On June 30, 1934 Hitler ordered the assassinations of many high-ranking Nazis.
Why? Hitler had started to become wary of the paramilitary Sturmabteilung, also known as the SA, gaining too much power. The SA had been crucial for Hitler’s rise as they intimidated and attacked Hitler’s opponents and silenced his Communist adversaries. By 1934, however, this was an issue of the past.
The head of the SA was Ernst Röhm: a flagrantly homosexual brute who had been Hitler’s longtime mentor and helped the Nazis rise to power. Conflict arose after Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933. Röhm did not like the idea of falling in line and living through Hitler’s cult of personality – in fact, Röhm had his own following amongst the constituents of the Sturmabteilung. Ernst Röhm and his SA got more and more aggressive as time went on, and they overtly vied for military supremacy, which angered the old veterans who had loyalty to the Army. Hitler didn’t hesitate to capitalize on the opportunity to eliminate a potential threat and consolidate his power.
Between June 30 and July 1, 1934 a series of over 100 murders were carried out – including the murder of Ernst Röhm – and the SA was effectively disbanded. This would be the first of many cases of state sanctioned murder to achieve political goals.