Thursday, 11 October 2012

On This Day in the Third Reich 1934

Heinrich Himmler, in a speech to Gestapo officials, makes reference to the Night of the Long Knives on the previous June[i]. In April under pressure from Hitler, Hermann Goering had placed the Prussian Gestapo under Himmler’s control[ii], as a preliminary to the events, which he and Goering had persuaded Hitler to approve.

The hypocritical Himmler spoke of the struggle to
‘Shoot one’s own comrades, with whom one has stood side by side for eight or ten years in the struggle for an ideal and who had then failed, is the bitterest thing that can happen to a man.’[iii]

Himmler had struggled for several years to free the SS[iv] from the control of the SA. His mentor Ernst Rohm had returned from exile to run the SA in January 1931. Almost immediately Rohm had contradicted Himmler’s statement of the previous autumn; that the SS was no longer under the control of the SA leadership.
Goering in SA uniform
In December 1933 Himmler and his sidekick Reinhard Heydrich, started giving Goering, Minister-President of Prussia and in charge of the fledgling Aviation Ministry, the hard sell on Rohm. They persuaded Goering that Rohm wanted the SA to take over the defence of the nation and become Defence Minister, a post that Goering desired for himself.
Himmler’s diligence in undermining the SA was rewarded on 20th July, when Hitler removed the subsidiary status of the SS, making it an independent arm of the Nazi party. One week later Himmler took on responsibility for Wewelsburg Castle from the local council. Now he had a location central to his romantic vision of the SS as a modern revival of the Teutonic knights.
Himmler blamed the June purge on Jews, Catholics and freemasons who had

‘Sent numerous individuals into the SA and the entourage of the former chief of staff and drove him to catastrophe.’[v]
The result would have been chaos; the enemy sought nothing less than the eradication of the Nazi state. The Gestapo were to concentrate on searching for the Jewish enemy who lies behind all subversion. Those detectives who operated with an understanding of the racial conspiracy would be the most successful.

Himmler was also concerned about the Gestapo’s relations with the public.
'The Volk must hold the conviction that the most just the dreaded Gestapo. The Volk must come to the view that, if someone has been seized, he had been seized with right.'[vi]

The public must feel that their problems will be dealt with courteously and sociably and that those seized by the Gestapo have been taken for a reason, rather than whim. The public must realise that the Gestapo consists of the most absolutely useful loyal & obedient people; an organisation to be trusted by the German people.

Himmler informed his audience that he personally signed orders & reports for which he was responsible & that his staff should do likewise. The Gestapo was to handle its business with soldierly speed and avoid bureaucratic red tape. Himmler and Heydrich would create a sense of soldierly camaraderie within the organisation. The Gestapo officers were to view Himmler as a father to his staff and to feel free to bring their problems to him.
‘You will always find my door open if you come to me with a request which you wish to make in connection with yourself or a colleague, which has something to do with official business, or whether it’s a personal request.’[vii]

Foundation of the Nazi Police State – George C Browder, 2004 University Press of Kentucky

Hitler’s Enforcers – George C Browder, Oxford University Press 1996

The Third Reich – Michael Burleigh, Pan Books 2001

Master Race – Catrine Clay & Michael Leapman, BCA 1995

Heinrich Himmler – Peter Longerich, Oxford University Press 2012

Reichsfuhrer SS – Peter Padfield

The Devil’s Disciples – Anthony Read, Pimlico 2004

[i] When the leaders of the SA were imprisoned and executed as traitors to the Fuhrer
[ii] As deputy to Goering
[iii] Master Race – Clay & Leapman
[iv] Schutzstaffel
[v] Master Race – Clay & Leapman
[vi] Hitler’s Enforcers - Browder
[vii] Heinrich Himmler - Longerich

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