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The Night of the Long Knives
The four million brown shirted Nazi storm troopers, the SA (Sturmabteilung), included many members who actually believed in the ‘socialism’ of National Socialism and also wanted to become a true revolutionary army in place of the regular German Army.
But to the regular Army High Command and its conservative supporters, this potential storm trooper army represented a threat to centuries old German military traditions and the privileges of rank. Adolf Hitler had been promising the generals for years he would restore their former military glory and break the “shackles” of the Treaty of Versailles which limited the Army to 100,000 men and prevented modernization.
For Adolf Hitler, the behavior of the SA was a problem that now threatened his own political survival and the entire future of the Nazi movement.
The anti-capitalist, anti-tradition sentiments often expressed by SA leaders and echoed by the restless masses of storm troopers also caused great concern to big industry leaders who had helped put Hitler in power. Hitler had promised them he would put down the trade union movement and Marxists, which he had done. However, now his own storm troopers with their talk of a ‘second revolution’ were sounding more and more like Marxists themselves. (The first revolution having been the Nazi seizure of power in early 1933.)
The SA was headed by Ernst Röhm, a battle scarred, aggressive, highly ambitious street brawler who had been with Hitler from the very beginning. Röhm and the SA had been very instrumental in Hitler’s rise to power by violently seizing control of the streets and squashing Hitler’s political opponents.
However, by early 1934, a year after Hitler came to power, the SA’s usefulness as a violent, threatening, revolutionary force had effectively come to an end. Hitler now needed the support of the regular Army generals and the big industry leaders to rebuild Germany after the Great Depression, re-arm the military and ultimately accomplish his long range goal of seizing more living space for the German people.
The average German also feared and disliked the SA brownshirts with their arrogant, gangster-like behavior, such as extorting money from local shop owners, driving around in fancy news cars showing off, often getting drunk, beating up and even murdering innocent civilians.
At the end of February, 1934, Hitler held a meeting attended by SA and regular Army leaders including Röhm and German Defense Minister General Werner von Blomberg. At this meeting Hitler informed Röhm the SA would not be a military force in Germany but would be limited to certain political functions. In Hitler’s presence, Röhm gave in and even signed an agreement with Blomberg.
However, Röhm soon let it be know he had no intention of keeping to the agreement. In April he even boldly held a press conference and proclaimed, “The SA is the National Socialist Revolution!!”
Within the SA at this time was a highly disciplined organization known as the SS (Shutzstaffel) which had been formed in 1925 as Hitler’s personal body guard. SS chief Heinrich Himmler along with his second-in-command, Reinhard Heydrich, and Hermann Göring, began plotting against Röhm to prod Hitler into action against his old comrade, hoping to gain from Röhm’s downfall.
On June 4, Hitler and Röhm had a five hour private meeting lasting until midnight. A few days later Röhm announced he was taking a ‘personal illness’ vacation and the whole SA would go on leave for the month of July. He also convened a conference of top SA leaders for June 30 at a resort town near Munich which Hitler promised to attend to sort things out.
On June 17, Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen, who had helped Hitler become Chancellor, stunned everyone by making a speech criticizing the rowdy, anti-intellectual behavior of the SA and denouncing Nazi excesses such as strict press censorship. Papen also focused on the possibility of a ‘second revolution’ by Röhm and the SA and urged Hitler to put a stop to it. “Have we experienced an anti-Marxist revolution in order to put through a Marxist program?” Papen asked.
His speech drastically increased the tension between German Army leaders and SA leaders and further jeopardized Hitler’s position. But for the moment Hitler hesitated to move against his old comrade Röhm.
A few days later, June 21, Hitler went to see German President Paul von Hindenburg at his country estate. Hindenburg was in failing health and now confined to a wheelchair. Hitler met with the Old Gentleman and Defense Minister Blomberg and was stiffly informed the SA problem must be solved or the president would simply declare martial law and let the German Army run the country, effectively ending the Nazi regime.
Meanwhile, Himmler and Heydrich spread false rumors that Röhm and the SA were planning a violent takeover of power (putsch).
On June 25, the German Army was placed on alert, leaves canceled and the troops confined to the barracks. An agreement had been secretly worked out between Himmler and Army generals ensuring cooperation between the SS and the Army during the coming action against the SA. The Army would provide weapons and any necessary support, but would remain in the barracks and let the SS handle things.
Review by Mark Movsesian
Charles Marsh has chosen an apt title for his worthwhile new biography of German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1945. “Strange Glory” is a reference to a passage in one of Bonhoeffer’s sermons on the nature of God. But the phrase also captures the life of Bonhoeffer himself.
In Marsh’s telling, Bonhoeffer was a bundle of contradictions. A pacifist who condemned all violence, he joined a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. A neo-orthodox Lutheran who criticized liberal Protestants for their lack of Reformation rigor, he came to champion the very un-Lutheran idea of monasticism as a way to restore the church. By the end of his life, he was talking about the need for a “religionless” Christianity. He was a mystic who liked fine clothes. Marsh jokes that Bonhoeffer was perhaps the only monk ever to be described by his brothers as a sporty dresser. He could be pompous, arrogant, and childish–solitary and a bit of a misfit.
Yet Bonhoeffer was a genuinely beloved pastor who brought comfort to many, including his fellow prisoners. He was an inspiring, charismatic teacher. He saw, earlier and clearer than most, how Hitler was manipulating Christian imagery to evil purposes. Only two days after Hitler became chancellor, Bonhoeffer gave a radio address condemning Hitler’s offer of a twisted narrative of national redemption in place of the Christian message of salvation. As Marsh writes, Bonhoeffer’s “voluble opposition to Hitler was a stirring counterpoint to the compliant rhetoric of most Protestant ministers, paralyzed as they were by a typical Lutheran veneration of the state.”
And he was exceptionally brave. In 1939, he left Germany for a visiting appointment at Union Theological Seminary in New York. He surely could have remained safely in America for the duration of the war. Indeed, he could have enjoyed the life of a celebrity emigre. But his sense of duty made him return to share in the suffering of his people.
For the rest of the post…
My surgery began earlier than scheduled. I was on the operating table by 12:10 pm. The anesthetist had me sleeping soon after that. The operation lasted one hour and five minutes. When I woke up, I had no idea where I was. It was such a deep sleep. The surgeon told me in post-op that there was a major tear in the meniscus in my right knee. Now, it is rest, elevation and ice.
And prayer and the Word!
The Lord has slowed me down!
God is good, all the time!
Tomorrow at 12:30 pm, I will be having surgery on my knee. Last week, I tore cartilage in my right knee as I ran from third base to home in the over-50 softball league I play in (I will be 55-years-old in July). The MRI and X-rays revealed that there was damage in the cartilage in two different places in my right knee.
There is always (I believe) a certain amount of nervousness before surgeries. I also know that my knee surgery is minor compared to the major surgeries that many people face every day. Yet, I know I must keep my mind on the Lord and things above.
I also thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who spent his last night on earth knowing he was going to the gallows the next day.
And, of course, the Lord Jesus prayed in the garden the night before he was crucified on the cross for our sins.
You probably know the powerful history of Germany’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
But you might not realize his strong connection to the American black community.
Did you know that Bonhoeffer — one of the first German Nazi resistance leaders — formed his opinions after he visited the US and attended a black Baptist church in Harlem?
It was at that Baptist church — where he also taught Sunday School — that he learned about the black spirituals that have formed so much of our American culture.
“Here one can truly speak and hear about sin and grace and the love of God…the Black Christ is preached with rapturous passion and vision.”
But it was also there where he observed, with profound sadness, that the church was inept to bring about integration.
The mold was set.
When Bonhoeffer returned to Germany, the Nazi party was rising and he saw no other choice but to take to the radio and speak against their racist policies and engaged the church to denounce them.
He vocally opposed Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews, telling German Christians to rise up and build a resistance.
He told them:
“We cannot bandage the victims under the wheel, but must jam the spoke in the wheel itself.”
Torn by his faith and his avowed pacifism, he participated in an assassination plot on Adolf Hitler.
But his resistance came with a price. He was hung in a concentration camp in 1945.
Today, we celebrate Bonhoeffer as a martyr because he risked his own life to save others, and to save the soul of a nation.
Imagine if more would have followed Bonhoeffer’s call to live their faith in a secular world — especially in the face of evil.
Friend, the American black church helped to form one of the first and most powerful Nazi resistance leaders.
The black church eventually created more resistance leaders through the years, notably Martin Luther King.
But sadly, the heroes like King and Bonhoeffer are few and far between — and nearly invisible today.
But I believe there are more heros who are undiscovered and need inspired.
That’s why I want to tell Bonhoeffer’s story to my pastors by sending them a biography of his life by Michael Van Dyke.
In an interview I did with Ben Carson, he told me that we need more Americans to read inspirational stories of people who fight for what is right.
That’s why I want to send Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s story, a student of the black church, to all of the pastors in my network.
Imagine more Americans rising up to resist the soul-crushing leviathan of the welfare state.
Imagine more blacks resisting today’s genocide of the black race with millions of babies killed before they are born.
With your immediate support, this project allows my team to survey my network and identify what they believe, and what we need to do to encourage them to become resistance leaders, again!
Your sponsorship of $35 will tell Bonhoeffer’s story to one pastor who will then become inspired to share his story with his congregation.
This story is a story of the black church, but it is not well known. I know it can spread. You can make it happen.
Let’s inspire more Americans to resist the growing powers of a corrupt government!
Your sponsorship of $100 or more will send six of the pastor’s in my network a book about Bonhoeffer’s life, our survey, and communication with my team as we approach the important elections in November.
This project will take $20,000 to accomplish.
Let’s remind the black community about one of their own students who lived his faith and resisted the Nazi regime, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by clicking and following this link to immediately donate $35, $50, $100, $250 or even $500 or more.
Your foot-soldier for freedom,
“Who can really be faithful in great things if he has not learned to be faithful in the things of daily life?”