15. The creation of the Gestapo and the crushing of the SA leadership
When Hitler became Chancellor Hermann Goering was named as the Interior Minister of Prussia, the largest German state and the one possessing the largest police force. Goering detached the intelligence and political sections of the Prussian police, purged them of non-Nazis, and replaced them with fervent Nazi loyalists, creating the Geheime Staatspolizei, which became known as the Gestapo. In April 1934, under the direction of Hitler, Goering transferred control of the Gestapo to Heinrich Himmler, who was named head of all German police outside of Prussia on April 20, 1934. By the spring of 1934 the power of the SA and its leadership was viewed as a potential threat by Himmler, Goering, and Hitler, and curbing its influence though infiltration became a Nazi priority. Their view was supported by senior German military leaders.
At the end of June 1934, Himmler’s SS and the Gestapo carried out a series of assassinations of senior SA officers who had been instrumental in the Nazi rise to power but were by then viewed as a threat by the Nazi leadership. The murders were sometimes simply acts of revenge for past slights, to settle old scores, or to remove rivals. At least 85 murders were carried out, mostly by the SS, and there are estimates that the killings may have numbered in the hundreds. Another thousand or more Germans who had once been opposed to the Nazis disappeared into concentration camps and prisons. The Night of the Long Knives, as it became known, was so named from a long-standing German phrase for vengeful retribution. Upon its completion Hitler addressed the Reichstag during which he established himself as the final arbiter of justice in Germany. The Gestapo became one of the most feared of the Nazi organizations.