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Posted on Oct 9, 2004 in Books and Movies

The Night of the Long Knives – Book Review

By Steven McWilliams

The Night of the Long Knives
Paul R. Maracin
Lyons Press, 2004

Mr. Maracin takes a determined look at one of the least known events of the Nazi Regime, the purge of the Sturmabteilung, or SA, on 30 June-2 July 1934. Starting as a loosely organized band of thugs, the duties of the SA (“Storm Detachment”) were to protect party functions from “outside interference.”

Maracin raises one particularly interesting point – almost universally, the men of the Nazi hierarchy came from families with harsh, physically abusive, demanding fathers, and often also doting, perhaps even smothering, mothers. While this surely does not excuse any of their misdeeds, it is illustrative of their character development, and their moral and social framework A further commonality is the fact that each of them “failed” their family, either following pursuits not approved of by their parents, or performing poorly in their chosen occupation.


Hitler’s character is even more revelatory – from the time he left home, he displayed a penchant for falling in with a “partner” of some form, and exploiting this relationship until it no longer profited him, thereafter dissolving the “partnership” and dissociating himself from that person. It was thus with Ernst Rohm as well, to the great misfortune of the burly SA chief. It was well known that Hitler, and other Nazis, looked with distaste upon Rohm’s flagrant homosexuality, but tolerated it while Rohm could be useful. It must have further have offended their sensibilities that Rohm recruited a number of his “friends” into the SA, in fact placing several in higher positions. When the time came for masterstroke, they would all fall with Rohm.

That the Night of the Long Knives is so poorly known is almost certainly the result of Hitler and henchmen’s actions. Like any organization, they did not care to air their dirty laundry in public, especially not with so colorful a character as Rohm.

Mr. Maracin’s work is a well researched, well-told account of the Nazi machine at its most ruthless and, indeed, as a microcosm of its future murderous self. Through his writing, we see the first horrific bloodletting – a rivulet that will become a torrent.