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Night of the Long Knives

The Nazi party consolidated power in 1934 by eliminating opponents through the Night of the Long Knives. Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring, and Heinrich Himmler were key figures in this operation. The Night saw the SS and Gestapo round up and kill over 85 major officials, including Ernst Röhm, Gregor Strasser, Kurt von Schleicher, and Gustav Ritter von Kahr. Created by Sal Khan.

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  • female robot grace style avatar for user skyesaro
    Khan says that Gustaw is "hacked". What does that mean?
    (23 votes)
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  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Vishwam Chand
    After the Night of the Long Knives, did the German people begin to think that they'd made a mistake by electing Hitler. And how come no on in the SS stepped up to this cruelty?
    (21 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user T.H.M.
      Good question Vishwam! To answer your question, yes some people did think it was a mistake, but most were simply happy to see the SA gone.

      Various Germans could get behind the policy of redressing Versailles and making Germany a "Great Power" again but to them things like the SA were highlights of the "excesses"( as they called them) of the the Nazis. The SA's equally brutal suppression by Hitler did convince many of the future German Resistance members that the Nazis were doing more harm than good and needed to be removed.

      As to why the SS didn't intervene, well the SS was just as bad an organization as the SA was in terms of cruelty. The German Einsatzgruppen (killing squads sent into the Soviet Union) and the Holocaust itself were largely supported and implemented by the SS later on. So, it's a game of pick your poison, SA or SS?

      I hope this helps :)
      (19 votes)
  • marcimus pink style avatar for user Logan Rose
    At ,could someone explain to me a little more about the Gestapo?
    (7 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user T.H.M.
      The Gestapo (which is short for "Ge heime" "Sta ats po lizei", or the "Secret State Police") was very much what the name entailed, they were the guys that were responsible for breaking down your door in the middle of the night to take you away for committing treasonous activities. More generally, The Gestapo was mainly responsible for Counterintelligence operations, and the elimination of resistance cells, spies, and other traitors. They also helped in the tracking down of Jews to be sent to concentration camps.

      You can find more information here:

      I hope this helps :)
      (23 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Greg L
    How did news of this spread? It is difficult to imagine having many of the nations most powerful go missing without people noticing and asking questions.
    If there was a time when German people would have had cause for outrage and reason to protest this is it. Why wasn't there an Arab Spring type flash mob in response to these acts?
    (9 votes)
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    • piceratops tree style avatar for user George Alphonse
      It was not kept a secret at all actually. Hitler confessed to the crime publicly in the Reichstag (Germany's main governmental building at the time), and he cited that the men he killed had been plotting to undermine the government, and that he had killed them for treason. As you can imagine, there were skeptics, but there were also those who believed Hitler wholeheartedly. Eventually the German people just accepted it, perhaps for fear of speaking out otherwise, or other reasons.
      (10 votes)
  • starky sapling style avatar for user Ella
    Is Night of the Long Knives Kristallnacht?
    (1 vote)
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    • aqualine seed style avatar for user Laura Leigh
      They are not the same.

      Kristallnacht ( which means "Crystal Night") is also known as the "Night of Broken Glass" because of all the broken glass littering the streets after Jewish homes, stores, synagogues, buildings, and schools were ransaked and destroyed. These attacks were led by SA paramilitary forces some anti-Jew civillians.

      Night of the Long Knives was multiple nights of brutal murders orchestrated by Hitler in an attempt to wipe out leaders in the SA and reinforce his power.

      Hope that helps!
      (18 votes)
  • piceratops seedling style avatar for user Kaylyn Weilage
    I know many, many people followed Hitler, but were all of them in favor of the Holocaust? I get that they hated Jewish people, but did killing/torturing them seem a bit extreme to any of them? I know it does to me, but it probably does to anyone now.
    (2 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user NathanWeeksAAL
      After the war, apart from the top members of the Nazi party, only members of the SS were deemed to have known about what was happening in the concentration camps as it was under SS jurisdiction. There are many pictures of ordinary German soldiers and civilians being shown pictures of, or being lead through, the concentration camps and expressing surprise, revulsion, and disbelief.
      (10 votes)
  • hopper cool style avatar for user Himanshu Rana
    If Hitler was so cruel and cross the line of humanity than why is there supporters of Nazi don't they think that Hitler would also try to kill them?
    how does he rivalry occur in the same party although the propaganda of the party was same as expanding their territories and why did the people did not raise their voice against the cruelness?
    (4 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      1) There is no "if" when mentioning Hitler's cruelty.
      2) some people supported him out of fear, others because they, themselves, admire and support cruelty.
      3) Parties form and fall apart based on smaller group and even individual interests.
      4) People may not have raised their voices because they were afraid in the atmosphere of cruelty that pervaded their context.
      (5 votes)
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Lazy Lipids
    what were the SS, SD, SA and SC?
    (3 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Dave Morgan
    When did people realize Hitler was evil?
    (3 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user Bilal
      In a general sense of the word the people have always known that what Hitler was doing and supported had more wrongs than rights in them. However, politics in those days was volatile to the extreme, this is not surprising given the disastrous results of World War One, the 'Hyper inflation' and the devastating results of the depression when the New York Stock market collapsed. After the First World War, extreme right wing groups drove Germany to the brink of civil war, furthermore, people accused the Weimar Republic and its democratic ideals to be useless and doing nothing to improve Germany's future. The Nazi propaganda machine was powerful, it preached that it would bring this change which included to ignore the demands made at the 'Treaty of Versailles' and get the people back to work, a promise the Nazis had more or less fulfilled. So most people were kept in the background to realize what it is exactly was that Hitler was getting up to. After the Night of the Long Knifes, no less than 82 people across the Reich were ruthlessly murdered by the SS and Gestapo over a period of about a week. Hitler, in a public speech to the people, told them that these people had incited unrest with the intent to cause civil disruption on a massive scale. To save the country plunging into a civil war they were arrested but many if not all resisted arrest and were shot. The year was 1934, and very few people believed Hitler's explanation, but they accepted it just the same. People were desperate to get out of the misery they were in, by February 1932, no less than 13,000,000 workers and their dependents were seeking urgent assistance, put short they were starving. A lot of people knew from the start he was nuts, hence the massive civil unrest and violence between Nazi supporters and opposing groups such as the Social Democrats, Communists and workers being represented by the Unions and many other splinter groups as well. All were knuckled under by the Nazis including the Catholic Church.
      (4 votes)
  • male robot donald style avatar for user Isaac Mansfield
    What's a coup d'état? Sounds French.
    (4 votes)
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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.