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Thursday, 22 September 2016

Night of the Long Knives

The Night of the Long Knives is a descriptive phrase that was applied to the night of June 30 - July 1, 1934 when Hitler, assisted by Heinrich Himmler's SS, carried out a series of political murders, executing at least 85 people. Many of those killed were leaders of the SA, the paramilitary Brownshirts. The best-known victim was Ernst Röhm, the SA's leader and one of Hitler's longtime supporters and allies.

Ernst Röhm with Kurt Daluege and Himmler

The term has its antecedents. The apocryphal treacherous killing of native British chieftains by Anglo-Saxon mercenaries on Salisbury Plain in AD 472 was named "The Treachery of the Long Knives" by Geoffrey of Monmouth and became a prominent symbol of Saxon betrayal.

The term Night of the Long Knives is now applied to any treacherous massacre or betrayal. For instance, in July 1962 UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan shocked the nation by sacking seven ministers in what became known as the 'Night of the Long Knives'.

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