Sometimes an evil leader can come in and before anyone realizes it, the danger that came in with him is real. Unfortunately, not every elected leader is a good one, and when an elected leader, begins to do things like taking away the guns of the people and undermining the police, you find out just how bad they really are. Hitler was that kind of elected leader, and worse. By May of 1934, Hitler had been the chancellor of Germany for 16 months, and the dictator for 14 months. Less than a month after Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany, he calls on elements of the Nazi party to act as auxiliary police. The SS (Schutzstaffel), initially Hitler’s bodyguards, and the SA (Sturmabteilung, the German Assault Division), who were the street fighters or Storm Troopers of the Nazi party, now operated as the private army of the Nazi party. SS chief Heinrich Himmler also turned the regular (nonparty) police forces into an instrument of terror. He helped forge the powerful Secret State Police (Geheime Staatspolizei), or Gestapo. These non-uniformed police used ruthless and cruel methods throughout Germany to identify and arrest political opponents and others who refused to obey laws and policies of the Nazi regime. It had taken less than a year to change everything for the people of Germany, who no longer had a say in their own lives.
While he had control, it was still not enough for the insane chancellor. Hitler, as we all know, would go on to annihilate millions of the Jewish people, as well as anyone else he considered an “undesirable” person. While I’m sure the leaders of the German government considered themselves safe, they would find out just how wrong they were on the Night of the Long Knives…also known as a Blood Purge, or putsch in German. By definition, a blood purge is “the elimination en masse by massacre or execution of individuals considered to constitute an untrustworthy or undesirable element within a party or movement. the elimination en masse by massacre or execution of individuals considered to constitute an untrustworthy or undesirable element within a party.” Hitler had decided that some of his own leaders, his trusted associates, could not be trusted. Maybe he was right, but he didn’t really have proof of his doubts. Nevertheless, He decided that there needed to be a blood purge and the Night of the Long Knives was born.
On June 30, 1934, it began, and continued on until July 2, 1934. During the purge of the Night of the Long Knives (Nacht der langen Messer) Hitler and the Nazi regime used the Schutzstaffel (SS) to deal with the perceived problem of Ernst Röhm and his Sturmabteilung (SA) brownshirts (the original Nazi paramilitary organization). The first thing Hitler did was to take out…or defund the police. Believe it or not, that took out the last protection of the people. He also took out past opponents of the party, thinking that they might organize against them. It is estimated that at least 85 people were murdered, but many historians think that the death toll was likely in the hundreds. Most of those killed were members of the SA, other victims included close associates of Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen, several Reichswehr (German Army) generals…one of whom, Kurt von Schleicher, was formerly the Chancellor of Germany. Hitler also took out their associates. Gregor Strasser, Hitler’s former competitor for control of the Nazi Party was the next to go. At least one person was killed in a case of mistaken identity, sadly, and several innocent victims were simply killed because they “knew too much.” The Night of the Long Knives…was Hitler’s insane revenge on anyone who dared to oppose him, or even to appear to oppose him.
The White Rose was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in the Third Reich led by a group of students including Hans and Sophie Scholl. The students attended the University of Munich. Their goal was to promote awareness using an anonymous leaflets and a graffiti campaign that called for active opposition to the Nazi regime. Of course, while the actions were anonymous, the Third Reich had spies everywhere. The activities of The White Rose started in Munich on June 27, 1942, and ended with the arrest of the core group by the Gestapo on February 18, 1943. The core group, as well as other members and supporters of the group who carried on distributing the pamphlets, were sentenced to death or imprisonment in show trials by the Nazi People’s Court (Volksgerichtshof).
Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst were among the members of the core group. They were captured on February 18, 1943. During the trial, Sophie interrupted the judge multiple times, but she was ignored. No defendants were given any opportunity to speak. They had no way to defend themselves, and were found guilty at the “trial.” They were executed by guillotine four days after their arrest, on February 22, 1943. The group had only been active for eight months, they had never committed a violent act, and yet they were put to death. Hitler’s regime considered them more of a threat for pamphlets and paintings, than if the had run around shooting people.
The group wrote, printed, and initially distributed their pamphlets in the greater Munich region. As the movement grew, secret carriers brought copies to other cities, mostly in the southern parts of Germany. The White Rose authored a total of six leaflets, which were multiplied and spread. In all, about 15,000 copies were printed. They denounced the Nazi regime’s crimes and oppression, and called for resistance. They openly denounced the persecution and mass murder of the Jews, in their second leaflet. By the time of their arrest, the members of the White Rose were just about to establish contacts with other German resistance groups like the Kreisau Circle or the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack group of the Red Orchestra. Today, the White Rose is well known both within Germany and worldwide. Sadly the movement ended almost before it could get started.