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Night of the Long Knives

Created by Sal Khan.

Video transcript

We have now seen the Nazis come to power in 1933 - and by mid 1933 they are the only allowed party in Germany. And Hitler is fundamentally the dictator of Germany. But they aren't happy with just that consolidated power, they want to ensure that they stay in power. And so as we get into 1934 they continue to consolidate their power and now more directly start eliminating their opponents. And when I say eliminating, they are actually directly killing these individuals. And there is an entire Nazi power apparatus that is at play, but the three figures here are the ones that are most notable other than Hitler. This is Joseph Goebbels who is the head of Nazi Propaganda, Hermann Göring, who is the head of the Nazi's secret police, the Gestapo, which later goes under the control of the SS, under Heinrich Himmler. He is a major player in the rearmament of Germany for war footing. He eventually helds the Luftwaffe which is the German airforce during the World War II. We have Heinrich Himmler who is the head of Schutzstaffel, more famously known as the SS, which is the paramilitary group of the Nazi party, used to intimidate and eliminate (as we will see) their opponents and they are also responsible for the execution of the actual the planning and the execution - of the actual holocaust. And so as we get into 1934 Hitler is eager to eliminate more of his opponents - and we are not just talking about opponents outside of the Nazi party, we are also talking about rivals within the Nazi party. And the most notable of these was Ernst Röhm who as you see at this picture was clearly a Nazi. He was head of the Storm Battalion or the SA, which was the paramilitary group that the SS splintered out of and it was far more independent than Hitler would have liked and it was not popular amongst the German people because of its violence - and Hitler and his lieutenants viewed Röhm as a potential rival to Hitler's authority within the Nazi party. And so in 1934, June 30th in particular - or we could say June 30th to July 2nd - you have what's called the Night of the Long Knives and it really should be called the Nights of the Long Knives but the Night of the Long Knives, where under the pretext of a supposed a coup d'état or a putsch on the part of Ernst Röhm The SS and the Gestapo start rounding up Röhm, his allies and any perceived enemies of Hitler. Start rounding them up and eliminating them and shooting them... And Ernst Röhm is arrested and when he refuses to kill himself in his jail cell he is shot at point-blank range. Gregor Strasser, who is a former rival of Hitler within the Nazi party, he is eliminated. Kurt von Schleicher who is a previous chancellor of Germany, perceived as a rival to Hitler - he and his wife are gunned down. Gustav Ritter von Kahr who is in no way anymore a rival to Hitler but he was one of the major actors for putting down the Beer Hall Putsch - the fail the Beer Hall Putch of 1923. He is hacked - he is hacked to get dead. And these are just four of the more notable folks. On those few nights over 85 major officials in Germany were eliminated. And as we will see this is just the beginning of the consolidation of Nazi power and now they are doing it through extra legal means.