Night of the Long Knives
During the early 1930s Ernst Röhm, leader of the "Brownshirts" (Sturmabteilung, or SA) with its 2.9 million plus members, was a much larger and more powerful part of the Nazi Party than Heinrich Himmler's SS ("blackshirts"). That suddenly changed in June 1934 as a result of a power struggle between the SA, which had a more radical vision than Hitler would tolerate, and a coalition of Himmler, Hermann Göring, the army and big business. The army feared the SA would absorb it into its ranks; which is what Röhm wanted to do. Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich prepared the list of Röhm's SA associates who were executed or imprisoned in this purge which became known as the Night of the Long Knives. Hitler had Röhm killed as well, for fear that he would be a rival in the near future. Himmler and his SS gained enormously from the killings; the SS was now its own branch and Himmler reported only to Hitler.
Those eliminated in the purge had a more socialistic view on the economy and some were homosexuals. The term is now often used to describe any ruthless purging of enemies, with or without bloodshed, as in the peremptory sacking of seven cabinet ministers by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in July 1962.