Did you know a Nazi purge had links to ancient British history?

Ernst Röhm (left), leader of the paramilitary Sturmabteilung (SA), talking to SA members. Röhm was one of Hitler’s main targets during the purge.
(Photo: The Wiener Holocaust Library Collections)
The Night of the Long Knives between June 30 and July 2, 1934, was a murderous purge of the Nazi Party in which Hitler removed all internal threats to his power. Nazi leadership originally called it Operation Hummingbird, but Hitler was quick to adopt the phrase “night of the long knives.” But why was it given that name?
Surprisingly, the phrase goes back to a 9th century book written in Latin, the Historia Brittonum (“History of the Britons”). Written by a Welsh monk, the book purports to be a history of Britain’s native people, though modern historians agree that most of it was made up. One story in the book is about the “Treason of the Long Knives,” an event that supposedly happened in the 5th century. After the Roman Empire pulled out of Britain, the native Britons found themselves facing Anglo-Saxon tribes encroaching on their lands from continental Europe. According to the story, the Saxons called the Britons’ leaders to peace talks, only to betray them and massacre them with their long knives. The story eventually became part of European historical folklore along with King Arthur’s legend. The phrase “long knives” eventually became a metaphor for deceit and violence in German, and was already in such use before the Nazi purge.
Artist’s depiction of the sort of Saxon warriors who would have participated in the Treason of the Long Knives (if it ever happened)
(Image: Breogan Alvarez)
The story, however, takes another twist. The knives assumably used by the Saxons (if the event ever happened) were of a specific type called seax. This weapon was so closely associated with Saxon culture that their very name, “Saxon,” was derived from it. Which means that all of our readers of Anglo-Saxon ethnicity share a linguistic relationship to the infamous Nazi purge, both them and it having been ultimately named after the same Early Middle Ages knife. 
The remains and replica of a seax, the ultimate origin of the phrase “Night of the Long Knives”
(Photo: Bullenwächter / Wikipedia)

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An Independence Day-related propaganda poster from 1943
(Photo: Office of War Information)

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