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Erich Kempka’s Eyewitness Description of "Operation Hummingbird" on June 30, 1934 (Retrospective Account, 1954)

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Suddenly [ . . . ] there is the sound of a car arriving! At first I thought it was the bus chartered by Schreck but instead, to my horror, a lorry full of heavily armed SA men rattles into the yard. Now there'll be some shooting, I think to myself. I can see Brückner negotiating with the Sturmführer of the SA. The man seems to be refusing. Walking backwards, he tries to get to his lorry. [ . . . ] At this moment Hitler goes up to him: 'Drive back to Munich immediately!' he tells the puzzled fellow. 'If you are stopped by SS on the way, you must let yourselves be disarmed without resistance.'

The Sturmführer salutes and jumps into the lorry, and the SA men leave again. No shot, no sign of resistance. All this time, Röhm is sitting unsuspectingly drinking his third cup of coffee. Only a single word from him, and the whole thing would have worked out differently. [ . . . ]

Now the bus arrives which has been fetched by Schreck. Quickly, the SA leaders are collected from the laundry room and walk past Röhm under police guard. Röhm looks up from his coffee sadly and waves to them in a melancholy way [ . . . ].

At last Röhm too is led from the hotel. He walks past Hitler with his head bowed, completely apathetic. Now Hitler gives the order to leave. I sit at the wheel of the first car with Hitler beside me and our column, which in the meantime has grown to about twenty cars, starts moving [ . . . ].

Source of English translation: Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham, eds., Nazism 1919-1945, Vol. 1, The Rise to Power 1919-1934. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1998, pp. 178-180.

Source of original German text: Bericht des Fahrers von Hitler, Erich Kempka, über die Verhaftung der SA-Führer, Quick [Munich], 1954, issue 24; reprinted in Herbert Michaelis and Ernst Schraepler, eds., Ursachen und Folgen: vom deutschen Zusammenbruch 1918 und 1945 bis zur staatlichen Neuordnung Deutschlands in der Gegenwart; eine Urkunden- und Dokumentensammlung zur Zeitgeschichte. 29 vols. Berlin: Dokumenten-Verlag, 1959-1979, Vol. 10, pp. 168-72.

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