9


CONSOLIDATION OF POWER

While Hitler believed that the time had come to consolidate Nazi achievements—achievements that had come with stunning ease—consolidation was not what SA leader Ernst Röhm wanted to hear. Writing in the June 1933 issue of the influential party journal, the Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte, he acknowledged that “a mighty victory has been won, but not the victory.” The ultimate goal of creating a new Germany, infused with the National Socialist spirit of revolutionary struggle, had not yet been achieved, and as long as that goal was not attained, “the bitter, passionate struggle of the SA and SS will not cease.” He lashed out against timidity in the political leadership and squeamish moderation that would drain the Nazi revolution of its fanatical zeal. Invoking Prussian General Gebhard von Blücher, the German hero of Waterloo, he cautioned that “the politicians should not spoil what the soldier has won with his blood.” The SA and SS, he warned, “would not tolerate [a situation in which] the German revolution goes to sleep or is betrayed by ‘non-fighters’ content to go only ‘half way.’ ” Now with four million members, the SA was not going away; it would be a major power factor in the coming National Socialist state, a third pillar of the regime, alongside the army and the police. It would have “special tasks” and, he not so subtly implied, would not be content merely “to take orders.” Röhm closed his article with a direct challenge to the “bourgeois souls” in the party: “Whether it suits them or not, we will continue our fight. With them, if they finally grasp what it is all about. Without them, if they don’t want it. And against them, if it must be!”

Throughout the spring Röhm and other senior SA leaders continued to call for “a second revolution” that would realize the party’s long-standing social revolutionary promises. The Storm Troopers, Röhm declared, were “the incorruptible guarantors of the fulfillment of the German revolution.” The relationship between the party and the SA had always been prickly, and by summer 1933 the gap between the party’s political leadership and the SA was widening into a chasm. From the earliest days of the party, the SA had seen itself as a military organization, its members the soldiers that fought for the National Socialist revolution—and won it. Their contempt for what they considered the bourgeois restraint of the political leadership was never far from the surface and had exploded into open conflict at intervals over the years.

Differences over ideology and strategy aside, many Brown Shirts were bitterly disappointed by the failure of the new regime to find positions for them, either in the party or state administrations. Many were still surviving on the dole, eating in SA soup kitchens, living in SA barracks, desperately in need of a job. It was their due, their just reward for fighting the party’s hard battles in “the time of struggle,” while others sat safely ensconced in their offices or strutted about in their un-bloodied party uniforms. Many had come to feel that Hitler’s loyal “old fighters” were being passed over for opportunists who had rushed to join the party or the SA after the Enabling Act. March violets, they were derisively called. Almost 80 percent of the party’s membership had joined since the March 5 election.

Although the Nazis were firmly entrenched in power, widespread SA hooliganism remained a problem, and an increasingly embarrassing one, for the regime. Despite urgent calls for a stabilization of the situation by the Justice and Interior ministries, SA leaders tenaciously resisted any interference in their affairs. In the spring and summer violent incidents involving the SA occurred throughout the Reich, but the most explosive outburst came in late June, in the Köpenick section of Berlin. There, on June 21, a young Social Democrat fought off an assault by a gang of Brown Shirts, shooting dead two of his assailants. Hundreds of Storm Troopers soon descended on the scene, and from June 21 to June 26 rampaged through the neighborhood, beating and arresting over five hundred “enemies of the state.” Most were dragged off to makeshift SA prisons where they were so sadistically tortured that ninety-one of them died. These days of appalling savagery came to be known as the “blood week of Köpenick.” The authorities looked the other way.

This state of affairs could not continue. The SA’s unbridled thuggery, so crucial in establishing the dictatorship during the first six months of the regime, was becoming a political liability. If this unruly behavior continued unchecked, Reichsbank president Hjalmar Schacht warned, it could prove a serious deterrent to German economic recovery, frightening away much-needed foreign investment. The Justice and Interior Ministries both complained about the ongoing arbitrary arrests, extralegal internment, and the notorious SA bestiality. The SA even claimed the right to try its own men accused of crimes, asserting its immunity from the ordinary process of criminal justice. By late spring, the state authorities—all dedicated Nazis—were demanding that the SA be brought to heel and made subject to the law.

Rumors and reports of ghastly SA brutality in their unauthorized prisons came regularly to Diels and other police officials. Gradually the police, working under the aegis of the Interior Ministry, and with Göring’s blessing, began a campaign to close the SA prisons. It did not go smoothly. Even when confronted with written authorization from Göring, some SA commanders resisted, demanding instead an order from their leader, Ernst Röhm. In some cases SA leaders simply refused to cooperate, resulting in armed standoffs as police officials attempted to close their unauthorized concentration camps. It became, as Diels described it, “a small war.”

In one instance, Diels led a group of police into one such chamber of horrors in Berlin. A seasoned police official, even he was shocked by what he saw. The dark, dismal rooms were bare, the furniture removed, the floors covered in straw, soiled with blood and urine. The prisoners were little more than skeletons, starved, dehydrated, their heads lolling around on their shoulders “like a doll’s.” They had been forced to stand for days in cramped cabinets without food or water, their time in these vertical coffins being interrupted only for the relentless torture sessions. A dozen or so SA brutes worked in rotating shifts, so that the beatings with iron rods, rubber truncheons, and leather whips continued around the clock. Many of the prisoners were laid out in rows on the festering straw, their bones broken, teeth shattered, their eyes swollen shut. Runnels of crusted blood trailed from their nostrils. “There were none whose bodies were not covered from head to toe with blue, yellow and green bruises.” As he walked through the rooms Diels heard no groaning or sobbing, only stony, deathlike silence, as prisoners stared glassy-eyed, waiting for the end or a new round of interrogation. “Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel,” Diels reflected, “had never witnessed such horror.”

Although Hitler was sympathetic to the radicals, he, too, desired to shift power away from the SA to the Nazi-controlled state apparatus. Unrestrained SA violence not only endangered Germany’s economic recovery, it ran the risk of alienating those members of the public who had initially viewed National Socialism as a force for the restoration of law and order. Speaking to a group of SA leaders on July 6, 1933, Hitler finally declared “The revolution is over.” Revolution, he said, “is not a permanent condition” and “must not be allowed to develop into one. . . . One must guide the liberated stream of revolution into a secure bed of evolution. The education of people is therefore the most important consideration. The current state of affairs must be improved and the people . . . must be educated in the National Socialist conception of the state.” The time had come for indoctrination, not terror in the streets, and that task was the provenance of Goebbels’s new Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment. A second revolution to sweep away bourgeois capitalism, as some radicals in the party were demanding, was not possible at this critical juncture. Such social revolutionary impulses had to be tempered by realism and the exigencies of rebuilding a shattered economy. “We must not dismiss a businessman if he is a good businessman,” Hitler insisted, “but not yet a National Socialist; especially not if the National Socialist that we put in his place understands nothing about business.”

Even a firebrand like Goebbels hewed to the new party line, explaining that “revolutions that drive toward anarchy don’t deserve the name [of revolution]. . . . The regime is keeping a watchful eye on any covert Bolshevist elements who speak of a second revolution.” In an article directed at SA and SS leaders, Rudolf Hess warned against “spies and provocateurs who try to encourage the men to mistreatment of opponents which only leads to more atrocity lies in the foreign press.” Göring also followed the script. Working with Diels, he began a systematic effort to rein in the Prussian SA, disbanding the auxiliary police he had called into being there, and the other states were quick to follow his lead. He also began closing the SA’s prisons and camps, transferring the inmates to formal concentration camps. He was eager to see Röhm’s influence in Prussia sharply reduced.

The level of public violence did drop in the months following Hitler’s July declaration, and yet the unrest continued. Even in late 1933 when Interior Minister Frick won Hitler’s approval for an edict that made the SA and SS subject to the law, Röhm, Himmler, and the regional party chiefs simply ignored it. In fact, many party officials at the regional level sometimes chose to disregard direct orders, arguing that the Führer had to take certain public stands but that they understood his real intentions. As one regional chief made clear, “we old Nazis don’t give a damn about the remarks of some Nazi bigwig. As far as we are concerned, all we have to do is fulfill the program as the Führer wishes.”

And Hitler, after his forceful intervention in the conflict in July, again withdrew to the sidelines, leaving his party and state officials to sort out matters. So the internecine struggles for power continued, with different state agencies and party formations jealously fighting to hold and extend their authority. The regime operated in a state of “organized chaos”; its guiding imperative “institutional Darwinism.” In Prussia, for example, the Interior Ministry (Göring) and the Gestapo (Diels) were successful in closing the SA prisons throughout the fall and even pressed charges against SA goons for egregious mistreatment of prisoners. But in Bavaria efforts by the Nazi state authorities to investigate charges of torture in Dachau were thwarted by the SS and SD (Himmler, Heydrich) and the SA (Röhm), who maintained that charges of abuse and torture were fairy tales and, anyway, what right did the Bavarian Interior Ministry have to be snooping around for atrocity stories? Hitler, as usual, did nothing.

Exacerbating this state of affairs was the fact that no real table of organization or clear chain of command existed, even in key areas such as the economy or the police. At the top, the Third Reich resembled a medieval court, with loyal vassals jostling for Hitler’s favor but acting with surprising independence. Party and state agencies competed to interpret and implement the will of the Führer. Hitler rarely interceded and never committed himself to paper; orders were verbal, notoriously vague, and not infrequently contradictory. At every level of the state and party apparatus officials sought “to work toward the Führer,” but essentially operated on their own. In the general free-for-all for power and influence, personal jealousies were endemic, conflicts of interest ubiquitous, and offices with no clear lines of responsibility multiplied. The result was a highly inefficient polyocracy with multiple centers of power animated by a crude “institutional Darwinism,” where the strongest, most forceful, and most persistent prevailed.

Nowhere was this dynamic more striking than in the emergence of the SS as the nation’s most powerful political police organization and its transformation into one of the essential pillars of Nazi rule. In the months after Hitler’s appointment as chancellor, Himmler, chief of both the SS and the Bavarian state police, undertook a systematic campaign to expand his power by seizing control of the political police in one German state after another. He was a trusted member of Hitler’s inner circle, and cowed local officials assumed that he was acting on the Führer’s orders. He was not. Only in Prussia did his ambitions encounter a roadblock, because there another powerful vassal of the Führer, Hermann Göring, was in charge of the police and was not so easily brushed aside. Adding a symptomatic twist to these events, Göring, who had created the Gestapo in Prussia, proceeded to open Gestapo branches in all the German states—a move for which he possessed no legal authority and which lacked Hitler’s explicit authorization. These Gestapo offices were responsible not to Himmler and the SS or to the local police authorities but to Göring alone, and, just as typically Hitler did nothing to clarify the situation. He soared above such problems, leaving contrails of confusion streaming behind him.

Throughout the fall and winter of 1933 complaints about unruly, brawling Storm Troopers continued to pour in from business leaders, local, state, and party officials, from the Foreign Office and Economics Ministry. Yet, despite widespread SA violence and political abuses by the local party leaders—the “little Führers” as they were derisively called—Hitler’s popularity not only remained strong but grew. After fourteen years of paralysis and ineffectuality, here at last, many Germans felt, was a man of action, a man who would get things done. Ruthless, to be sure, but he was exactly what the nation needed: a populist “people’s chancellor,” not from the traditional elites but an uncompromising nationalist leading the dispirited Volk out of its lethargy and hopelessness. This was the image that Goebbels worked tirelessly to promote, but Hitler’s popularity was not simply a product of propaganda and intimidation. The adoration seemed genuine.

Already by mid-1933 a Hitler cult was effectively woven into the political fabric of the Reich, and Führer worship was widespread and growing. Hitler’s birthday on April 20 turned into a semiofficial national holiday with an authentic outpouring of adulation; garlanded portraits and gold-framed Hitler photographs appeared in shop windows; parades and celebrations in his honor were held across the country. Reverential articles in the press, programs on the radio, and regular appearances in the newsreels offered quasi-religious paeans to Germany’s savior. Poems and songs were written about him, streets and squares, schools and other public buildings were named for him. A village in Thuringia changed its name to Hitler Heights (Hitlerhöhe) in honor of the Führer. Blending politics and commercial opportunity, one café owner unsuccessfully requested permission to lend his shop the patriotic appellation “Café Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler.” Another entrepreneur, a gardener, asked obsequiously—and also unsuccessfully—if he might “allow myself to bestow on one of my best roses the name ‘Reich Chancellor Hitler’ as a gift and memento of the present great time and if I might be permitted to bring it, with the same name, onto the world market.” Party officials in Gau Düsseldorf-Ost fielded a request from a local man who wanted to name his newborn daughter “Hitlerine.” The request went all the way to the Interior Ministry, where it was denied; as a consolation officials there suggested the mellifluous “Adolfine” instead. Such requests became so numerous that in April Hitler requested his followers to refrain from naming streets and squares after him. To no avail. The trend continued on into the war.

There was, of course, an undercurrent of grumbling about various aspects of the dictatorship, especially as it revealed itself at the local level, but Hitler seemed unaffected by it. No matter what the outrage by the party or the SA, nothing seemed to stick to him. He was, in public perception, inspiring the people to shake off their pessimism and sense of inferiority and reclaim their faith and pride in Germany. His uncompromising idealism, rough as it might be, was reviving the nation, many thought, restoring its confidence, driving it forward once again. Initiatives in two areas proved extremely popular, one domestic, the other in foreign affairs. He had promised to put people back to work, and he had. Hitler inherited a fully funded work creation program from his predecessor Kurt von Schleicher, but the general had not had time to implement his public works agenda when he was sacked in January 1933. Hitler was the fortunate beneficiary. His creation of the Labor Front, which drafted the unemployed off the streets, coupled with a feverish burst of labor-intensive public works projects had reduced unemployment from six million to roughly four million in barely six months. The creation of a vast network of superhighways, the Autobahn, caught the public imagination, and Hitler was photographed shoveling not only the first spade of dirt but filling a whole wheelbarrow. The precipitous drop in unemployment during the first months of the regime could not be sustained, and by fall unemployment figures stabilized, but Hitler had acted decisively in what the Nazis referred to as “the Battle for Work,” and the public was impressed. No one, even his bitterest enemies, could doubt that he had brought a new excitement and enthusiasm to German public life, rallying the people to a common purpose as no one had done in the fourteen years of Germany’s tormented democracy. Within a few short months he had come to symbolize Germany’s rebirth.

Bolstering Hitler’s popularity at home was a dramatic display of defiance to the great powers in the autumn of 1933. A disarmament conference sponsored by the League of Nations had been convened in February 1932, and when Hitler assumed the chancellorship, his opening performance in world politics was to make a typically theatrical offer. He began, as he was to do in every international crisis over the next six years, by wrapping himself in pieties about Germany’s commitment to peace. “Our boundless love for and loyalty to our own national traditions makes us respect the national claims of others and makes us desire from the bottom of our hearts to live with them in peace and friendship.” But Germany alone had been forced to disarm at Versailles, rendering the country defenseless. “The Rhineland was demilitarized, the German fortresses were dismantled, our ships surrendered, our airplanes destroyed, our system of military service abandoned and the training of reserves thus prevented. Even the most indispensable weapons of defense were denied us.” It was time for the other nations of Europe to demonstrate their willingness to end this terrible injustice.

Germany would be willing at any time “to undertake further obligations in regard to international security, if all the other nations are ready on their side to do the same.” In particular, Germany was “perfectly ready to disband her entire military establishment and destroy the small amounts of arms remaining to her, if the neighboring countries will do the same thing with equal thoroughness.” Since Germany was restricted by the Versailles Treaty to a military of only 100,000 troops, had no heavy weapons, no air force, and no battle fleet, it was an easy—and disingenuous—offer to make. If the international community was unprepared for such a radical offer, Hitler suggested more specifically that France might reduce its military down to German levels or alternatively that Germany be allowed to increase its forces to match those of France. When, not surprisingly, France balked, Hitler insisted that all Germany was seeking was to be treated as an equal in matters of international security. Had not Germany, “in her state of defenselessness and disarmament, greater justification in demanding security than the over-armed states bound together in military alliances?” But that, he implied, was apparently not the intention of the French, who seemed determined to maintain their vast military superiority over Germany. In a statement to the public on October 14, Hitler explained that since the powers gathered in Geneva were intent on perpetuating “an unjust and degrading discrimination of the German people,” the Reich government could not “under these circumstances, feel itself able to participate any longer as a second-class nation without rights of its own in negotiations which can only result in further dictates. While professing its unshakable desire for peace, Germany must announce . . . that it is forced to leave the Disarmament Conference. Thus it will also announce its withdrawal from the League of Nations.” In doing so, Germany was declaring its “truly honest will for peace and its willingness to reach an understanding, while maintaining its honor.”

To those abroad—the French in particular—who accused him of harboring aggressive intentions and of attempting to sabotage the armaments restrictions of the Versailles treaty, Hitler replied piously that all he wanted was “to provide work and bread to the German Volk,” and this he could do only if “peace and quiet” prevailed. No one should assume that “I would be so mad as to want a war. . . . I do not know how many foreign statesmen actually took part in the War. I did. I know war. But among those who are agitating against Germany today and slandering the German Volk—this is one thing I do know—not a single one has ever heard the hiss of a traveling bullet.” This aggressive self-righteousness was an attitude he would routinely strike in the crises of coming years, framing acts of aggression in the most pacific language while invoking his experience in the last war and platitudes about his commitment to world peace.

Foreign statesmen were unimpressed, but his action played very well in Germany. Here at last was a German leader who would not be pushed around by the great powers. Not only was Hitler confronting Germany’s enemies at home, he was standing up for Germany’s rights on the international scene. Eager to display the public’s enthusiastic support for the Hitler government, the Nazis staged a plebiscite on November 12, summoning the nation to approve the regime’s actions since January 30. Goebbels was back in campaign form, saturating the country in the usual Nazi style. Watching the campaign unfold in Dresden, Viktor Klemperer confided to his diary: “On every commercial vehicle, post office van, mailman’s bicycle, on every house and show window, on broad banners, which are stretched across the street—quotations from Hitler are everywhere and always ‘Yes’ for peace! It is the most monstrous of hypocrisies. . . . Demonstrations and chanting into the night, loudspeakers on the streets, vehicles (with wireless apparatus playing music mounted on top), both cars and trams.” What kind of an election could it be, he asked himself, since “no one believes that the secrecy of the ballot will be protected, no one believes either in a fair counting of votes: so why be a martyr?” It came as no surprise that on November 12, 93 percent of the ballots cast were registered as “yes.” Remarkably, two million had voted “no,” and another 3.5 percent of the ballots were declared “invalid.” Despite the widespread foreign skepticism, even the Social Democratic underground came to the conclusion that, on the whole, the outcome of the election seemed an accurate measure of popular support for the regime. In a report smuggled out of Germany in December, the underground leftist group New Beginning conceded that there was simply no denying that the election had demonstrated just how “rapid and strong the process of Nazifying society was progressing.”

But despite Hitler’s undeniable popularity and the general excitement of the early months of the regime, by early 1934 signs were emerging of a creeping disenchantment with the realities of Nazi rule. The enthusiasm and hope that had swept the party through much of the previous year were melting away. In February the Social Democratic underground reported “a general increase of grumbling, of dissatisfaction in broad strata” of the population, from presumably already coordinated youth to “reactionary groups (monarchists),” and elements of the working class. In spite of the Nazis’ lofty promises, unemployment remained stubbornly high, business continued to stagnate, consumer goods remained scarce, and food expensive. The grumbling, however muffled, was widespread.

Aggravating the disappointment was the arrogant posturing of local Nazi bosses, preening, puffed-up “little Führers” out to exercise their new power and position. Looking daily at these men, with their swaggering, their arbitrariness, petty jealousies, turf battles, nepotism, and corruption, Germans were making the disconcerting discovery that the Nazis, rather than ideological idealists, were politicians of a familiar stripe after all. In Stettin SS men hit upon the idea of seizing prosperous individuals, throwing them into their own private concentration camp, extorting money from them, and then setting them free. This practice went on for months and came to a halt only when they overreached, arresting a leader of the local Conservative party with indirect ties to President Hindenburg. A nervous Göring rushed to Stettin, closed the camp, and sent the guilty parties before a special party tribunal. In Kiel two Nazi officials energetically collected for the Winter Relief charity but decided that charity should begin at home and kept the funds for themselves. Both were arrested, stripped of their party posts, and sent to prison. In Flensburg locals watched as the city’s Nazi treasurer was arrested for embezzlement, only to see his successor follow in his footsteps. Such cases were far from rare. Remarkably, no blame was directed at Hitler. By 1934, the phrase “if the Führer only knew what was going on down here” had become a common refrain in local political discourse.

Most disturbing to the public was the SA and its unruly Storm Troopers, who continued to roam the streets, drinking, brawling, and harassing ordinary citizens. SA commanders also continued to call for a second revolution, though what exactly they had in mind was never really clear. At the close of March, with the pressure to act building, Hitler addressed Röhm and an assembly of SA leaders in Berlin. “I will energetically oppose a second revolutionary wave,” he told them bluntly, “since it would unavoidably produce chaos. Anyone who rises up against the authority of the state will be severely punished, no matter what position he holds.” Hardly chastened by Hitler’s words, Röhm responded by once again invoking the SA’s revolutionary role. “Our revolution is no national revolution; it is a National Socialist revolution,” he wrote to SA commanders. “Our SA battalions represent the only safeguard against the Reaction, for they are the absolute embodiment of the revolutionary idea. . . . From day one, the brown-shirted fighter committed himself to the revolutionary path, and he won’t be diverted away from it until our final goal is reached.”

Matters soon came to a head. Despite Hitler’s orders, Röhm continued his campaign to institutionalize the SA as an essential pillar of the Reich—there was even talk of creating an SA state—and saw himself as something akin to a minister of defense. Initially the army had viewed the SA as a sort of military auxiliary, not unlike the Free Corps of the immediate postwar years. But with the Nazis in power and the SA growing in strength, friction between the SA and the army intensified. Röhm’s ambitions mounted, and he was not bashful about expressing them. He was giving voice to views that he and other SA leaders had held from the earliest days of the NSDAP, only now more openly, more stridently. The SA would not be integrated into the army, he not so discreetly hinted; the army would be absorbed by the SA in a people’s militia. In an effort to appease Röhm, Hitler in December 1933 appointed him minister without portfolio in the Reich cabinet and showered him with warm personal praise as a trusted old comrade, but Röhm was not to be placated.

By 1934 the hostility between the SA and the army reached such an alarming state that in late February Hitler summoned Röhm and General Blomberg, the minister of war, to a meeting at the Reich Chancellery. At that meeting, Hitler emphatically reiterated to Röhm that the army was to be the only military force within the country. The SA would patrol the borders and provide pre-military training, but he repeated his long-held position that the mission of the SA was political, not military. Hitler had made his choice. The SA had played a crucial role in the party’s rise to power and in creating the Nazi dictatorship, but in order to fulfill his expansionist foreign policy objectives, Hitler needed a powerful, well-trained, and well-equipped professional army. It was a refrain Röhm had heard many times before and understood was not a matter for negotiation. At the conclusion of the meeting, Hitler coaxed the two men to sign an agreement in his presence to end the backbiting.

Röhm dutifully signed the document, but he was furious. In a perfunctory show of goodwill, he invited Hitler and the military party to a reception just after the meeting. Hitler did not attend, but Blomberg and other high-ranking officers put in an appearance. It was an awkward occasion, the atmosphere frosty. When finally the generals departed, Röhm could contain his ire no longer. “What that ridiculous corporal says means nothing to me,” he told his followers. “I have not the slightest intention of keeping this agreement. Hitler is a traitor and at the very least must go on leave. . . . If we can’t get there with him, we’ll get there without him.” Never one for caution, he later added: “Adolf is rotten. He’s betraying all of us. He only goes around with reactionaries. His old comrades aren’t good enough for him. So he brings in these East Prussian generals. They’re the ones he pals around with now. . . . Adolf knows perfectly well what I want. . . . Are we a revolution or aren’t we? . . . Something new has to be brought in. . . . A new discipline. A new principle of organization. The generals are old fogeys. They’ll never have a new idea.”

These comments and others like them inevitably made their way back to Hitler and to Blomberg. Throughout the spring of 1934 tensions mounted as Röhm continued his agitation for a leading military role for the SA, and the reckless talk of a second revolution showed few signs of abating. For months Hitler had been reluctant to discipline Röhm, his old comrade in arms and the leader of the party’s largest and most militant organization. After all, the Storm Troopers were fanatically devoted to Röhm, and a challenge to his leadership carried enormous political risks. But the SA had outlived its usefulness. Secretly he gave orders to Himmler and Göring, both of whom loathed Röhm and hoped to undermine him, to begin an investigation into SA activities. In an effort to reduce Röhm’s power in Prussia, Göring in April agreed to hand over control of the Prussian Gestapo to Himmler and Heydrich, who proceeded to initiate their own secret investigation of Röhm and the SA. Himmler was intent on liberating the SS from the much larger SA, to which it was still technically subordinate, and with control of the Prussian Gestapo, the SS now possessed a nationwide police and surveillance network. The army, too, had been creating its own file on the SA and scrupulously reporting its findings directly to Hitler. Over the years Röhm had managed to make a host of very powerful enemies, and by 1934, those enemies were mobilized and ready to act.

Exacerbating the tension was the fact that for some time Hindenburg’s health had been in steep decline. In April the eighty-seven-year-old Reich President began withdrawing from active participation in government affairs, and in early June he retreated to his Neudeck estate in East Prussia. From there a steady stream of reports of his deteriorating health poured forth, provoking anxiety across the political scene. It was obvious that Hindenburg did not have long to live. Hitler was eager to have the old field marshal out of the way, but was nervous about the attitude of the army once Hindenburg, its supreme commander, was gone. Who would succeed him as Reich President and commander-in-chief, and how? On this, Franz von Papen, virtually forgotten since the previous spring, had ideas of his own.

For months Papen and the national Conservatives, who had done so much to insert Hitler into power, had grown increasingly dismayed by their dwindling influence and alarmed about the radical talk of a second revolution. During the spring they began sounding out like-minded conservatives and disgruntled generals who shared their unease with the radical course the Nazi revolution had taken. Their hope was to place a conservative in a caretaker role and then, supported by the army, restore the Hohenzollerns to power.

In a speech at Marburg University on June 17, Papen openly expressed their concerns and delivered a stern warning about the perils of a second revolution. He spoke with uncharacteristic boldness, arguing that Germany could not survive in a perpetual state of unrest—a second revolution would merely bring forth a third and a fourth, plunging the country into endless chaos. Hitler had sought to restore Germany’s spiritual unity, and the nation had “experienced that unity in the excitement of thousands of demonstrations, rallies, flags and celebrations.” But now, he suggested, the enthusiasm had waned, and the country needed “an open and manly discussion” of issues that was currently absent in German public life.

Without explicitly mentioning Hitler, he condemned “the false cult of personality,” pointedly noting that “great men are not made by propaganda but grown out of their actions.” And in a stinging rebuke to the regime, he stated that it should be confident enough of its power and popular support that it could tolerate “responsible criticism.” It should be possible, he said, to voice reservations about this policy or that without being branded an enemy of the state and treated like a criminal. The regime “should remember the old adage that only weaklings cannot tolerate criticism.” It was time to come together to “silence the doctrinaire fanatics” threatening German political life. It was a startlingly audacious speech, all the more for being the first public criticism of Hitler and the Nazis, and when he concluded, the audience broke into stormy applause.

The Marburg speech sent shockwaves through a country in which open political criticism was as extinct as a mastodon. A stunned Goebbels tried to suppress the speech; he seized newspapers, ordered all copies of the speech confiscated, and blocked its retransmission over the Frankfurt radio cable. But it was too late. Around the country Papen was greeted with cries of “Heil Marburg” instead of “Heil Hitler.” The conservatives close to him believed that their moment was coming. Given the mounting tension between Hitler and Röhm, it was time to press the case for a conservative succession. Hindenburg, they felt certain, would be open to a change of government.

Hitler was furious at Papen and his circle of “reactionaries,” and in a speech before an assembly of Nazi leaders in Thuringia, he blasted the “little worms” and “pygmies” of the Reaction. “If they should at any time attempt, even in a small way, to move from their criticism to a new act of perjury, they can be sure that what they are confronting today is not the cowardly and corrupt bourgeoisie of 1918 but the fist of the entire people. It is the fist of the nation that is clenched and will smash down anyone who dares to undertake even the slightest attempt at sabotage.” In an ominous preview of things to come, Himmler ordered the arrest of Edgar Jung, the author of the Marburg speech.

Still, for all his rage, Hitler was wary of Papen’s influence with the Reich President. He recognized the dangerous conservative disaffection with the Nazi dictatorship, and with Hindenburg’s demise on the near horizon, he was concerned about a renewed conservative push to reinstate the monarchy. When on June 21 Papen threatened to resign because of Goebbels’s actions, Hitler invited him to the Reich Chancellery to clear the air. At that meeting Hitler was conciliatory, expressing his understanding of Papen’s honorable intent, even condemning Goebbels’s overreaction, and promising to lift the ban on the Marburg speech (which he did not do). He did convince Papen to withhold his resignation until the two men could travel together to Neudeck to discuss the situation with Hindenburg. But Hitler had no intention of including Papen in such a meeting. Instead, the next day he hurried off to Hindenburg’s East Prussian estate alone, where upon arriving he encountered General Blomberg. Blomberg, Hitler’s minister of defense and a man favorably inclined toward National Socialism, was just leaving for Berlin after a conference with Hindenburg. On this occasion the general was not the malleable “rubber lion,” as Hitler privately called him; he made it abundantly clear to Hitler that the army had had enough. If Hitler could not tame the SA and establish domestic order, the Reich President was prepared to declare martial law and the army would assume control of the country. Hindenburg sternly reinforced that position.

Coming in the wake of Papen’s Marburg speech, these conversations proved to be the tipping point. Having done nothing for months to address the SA situation, Hitler now sprang into action. It was his usual pattern—wait for a situation to resolve itself, prevaricate, delay, postpone, then, when absolutely forced to make a decision, move swiftly and radically. Now the time had come to act. In the last week of June he began moving the pieces into place for a strike against both Röhm and the reactionaries. For months Himmler and Heydrich had been preparing an extensive dossier on Röhm’s “treasonous actions,” providing “evidence” that Röhm was plotting a coup d’état, conspiring with Strasser and even the French ambassador to bring down the Hitler government. The variations of these allegations were multiple and the evidence slight to nonexistent, but Hitler appears to have accepted them without question. On June 25 Himmler and Heydrich summoned SS and SD commanders to Berlin for a briefing on the situation. The SS men were informed that a Putsch by Röhm and the SA was imminent, and instructions were given for the countermeasures to be taken when the alert came. No date was set, but the SS was to hurry their preparations to seize SA leaders and functionaries. Hitler also conferred with Blomberg, who assured him of the military’s support for an action against the SA and agreed to put the troops on high alert. The army also supplied the SS with weapons and transportation to carry out the operation.

In the last week of June, the regime escalated its warnings against would-be “saboteurs” of the National Socialist revolution. In a radio address on June 24 Hess sounded a menacing note: “The order of the Führer, to whom we have sworn our loyalty, is alone decisive. Woe betide anyone who is unfaithful to this vow of loyalty, believing that his revolt will serve the Revolution. Pity unto those who believe themselves the chosen ones who must aid the Führer by revolutionary agitation from below.” Two days later, speaking to a convention of Nazi functionaries in Hamburg, Göring sharpened the rhetoric, issuing a thinly veiled threat to both the SA and the Papen circle. The regime had worked hard and been successful “because we have behind us a Volk which trusts us,” adding that “anyone who gnaws away at this trust is committing a crime against the Volk; he is committing treachery and high treason. He who designs to destroy this trust, destroys Germany; he who sins against this trust has put his own head in the noose.”

With rumors swirling about an SA Putsch and a backdoor conservative effort to undermine the regime, Hitler, on June 28, discovered that Papen had arranged to meet with Hindenburg on the 30th. It was, Hitler felt certain, a last-gasp effort to win the Reich President’s support for a conservative assumption of power. There could be no more hesitation. That night Hitler telephoned Röhm instructing him to call a meeting of the SA leadership for June 30 in the resort village of Bad Wiessee forty miles south of Munich, where Röhm was vacationing. Hitler would come to Wiessee to address them. On June 7 Röhm had sent all SA formations on leave for a month; it was to be a cooling-off period, an opportunity for the Storm Troopers to regroup and take a much needed rest. Although Röhm would never acknowledge it, the SA leadership had considerable trouble controlling its own Brown Shirts, who seemed immune to any plea to refrain from unruly behavior, which the public found increasingly obnoxious.

On June 29, Hitler kept a busy public schedule. In Westphalia to attend the wedding of a regional party leader, he toured the Krupp works in Essen, made a short speech to the Labor Service unit near Lünen, and toured a nearby labor camp, before moving on to Bad Godesberg, where the wedding was to take place. There he was joined by Goebbels and Göring, who had flown in from Berlin. That night Hitler excused himself early from the wedding reception and retreated to his hotel room. Distressing reports from Himmler and Heydrich flooded in about SA unrest in different parts of the country. An SA Putsch, they believed, was imminent. Hitler briefed Göring and Goebbels about the situation, both of whom were surprised to learn that the primary target of the planned strike was not Papen and the conservatives but the SA. Hitler sent Göring back to Berlin to direct the action there and ordered Sepp Dietrich, commander of his elite body guard, the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, to fly immediately to Munich, where he was to marshal two companies of SS troops. They were to rendezvous at the Hotel Hanselbauer in Bad Wiessee at 11:30 next morning.

At some point in the black early-morning hours, Hitler decided that he would fly to Munich immediately to lead the operation himself. After alerting Adolf Wagner, the Gauleiter and interior minister of Bavaria, to be prepared for his arrival, he boarded his private plane at 2:30 a.m. bound for Munich. It was coming on first light when Hitler’s Ju 52 touched down at the Oberwiesenfeld military field outside Munich. He demanded to be taken at once to the Interior Ministry, where he learned that during the night a mob of some three thousand SA men had stormed through the streets chanting, “The Führer is against us; the Army is against us. SA men, out into the streets!” On hearing this, Hitler erupted in a towering rage. He demanded to see the two ranking SA officers on duty at once. When the bewildered men appeared before him, Hitler was not interested in information or explanations. Before they could utter a word, he ripped the insignia from their uniforms and thundered: “You’re under arrest! You will be shot.” They were immediately led away to Stadelheim prison to await their fate, the first of many on that long murderous night.

It was now 4:30 a.m., and Sepp Dietrich had not yet arrived with his SS troops, but Hitler, by now virtually hysterical in his fury, could wait no longer. He would go to Bad Wiessee and make the arrests himself. Accompanied by Goebbels, press chief Otto Dietrich, and several heavily armed SS men and police detectives, he set off for the resort in a convoy of three large black touring cars. At 6:45 when they reached the Hotel Hanselbauer, all was quiet—the small group of SA men were still sleeping off a night of heavy drinking; the hotel staff just beginning to stir, sorting linens for the new day, bustling about in the kitchen preparing breakfast coffee. The dining room was empty, the places set for the anticipated meeting of the SA chiefs at noon. Brandishing a pistol, Hitler bounded upstairs to Röhm’s room. When the door opened, an astonished Röhm managed to blurt out a drowsy “Heil, mein Führer,” before Hitler, using the familiar “du” form, bellowed: “Ernst, you are under arrest!”

Across the hall, Edward Heines, leader of the Silesian SA, was found in bed with a young man, and after a brief scuffle was seized and led downstairs. The other Storm Troopers were taken by surprise and offered no resistance as they were led from their rooms to the hotel laundry, where they were locked in. Röhm, now fully dressed in civilian clothes, demanded an explanation, but none was given. He was taken to the hotel dining room rather than being forced to join the others in the cramped laundry. He took a chair and waited calmly. Hitler even allowed him to be served coffee. All had happened so quickly and so quietly that the other hotel guests slumbered on with no idea that anything unusual was taking place. The SA men taken at the Hotel Hanselbauer were loaded into a bus commandeered to carry them to Munich. Their destination was Stadelheim. While Hitler was trying to decide what to do with Röhm, a troop of about forty SA men from Röhm’s Munich guard arrived. Hitler came forward to address them. He informed them that he had assumed active command of the SA and that they were to return to Munich in his convoy, which would be leaving shortly for the Brown House. Hitler also sent word to SS leaders to intercept any SA men on their way to the leadership conference, whether at the Munich train station or on the roads leading to Bad Wiessee.

Meanwhile, Goebbels telephoned a one-word coded message to Göring in Berlin: “Kolibri”—hummingbird. It was the signal to launch the operation in the capital, and Göring wasted no time. He sent out hit squads with a list of “conspirators” to be rounded up. They were on their way when Papen appeared at Göring’s office. He was alarmed to find it surrounded by armed SS guards. Once inside he learned that Hitler had delegated to Göring the legal authority to deal with the situation in Berlin. Papen protested that by law he should have been placed in charge and insisted that President Hindenburg declare a state of emergency and mobilize the army. Göring flatly refused. The SS and police had matters well in hand, he said blandly, and “advised” Papen to return home and stay there. It was not safe in the capital today. The murders began immediately. General Schleicher and his wife were gunned down in their home; General Ferdinand von Bredow, a friend and aide of Schleicher’s, was shot at his front door; Edgar Jung, already held by the SS, was executed in the dreaded Gestapo prison at 8 Prinz-Albrech-Strasse. Three of Papen’s conservative inner circle were also arrested and shot. Gregor Strasser was taken to the Prinz-Albrech-Strasse prison, where he was shot in his cell. Erich Klausner, the president of the Catholic Action, the largest Catholic organization still in operation, was executed; various SA men and conservative government officials were shot. The killing went on throughout the day and night. Papen was spared, held under house arrest, his telephone line cut, his house surrounded. It was decided that it would be too embarrassing for the regime to have the vice chancellor executed without a trial. And, besides, how would Hindenburg react? Some of the targeted victims were taken into “protective custody,” but most were murdered in cold blood—no arrests, no formal charges, no trials. The death toll continued to rise throughout the evening and into the following day.

In Munich the executions began as soon as Hitler returned from Bad Wiessee in mid-morning. He ordered Heines and the other SA leaders from Bad Wiessee shot for treason, but here he encountered unexpected trouble. Upon learning that SA leaders were being held in Stadelheim and were condemned to death, Hans Frank, the Nazi justice minister of Bavaria, protested. By what right were they to be executed? The prisoners, he argued, were to be turned over to the Bavarian state police immediately, and no executions should take place under any circumstances. There must be formal legal proceedings, he insisted. When these complaints were relayed to Hitler by telephone, he took the receiver and speaking directly to Frank stated that he himself had given the order. “These gentlemen are criminals against the Reich. I am the Reich Chancellor. It is a matter of the Reich, which is never under your jurisdiction.” A similarly telling scene played out in the Brown House when the Nazi governor of Bavaria, Franz Ritter von Epp, demanded a court-martial for Röhm. He was shocked when Hitler exploded, screaming that Röhm was a proven traitor and deserved to be shot. Epp was speechless. As he left the room, he could only mutter “crazy.”

At noon, Hitler addressed high-ranking SA leaders in the Senate Room of the Brown House. It was a tense meeting, and Hitler had worked himself into such a titanic fury that one observer claimed that he was literally foaming at the mouth. Röhm had betrayed him, he raged. He had committed the “worst treachery in world history.” He had accepted twelve million marks from the French to have Hitler arrested and liquidated (an untrue assertion) and Germany put at the mercy of its enemies. Röhm and his co-conspirators would be shot. While asserting his “unshakable alliance with the SA,” Hitler at the same time bluntly threatened that he would show no mercy in “exterminating and destroying undisciplined and disobedient characters and asocial or diseased elements.” Tens of thousands of upright SA men had made the most difficult sacrifices for the movement, and he expected the leaders of every SA division to prove themselves worthy of these sacrifices. He also reminded the nervous SA leaders that he had defended Röhm for years against the most vicious attacks on his private life but that the most recent developments had forced him “to place all personal feeling second to the welfare of the Movement and to that of the State.” Above all, he would “eradicate and nip in the bud any attempts to propagate a new upheaval by ludicrous circles of pretentious characters.” When he finished, his listeners lustily shouted their approval.

Despite his homicidal rage, Hitler hesitated in passing sentence on Röhm. Himmler and Göring pressed him to execute the SA commander, who they maintained was the leader of the planned insurrection. At first Hitler thought to pardon him, but in the end reluctantly decided that Röhm could not be spared. He did, however, offer his old comrade the opportunity to die with a soldier’s honor. On July 1, as Röhm waited in his sweltering cell in Stadelheim, two SS men, led by Theodor Eicke, the commandant of Dachau, entered. “You have forfeited your life,” Eicke stated. “The Führer gives you one more chance to draw the right conclusions.” With that, he placed a pistol loaded with a single round on a small table, and the three SS men left the cell. When some fifteen minutes passed and no shot was heard, Eicke and his men returned to the cell. They found Röhm standing, bare-chested, and defiant. “Chief of Staff, prepare yourself,” Eicke barked. As the powerful SA chief started to speak, his executioners opened fire. According to postwar reports his last words were “My Führer, my Führer.”

Within forty-eight hours more than one hundred people had been killed. Some estimates run as high as double that number. Some died as a result of mistaken identity, and many victims who had no connection with Röhm or Papen were killed to settle old scores. Gustav Ritter von Kahr, former premier of Bavaria, who had thwarted Hitler in the Beer Hall Putsch, was seized by the SS, taken out into a nearby swamp, and hacked to death with axes. His badly mutilated body was discovered days later in a muddy ditch near Dachau. For all the vicious brutality of “The Night of Long Knives,” as the purge came to be called, the violence took place out of public view. For the citizens of Berlin and Munich, life on June 30 and the following day went on as if nothing had happened. Press coverage was minimal, reports vague. When the Nazi press broke the news of Röhm’s alleged plot, its stories trumpeted Hitler’s heroic action in crushing the SA traitors and their co-conspirators in Berlin and elsewhere. A purge of the Brown Shirt leadership was for many Germans a welcome relief. With its swaggering, drunken excesses, violent disrespect for the law, bullying intimidation, and incessant agitation for a second revolution, the SA had few friends by the summer of 1934.

The murders of June 30–July 2 represented only the first act. On July 3, Hitler appeared before the cabinet and offered an extensive report on the events of the previous days. Still enraged, he fulminated against Röhm’s treachery and defended his drastic action by comparing himself to a captain at sea confronted with a mutiny. Under the circumstances, immediate action to crush the mutiny was imperative; a formal trial impossible. He had saved the government and provided would-be troublemakers with a stark example of the kind of swift justice they would receive. This was an emergency act of state, and there would be no subsequent trials. An official communiqué summarizing the cabinet meeting announced that the ministers had granted unanimous approval for a law governing measures for the self-defense of the state. The law, the title of which was virtually as long as the text, consisted of a single article—actually a single sentence. The Law for the Emergency Defense of the State stated simply: “The measures taken to crush the treasonous attacks against the internal and external security of the State on June 30 and July 1 and 2, 1934, are deemed justified and as self-defense of the state.” The brutal murder of defenseless men by the German head of state had been made retroactively legal.

Ten days passed before Hitler made a public appearance. Addressing a nervous Reichstag, twelve of whose members had been murdered, he took full responsibility for all that had occurred, even for measures he had not specifically ordered. He made reference to overwhelming evidence—meetings, plans, contacts, and conversations that pointed to conspiracy, without, however, providing any details or proof. That would have been difficult, because there was no hard evidence of a Putsch, no proof that Röhm or Strasser or Schleicher and the dozens of other victims had been conspiring to overthrow the Nazi state. None was ever forthcoming. Hitler praised the SS for its loyalty and resolute action and went on to reassert his devotion to the SA, which, he said, “has upheld its inner loyalty to me in these days which have been so difficult for both it and myself.” The SA would rebound from this betrayal by its leaders and “will once again dominate German streets and clearly demonstrate to everyone that the life of National Socialist Germany has become all the stronger for having to overcome a difficult crisis.”

While striking a pose of moral rectitude, he boldly confessed responsibility for the bloodbath that had just occurred. Earlier reports had set the number of deaths at seven; now Hitler admitted to seventy-seven. “I gave the order to shoot those . . . mainly responsible for this treason, and I also gave the order to burn out the tumors of our domestic poisoning . . . down to the raw flesh.” Responding to critics, especially from abroad, he stated defiantly that “if anyone reproaches me and asks why we did not call upon the regular courts for sentencing, my only answer is this: in that hour, I was responsible for the fate of the German nation, and was thus the supreme judge of the German people!” And he promised more of the same. “Every person should know for all time that if he raises his hand to strike out at the state, certain death will be his lot. . . . Any nation which does not find the strength to exterminate such pests makes itself guilty.” In the summer of 1934 Hitler had become the prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner, roles he would never relinquish. German jurists contorted themselves into knots attempting to justify Hitler’s actions, but there was one fact that could not be obscured: Hitler’s will had become law. The highly respected legal theorist Carl Schmitt pronounced Hitler’s actions the very essence of justice, since “the true Führer is always also the judge. The status of judge flows from the status of the Führer. . . . The Führer’s deed was, in truth, the genuine exercise of justice. It is not subordinate to justice, but rather it is itself supreme justice.”

While international opinion condemned the state-sanctioned murders, labeling Hitler a common thug, a gangster among gangsters, in Germany popular sentiment was clearly with him. The general public celebrated him as a savior, liberating them from the plague of SA viciousness. There was, Viktor Klemperer noted with dismay, “no sympathy at all for the vanquished, only delight.” There were some faint murmurings of dissent. Police reported that among Catholics, news of the death of Catholic leader Klausner had met with an “extremely unfavorable response,” but most were so absorbed with their immediate economic difficulties that no unrest was expected.

Hindenburg received news of the purge with relief, though he could not bring himself to believe that the Schleichers had been killed while “resisting arrest” and ordered an investigation. After a hurried Hitler visit to Neudeck, Hindenburg sent him a telegram on July 2, commending him for “your own determined action and your brave personal intervention. You have rescued the German Volk from a serious threat. For this may I extend to you my deeply felt gratitude and my sincere appreciation.” A similar telegram went to Göring. The army leadership was also delighted with the elimination of Röhm and chose to overlook the murders of Generals Schleicher and Bredow, issuing a statement to the troops pledging the army’s unstinting support for the Führer. The killings were still under way when Blomberg on July 1 praised Hitler for his “soldierly determination and exemplary courage” in smashing the treasonous plot of “the traitors and mutineers.” Hitler, for a change, had been true to his word; he had eliminated the threat of the SA and solidified the army’s power position in the Third Reich.

Along with the army, business leaders were also pleased that Hitler had struck down the social revolutionaries in the party, but the big winner of the Night of Long Knives was the SS. On July 20 Hitler ended its formal subordination to the much larger SA and elevated the SS to a position of independence, responsible only to him. Overnight Himmler’s black-uniformed SS stepped from the shadow of the Storm Troopers to become the dominant force in the dictatorship. The team of Himmler and Heydrich was now in charge of virtually all police power in the state, and that power would only grow. In the following years the SS emerged as the regime’s all-powerful instrument of terror and repression; it would also develop into the party’s ideological elite, becoming a key player in the articulation and realization of Nazi ideology.

As for the SA, its power was broken. The organization that had played such a crucial role in the Nazi drive to power before 1933 and in the establishment of the Hitler dictatorship would no longer constitute a major power factor in the Third Reich. Twenty percent of its leadership was purged in the aftermath of the “Röhm Putsch,” many lower-level commanders were dismissed, and by year’s end the SA had lost 40 percent of its troops. It still played a highly visible role in Nazi ceremonial events—the endless parades, the anniversary celebrations of the 1923 Putsch, the Führer’s birthday, the Nuremberg party rallies—wherever an imposing mass presence was required for a display of Nazi power. It also continued to play a very active role in the regime’s relentless persecution of the Jews, harassing, threatening, bullying, and beating Jews in independent local actions that required no authorization from above. But after June 1934 its influence as an instrument of Nazi policy steadily dwindled.

While the country was still absorbing the news of Hitler’s ruthless purge of the SA, Hindenburg’s condition continued to deteriorate, and on August 2 he died quietly at his estate in East Prussia. On the day before, with the old field marshal lying on his deathbed, Hitler introduced a new law stipulating that on the death of Hindenburg, the offices of Reich President and chancellor would be merged, a move that was in clear violation of the Enabling Act, a technicality of interest at this point to virtually no one. Hitler’s assumption of the position of Reich President also made him commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Without consulting him, General Blomberg and General Walter von Reichenau, like Blomberg a Nazi sympathizer, drafted an oath of unconditional loyalty not to the office of the president or to the constitution or to the German nation but to the person of Adolf Hitler. On August 2, in ceremonies held on all military installations, members of the armed forces swore their fealty to the Führer: “I swear by God this sacred oath to render unconditional obedience to the Führer of the German Reich and Volk, Adolf Hitler, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and to be willing at all times to risk my life as a brave soldier for this oath.”

Hindenburg was laid to rest in a state funeral at the imposing Tannenberg Memorial in East Prussia, site of the field marshal’s greatest victory of the World War. And with his burial, the basic structure of the Third Reich fell firmly into place, its domestic position secure.

Within a stunningly short period of time a dysfunctional democratic state had been dismantled, sources of organized opposition crushed or neutralized, and a dictatorial regime with totalitarian aspirations erected. But the Nazis were not content to monopolize the instruments of state power. Theirs was a far more ambitious goal.

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