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Night of the Long Knives The greatest challenge to Hitlers survival during the early years of the Third Reich came from his own brown-shirted storm troopers the SA Sturmabteilung led by Chief of Staff Ernst Rhm The battle-scarred Rhm was a decorated World War I combat officer and a post-war street-brawler who had been with Hitler from the start Rhms jack-booted storm troopers were largely responsible for putting Hitler in power On the front lines of the Nazi political revolution they had risked their necks battling Communists for control of the streets and squashed anyone who stood in Hitlers way However by the beginning of 1934 a full year after Hitlers seizure of power things had changed The SAs usefulness as a violent revolutionary force had effectively ended To maintain his position as dictator of Germany Hitler now needed the support of the all-powerful German General Staff with its 100000-strong Army which had the power to crush his dictatorship whenever it pleased The big problem for Hitler was that Rhm and his arrogant young Brownshirts fancied themselves as the nucleus of new peoples army that would replace the traditional Germany Army - similar to Napoleons revolutionary army This put them in direct conflict with the General Staff They were threatening to end a centuries-old way of life in Germany The General Staff was a class unto itself featuring men of wealth and privilege many of whom could trace their lineages back to Germanys medieval warrior-princes During his rise to power Hitler had earned their support by repeatedly assuring them he would restore them to their former glory by breaking the shackles of the Treaty of Versailles which limited the Army to 100000 men and prevented modernization And there were more problems with the SA The anti-capitalist sentiments voiced by big-mouthed SA leaders and echoed by the restless masses of unemployed storm troopers created huge
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