Night of the Long Knives

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The regime did not limit itself to a purge of the SA, however. Having earlier imprisoned or exiled prominent Social Democrats and Communists, Hitler used the occasion to move against conservatives he considered unreliable. This included Vice-Chancellor Papen and those in his immediate circle. In Berlin, on Göring's personal orders, an armed SS unit stormed the Vice-Chancellery. Gestapo officers attached to the SS unit shot Papen's secretary Herbert von Bose without bothering to arrest him first. The Gestapo arrested and later executed Papen's close associate Edgar Jung, the author of Papen's Marburg speech; they disposed of his body by dumping it in a ditch.[39] The Gestapo also murdered Erich Klausener, the leader of Catholic Action, and a close Papen associate.[34] The vice-chancellor himself was unceremoniously arrested at the vice-chancellery, despite his insistent protests that he could not be arrested. Although Hitler ordered him released days later, Papen no longer dared to criticise the regime.[40]

Hitler, Hermann Göring, and Himmler unleashed the Gestapo against old enemies as well. Both Kurt von Schleicher, Hitler's predecessor as chancellor, and his wife were murdered at their home. Others killed included Gregor Strasser, a former Nazi who had angered Hitler by resigning from the party in 1932, and Gustav Ritter von Kahr, the former Bavarian state commissioner who crushed the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923.[41] Kahr's fate was especially gruesome. His body was found in a wood outside Munich; he had been hacked to death, apparently with pickaxes. The murdered included at least one accidental victim: Willi Schmid, the music critic of the Münchner Neuste Nachrichten, a Munich newspaper. The Gestapo mistook him for Ludwig Schmitt, a past supporter of Otto Strasser, the brother of Gregor.[42] Such unrestrained violence added to the fearsome reputation of the Gestapo, the Nazis' secret police.

Röhm's fate

Röhm was held briefly at Stadelheim Prison[43] in Munich, while Hitler considered his fate. Certainly, Ernst Röhm's service to the Nazi regime counted for something. On the other hand, he could not be held in prison indefinitely or exiled, and a public trial might bring unwanted scrutiny to the purge.[44] In the end, Hitler decided that Röhm had to die. On July 2, at Hitler's behest, Theodor Eicke, later the commandant of the Dachau concentration camp, and SS Officer Michel Lippert visited Röhm. Once inside Röhm's cell, they handed him a loaded Browning pistol, and told him that he had ten minutes to kill himself, or else they would do it for him. Röhm demurred, telling them, "If I am to be killed, let Adolf do it himself."[34] Having heard nothing in the allotted time, they returned to Röhm's cell to find him standing, with his bare chest puffed out in a gesture of defiance.[45] Lippert shot him dead at point-blank range. Years later, in 1957, the German authorities tried Lippert in Munich for Röhm's murder. Until then, Lippert had been one of the few executioners of the purge to have escaped justice.

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