenburgís death in 1934 Hitler combined the offices of President and Chancellor, eliminated free press and seized control of the courts. The army began to swear an oath of allegiance to Hitler. The Night of the Long Knives was the first major event to show that Hitler and Nazis would stop at nothing to achieve their aims. Many people underestimated Hitler. Few would do so after June 30th 1934. There was practically no person or power in Germany following this event who could oppose him.
The author Paul Maracin became a freelance writer after retiring from a twenty-seven-year career as a criminal investigator with the San Diego County District Attorney's Office. He brings a journalistís perspective to historical events. On the good side are clearly written chapters and short biographies of the principle figures. His points are well defined. Anyone who was uninformed on the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler, or any of these events could pick up this book and find an easy and engaging read. In the same token, I would not label this as ďlight historyĒ as his research appears sound yet presented from a journalistís pen. Any serious student of history just needs to keep this in mind. As such, the author has chosen not to footnote and document his facts along the way, but does provide a valuable biography of source material. If one is looking for the best academic volume on Hitler they should pick up Hitler: A Study in Tyranny by Alan Bullock, or Hitler by Ian Kershaw. This is the only book in print exclusively on the Night of the Long Knives and should be of interest to any student of this era or general interest reader.
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