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Saturday, June 30, 2018

June 30, 1934: the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler's purge of those standing in his way

Herr Adolf Hitler, the German Chancellor, has saved his country. Swiftly and with exorable severity, he has delivered Germany from men who had become a danger to the unity of the German people and to the order of the state. With lightening rapidity he has caused them to be removed from high office, to be arrested, and put to death.
The names of the men who have been shot by his orders are already known. Hitler's love of Germany has triumphed over private friendships and fidelity to comrades who had stood shoulder to shoulder with him in the fight for Germany's future.
~Daily Mail, July 2nd 1934.
Hitler posing with SA members in the late 1920s. 
Hermann Göring stands bedecked 
with medals beneath Hitler.
The Night of the Long Knives (wiki) (sometimes called Operation Hummingbird or, in Germany, the Röhm-Putsch), was a purge that took place in Nazi Germany from June 30 to July 2, 1934, when the Nazi regime carried out a series of political murders.

When Hitler rose to power in early 1933, he owed much of his success to the muscle of his Nazi Storm Troopers (wiki), the SA (Sturmabteilung), a violent, ruthless army headed by Ernst Röhm, Hitler’s long-time friend and devotee. Röhm and his Storm Troopers brought Germany into submission by gaining control of the streets gangster-style and violently eliminating any of Hitler’s political enemies.

By the summer of 1934, the SA's numbers had swollen to 2 million men. The SA had given the Nazis an iron fist with which to disrupt other political parties' meetings before Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933, and was also used to enforce law afterwards: essentially, they were the enforcers of the Nazi Party.

Hitler and Rohm, 1933
However, a threatening, revolutionary force such as the SA was no longer useful now that Hitler was firmly in power. Hitler wanted to “go legit” and win over the regular army generals, the leaders of industry, as well as the German people. Most everyone in Germany disliked the SA, who were seen as the arrogant, bullying, murderous thugs that they were, and Hitler knew he needed to curtail their power to increase and solidify his own.

Hitler knew that the army hierarchy held him in disdain as he was 'only ' a corporal in their eyes, and the regular army hierarchy also saw the SA as a threat to their authority. The SA outnumbered the army by 1934 and Röhm had openly spoken about taking over the regular army by absorbing it into the SA. Such talk alarmed the army's leaders, and in April of that year, Hitler and the head of the German army, Werner von Blomberg, signed a secret agreement in which Hitler promised Blomberg’s army absolute control of the military (with precedence over the SA); and von Blomberg pledged the army’s backing when Germany’s 86-year-old president Paul von Hindenburg inevitably shuffled off the mortal coil and Hitler claimed the presidency.

Röhm had made powerful enemies in the Nazi party, among them Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Goering, who were part of the SS (Shutzstaffel), an organization that acted as Hitler’s personal body guards. They began putting the bug in Hitler’s ear that Röhm was planning a coup, and even gathered false evidence to back up their bogus claim - there is no actual evidence that Röhm was ever planning anything against Hitler.

When Hitler met with German President Paul von Hindenburg on June 21, 1934, the old man was in very poor health and was confined to a wheelchair, but his mind was sharp as ever. He brusquely informed Hitler and Defense Minister Blomberg that the SA must be brought to heel ASAP, or he would declare martial law in Germany and let the army run the show, which would pretty much mean the end of the Nazi party.

On the evening of June 30, 1934, which became known as the Night of the Long Knives (wiki), Hitler made his move. In the village of Bad Wiesse, the SS raided a hotel where Röhm and his buddies were hanging out for the weekend. Members of the SA were dragged from their beds and executed on the spot.
Just before Wiessee, Hitler suddenly breaks his silence: "Kempka", he says, "drive carefully when we come to the Hotel Hanselbauer. You must drive up without making any noise. If you see a SA guard in front of the hotel, don't wait for them to report to me; drive on and stop at the hotel entrance." Then after a moment of deathly silence: "Röhm wants to carry out a coup." An icy shiver ran down my back. I could have believed anything, but not a coup by Röhm.
Units of the SS arrested more of the leaders of the SA and other political opponents. Seventy-seven men were executed on charges of treason though historians tend to think the figure is higher. Hitler also took the opportunity to assassinate anyone that he didn’t like, or had crossed him, or looked at him the wrong way.

Röhm was arrested by Hitler himself, brought to Munich, and given a revolver to kill himself instead of being executed by someone else. Röhm refused, saying if Adolf wanted him dead so badly, he’d have to do the deed himself. Since Hitler couldn’t bring himself to kill his old friend, he sent in a minion to shoot Röhm in the stomach at point-blank range. 

The SA was brought to heel and placed under the command of the army. The Night of the Long Knives not only removed the SA leaders but also got Hitler the army's oath that he so needed.

The first the public officially knew about the event was on July 13th 1934, when Hitler told the Reichstag that met in the Kroll Opera House, Berlin, that for the duration of the arrests that he and he alone was the judge in Germany and that the SS carried out his orders. 
“If anyone reproaches me and asks why I did not resort to the regular courts of justice, then all I can say is this: In this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people, and thereby I became the supreme judge of the German people.” 
~Adolf Hitler, July 13, 1934
From that time on the SS became a feared force in Nazi Germany, lead by Heinrich Himmler. The efficiency with which the SS had carried out its orders greatly impressed Hitler and Himmler went on to acquire huge power within Nazi Germany.

Here's a brief Khan Academy video describing the event:



History channel 4 minute video:


Based on a post at the excellent Today I Found Out (their Wise Book of Whys has gone to several family members as Christmas presents), with input from here, here, and here.

Previous posts:



Nazi sex dolls, intended to protect soldiers from French prostitutes.

Further reading:

The definitive source: Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich.

Stormtroop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army, 1914-1918

Friday, June 29, 2018

How tree trunks are cut to produce lumber with different shapes, grains, and uses

In the category of "things to which I've given zero thought", the complexity of this topic surprised me - I'll probably never learn much more about it, but some of you may be inspired to do so:


The lumber we use to build is extracted from the trunks of more than 2000 tree species worldwide, each with different densities and humidity levels. In addition to these factors, the way in which the trunk is cut establishes the functionality and final characteristics of each wood section. Let’s review the most-used cuts.
Each cut pattern produces wood with grain patterns and composition that makes it more or less suited to particular uses. For instance, the “interlocked cut” produces thin boards that are “quite resistant to deformation”.
Although these techniques may differ depending on the use required, there are three main ways to cut a log into boards: Rift, Quarter and Flat Sawn- and a series of variations that arise from them:

Rift sawn
Rift Sawn

This cut is made perpendicular to the growth rings. It keeps the wood grain visible and avoids warping (deformations in the shape of the board) or fissures (longitudinal cracks), but wastes more material than other cut types.

Quarter Sawn

Cuts are made parallel to the four axes of the trunk, obtaining pieces that are not too prone to warping with a large number of visible rings.

Flat Sawn/Live Sawn

This is a widely used method, although the resulting pieces are not of the best quality since most include a certain percentage of the Sapwood and the Heartwood. The centerpiece that coincides with the core can tend to break, while the remaining pieces are prone to warp and curl.

Much more at Arch Daily, via Kottke.

Friday links

June 30, 1934 was the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler's purge of those standing in his way.

How the Second World War Made America Literate.

News you can use: How To Tell If You've Been Abducted By Aliens.

How tree trunks are cut to produce lumber with different shapes, grains, and uses.


Dancing at the Lunatic’s Ball at the  New York City Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include DARPA's re-invention of the wheel, DIY V-steaming instructions, chocolate chip cookie science, and the anniversary of both the event that started World War One and the treaty that ended it.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Thursday links

June 28 is the anniversary of both the event that started (the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife - heirs to the Austrian throne) and the treaty that ended World War One


DARPA Literally Reinvented the Wheel.

Want your vagina steam-cleaned but don't have a spa nearby? Here are the do-it-yourself instructions.

WHO (World Health Organization) warns you not to drink camel urine.

Bake the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies by Knowing What to Tweak.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include Helen Keller's birthday, the science of colorful monkey butts (and a gallery), the new supervolcano is brewing under New England. and the taxpayer funding behind Domino's Extra Cheesy Pizza. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

June 28 is the anniversary of both the event that started and the treaty that ended World War One

June 28 is the anniversary of two days that might be said to mark the beginning and end of the First World War. It's the anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (wiki) of Austria and his wife - heirs to the Austrian throne - by Serbian radical Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914, the proximate cause of the beginning of the war. If you're interested in further information on the subject there are hundreds of books and films - the best books I know of (and I'm no expert) are Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August (this won a Pulitzer back when they meant something) and John Keegan's The First World War.

Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie at Sarajevo - The German caption
 says, "Leaving the town hall, 5 minutes before the assassination":
On the same date in 1919, five years later, the peace treaty that ended the war was signed in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. In the interim, ten million died, twice that number were wounded, and Europe's late-19th-century faith in the inevitability of progress and human betterment was destroyed. On hearing the terms of the Versailles Treaty (wiki), Germany's much-maligned Kaiser Wilhelm II noted from exile that, 

"The war to end war has resulted in a peace to end peace,"

and France's Marshall Ferdinand Foch observed,

"This is not peace; it is an armistice for twenty years." 

They were right.

God grant we may not have a European war thrust upon us, and for such a stupid reason too, no I don't mean stupid, but to have to go to war on account of tiresome Servia beggars belief. 

~ Mary, Queen-Consort of England's George V (letter to her aunt, Princess Augusta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 28 July 1914) 

The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime. 

~ Sir Edward Grey (remark, 3 August 1914, on the eve of Britain's declaration of war) 

The War was decided in the first twenty days of fighting, and all that happened afterwards consisted of battles which, however formidable and devastating, were but desperate and vain appeals against the decision of Fate. 

~ Sir Winston Churchill (Preface to Spears, Liaison 1914) 

When every autumn people said it could not last through the winter, and when every spring there was still no end in sight, only the hope that out of it all some good would accrue to mankind kept men and nations fighting. When at last it was over, the war had many diverse results and one dominant one transcending all others: disillusion. 

~Barbara Tuchman (The Guns of August, "Afterward") 

This animated map reflects the daily changes over the course of the war:


Here's a 6 minute overview of World War I:


And the BBC’s Horrible Histories explanation of how the Brits got involved:

The Atlantic has a series of photoessays entitled World War I in Photos on various WWI topics.


An 8 minute video on The Treaty of Versailles and its consequences:


Previous posts: Wilfred Owen, the best of the WWI "War Poets", was born 121 years ago today

Wednesday links

June 27 is Helen Keller's birthday: here are quotes, links, some history, and a selection of (non-PC) jokes.

The taxpayer funding behind Domino's Extra Cheesy Pizza. Kind of related: How Domino's Pizza Lost Its Mascot.

Synthetic Street USA was a fake, part of the camouflage that covered the B17 Bomber factory in Seattle during WWII.

Anoint the gums with the brains of a hare: advice from c. 1450 on soothing a teething baby. Apparently dog milk works, too.

Science: Why Are Monkey Butts So Colorful? Includes a gallery of colorful monkey butts.


ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include the survival uses for tampons and condoms, that time the U.S. Navy built a battleship in New York City's Union Square, a supercut of movie characters getting angry and flipping over tables, and an interactive map showing where your house would have been 750 million years ago.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Tuesday links

The Swiss Army Survival Tampon: 7 Survival Uses. Related, from the same guy: 11 Ways A Condom Can Save Your Life.

Getting angry and flipping over a table: the supercut.

Interactive Map Shows Where Your House Would Have Been 750 Million Years Ago. Type in your address and use the drop-down arrow at the top of the page to chose how far back to go, or just use the up and down arrow keys.

As a recruiting tool, the U.S. Navy built a battleship in New York City's Union Square. It was there from 1917-1920.

The parakeet has a goiter: the best standard publisher rejection letter ever.


ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include the birthday of Ambrose Bierce (author of The Devil's Dictionary), the history of state liquor laws, awkward pregnancy photos, Japanese spider fighting, and that time the U.S. released a bioweapon in San Francisco.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

June 24 is the birthday of Ambrose Bierce, author of "The Devil's Dictionary"


Alliance, n. In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hand so deeply inserted in each other's pocket that they cannot successfully plunder a third. 

Destiny, n. A tyrant's authority for crime and a fool's excuse for failure. 

Diplomacy, n. The patriotic act of lying for one's country. 

Evangelist, n. A bearer of glad tidings, particularly (in a religious sense) such as assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of our neighbors.

History, n. An account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.

Imagination, n. A warehouse of facts, with poet and liar in joint ownership. 

Infancy, n. The period of our lives when, according to Wordsworth, "Heaven lies about us." The world begins lying about us pretty soon afterward. 

Occident, n. The part of the world lying west (or east) of the Orient. It is largely inhabited by Christians, a powerful subtribe of the Hypocrites, whose principal industries are murder and cheating, which they are pleased to call "war" and "commerce." These, also, are the principal industries of the Orient.

Ocean, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills. 

Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage. 

Rational, adj., Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience, and reflection. 

Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. 

June 24 is the anniversary of the birth in 1842 of American journalist and short-story writer Ambrose Gwinett Bierce (wiki) (1842-1914?), remembered primarily as the author of The Devil's Dictionary. Born in Meigs County, Ohio, Bierce served the Union Army in the Civil War as a "topographical engineer," i.e., a map-maker, but he became a journalist after the conflict and settled in San Francisco. 

Cover of the graphic novel version
 of The Devil's Dictionary
As the literary arbiter of the West Coast at the turn of the 20th century, he found early success as a writer of such short stories as "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,"* many of them based on his experiences in the army.* The Devil's Dictionary, a compilation of irreverent definitions of common words and phrases, derives from a series of newspaper columns that Bierce wrote between 1881 and 1886 and then from 1904 to 1906. In 1913, he left San Francisco - at age 71 - to cover the uprising of Pancho Villa in Mexico and was never heard from again. Various theories - including suicide - and unsubstantiated reports of his death have been evinced to explain his disappearance, but the mystery remains.**  George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)  had characters like Bierce in mind when he noted, 
"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."
* N.B. Below is a well-received film version of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,", from The Twilight Zone



** The excellent site Today I Found Out (I highly recommend their book The Wise Book of Whys, copies of which I've given to several people as gifts) has a good roundup of the theories regarding his death: Whatever Happened to Ambrose Bierce?