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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.)

SA Leader Ernst RoehmThe 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.

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10 inaccuracies in The Bible . . . the miniseries, not the book

A scene from episode one of the "The Bible" miniseries depicts Noah telling the creation narrative as recorded in Genesis. But the passage wasn’t penned until centuries later.

A scene from episode one of the “The Bible” miniseries depicts Noah telling the creation narrative as recorded in Genesis. But the passage wasn’t penned until centuries later.

If you listened to the critics’ reviews, History Channel’s The Bible was destined to become an underwhelming miniseries not worth viewers’ time. The Los Angeles Times dismissed it as “flat and often tedious,” Entertainment Weekly called it a “cheesefest,” and the Philadelphia Enquirer labeled it “cardboard characters surrounded by CGI.” Apparently, viewers weren’t listening. The premier pulled in 13.1 million viewers and each additional episode has garnered over 10 million. About 4 in 10 Americans have watched at least one episode of the show.

But some Christians questioned the historicity of some of the finer details of the show’s portrayals. The creators seem to have anticipated such controversy, which is why every episode begins with the following disclaimer: “This program is an adaptation of Bible stories. It endeavors to stay true to the spirit of the book.”

Inaccuracies are inevitable when one moves a work of art from one medium to another (in this case, from literature to film). Such deviations are acceptable depending on the kind and scale of liberties taken. In The Bible’s case, the inaccuracies are often significant but do not seem to compromise the Biblical meta-story itself. Even still, viewers should be aware of which flourishes deviate from the Biblical text. Here are the 10 that stick out in my mind. They are listed in chronological order:

1. Noah’s creation story. In the opening scene of episode one, Noah and his family are bouncing around inside the ark, tossed by the tumultuous waves outside. Noah recounts the creation narrative as it appears in Genesis, but there’s one problem: the story was not written until later. Conservative Christian scholars believe this story was drafted by Moses many centuries after Noah’s flood; more liberal scholars claim it was penned even later.

2. Angels know martial arts? When God’s messengers rescue Lot and his family from Sodom prior to the city’s destruction, the television show depicts them defending the fugitives with swords and Jet-Li-style martial arts. The Bible, however, makes no mention of such a battle or any kind of weapons used by the angels. Instead, the text claims Sodom’s residents were struck with blindness (Genesis 19), which would have made their escape a lot less exciting… and less bloody.

3. Abraham’s lamb. When the Jewish patriarch, Abraham, is about to sacrifice Isaac, the television show portrays a lamb showing up just in time to take Isaac’s place. In the Bible, however, it was a ram (Genesis 22:13). The lamb is more aesthetically pleasing and sweet, but it is not which the animal the Bible says appeared.

4. Saul – he’s #1. In the biblical account, King Saul goes into a cave to “relieve himself” when David cuts off a piece of his robe and spares his life. The Hebrew word here is clear that the Israelite king was defecating (1 Samuel 24), but the television show portrays Saul urinating. The latter act is more viewer-appropriate, but technically inaccurate.

5. Jeremiah, the escape artist. When the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem, a wild-eyed Jeremiah escapes undetected by the invading army. According to the scriptures, however, Jeremiah was captured, bound in chains, and later released (Jeremiah 40:1). Additionally, the television show tells of Daniel and his three compatriots being captured during the siege, when in fact, they were deported more than a decade after Jerusalem’s destruction (Daniel 1; 1 Kings 24:10-16).

6. Cyrus and the lion’s den. The Bible says the prophet Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den during the reign of Darius (Daniel 6). In the television show, however, Cyrus is still in power.

7. Jesus’ birth…how romantic. The birth of Jesus has been romanticized in Western accounts, many added details have no root in scripture. The television show riffs on the popular version with the pregnant Mary riding to Bethlehem on a donkey pulled by Joseph. The Bible never mentions a donkey, and it almost certain that they would have travelled there in a caravan with their family and friends in tow (Luke 2).

8. Wise men, yes. But punctual, no.  Consistent with the romanticized but fictional tale of Jesus’ birth, the television show depicts three wise men riding camels to visit the newborn babe. But the Bible never says how many magi there were. And though the wise men arrive at the same time the shepherds do in the series, they visit the infant Jesus later in the Biblical account (Matthew 2:1-12)

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The Bible: An Interview with Mark Burnett and Roma Downey

by Staff on Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Bible miniseries premiered on The History Channel Sunday, March 3. The creators and executive producers of The Bible are husband and wife, Mark Burnett (The Voice, Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice) and Roma Downey (Touched By An Angel). The Bible will air in five two-hour episodes, concluding on Easter, March 31.

The Bible pre-sale offers: Purchase the DVD or Blu-Ray set and receive a FREE copy of Know Your Bible: Deluxe Edition. This offer is valid March 4 through April 1, 2013 while supplies last. sat down with Roma Downey and Mark Burnett to discuss The Bible.

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