March 26, 2014
Historic parallels are a risky thing, but the similarity between the
past and out times is stunning. The Kiev junta – Maidan armed groups
relationship and the bloody events known in the history of Germany as
the Night of Long Knives are by and large the same stories.
* * *
As Hitler came to power, the discontent in the ranks of the
Sturmabteilung (SA – Storm Detachment or Assault Division), the
paramilitary brownshirts led by Ernst Röhm who played the decisive role
in the Beer Hall Putsch (the Röhm-Putsch) in 1923, became wide spread.
The group started to accuse Hitler of betrayal stressing the need for
another «genuinely socialist» revolution. At the time Fuhrer planned to
make SA part of Reichswehr, the regular German military. In view of
great services and merits earned in the days of revolution Röhm
cherished an ambition to absorb the Reichswehr into the SA under his
leadership. There were around 3 million brownshirts under his command.
The leaders of the Reichswehr feared and despised the SA; they strongly
opposed the idea of merger pointing out that it would be wrong to put
the armed forces under the command of someone who led irregular
formations. The army leaders planned to make brownshirts part of
national armed forces while keeping Röhm away. It was planned to
transform SA into a militia force guarding the border with Poland and
use paratroopers as instructors responsible for training would-be
volunteers before they start service. Those days the German army was a
militia force. Only on May 21 1935 conscription was re-introduced.
At the time Hitler happened to be between a rock and a hard place. SA
leader Ernst Rohm did a great job making SA membership skyrocket.
Without endorsement from Hitler, Rohm worked to promote the SA,
employing propaganda and recruiting aggressively. At Rohm’s order the SA
also swallowed up other militant right-wing groups, such as the
Stahlhelm (‘Steel Helmet’), and acquired their members.
The inclusion of 314 thousand Steel Helmet members beefed up the
Rohm’s standing. He claimed 4, 5 million supporters and wanted a leading
position in the structure of border guards and the right to exercise
control over military warehouses in Eastern Germany. He met with
Minister of Defense General Werner von Blomberg and the leadership of
the SA and SS on February 28, 1934. Under pressure from Hitler, Röhm
reluctantly signed a pledge stating that he recognized the supremacy of
the Reichswehr over the SA, which became a source of raw recruits for an
enlarged and revitalized army. Hitler announced to those present that
the SA would act as an auxiliary to the Reichswehr, not the other way
around. After Hitler and most of the army officers had left, however,
Röhm declared that he would not take instructions from “the ridiculous
corporal” – a demeaning reference to Hitler. He said Hitler was
perfidious and had to leave, at least for a vacation. If he was not with
stormtroopers, then they would do the thing without him. While Hitler
did not take immediate action against Röhm for his intemperate outburst,
it nonetheless deepened the rift between them. The Hitler’s wait and
see position was similar to the one Ukrainian junta member Yatsenyuk
would take being in his shoes.