The Killings of Prigoshin (2023) and Röhm (1934)
Readers of some of my previous articles in West England Bylines will remember that I repeatedly pointed to the significant parallels between the German Nazi leader and millionfold mass murderer Adolf Hitler and the Russian President and war criminal Vladimir Putin:
- the quest for revenge after a lost war (Hitler: WWI / Putin: the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union),
- the use of German/Russian speaking populations now living outside their “home territory” – see Hitler’s manipulation of Danzig and the Sudeten Germans / Putin’s occupation of Crimea and the south-eastern parts of Ukraine, where mostly Ukrainian Russian speakers were living, and
- the use of unprovoked military force to “rectify” the situation – Hitler’s attacks against Czechoslovakia and Poland / Putin’s war against Ukraine.
While many observers are still speculating about the mysterious plane crash on 23 August 2023 which killed the Wagner group leader Prigoshin, his deputy Utkin and other leading members of the group, the answer seems obvious for those who have closely followed the events since 23 June this year. On the evening of this day Prigoshin accused the Russian military leadership of having attacked a camp of his Wagner fighters and of having killed several of them. He proclaimed revenge and in the following days the Wagner soldiers managed to occupy the Army’s southern headquarters in Rostov on the river Don. Thereafter Wagner units marched towards Moscow while Prigoshin called for the toppling of Defence Minister Shoigu and the Head of the General Staff Gerassimov.
On 24 June President Putin appeared on television and angrily called Prigoshin’s coup attempt a “blow in the back of our country and our people”. He also stated that this would not remain unpunished. There were intensive negotiations, with the Belarussian leader Lukashenko involved. The Wagner group units, after having shot down some aircraft and killed Russian soldiers, stopped half way on the road towards Moscow. Later they withdrew from Rostov. Seemingly, a compromise had been achieved: the Wagner units would end their rebellion and withdraw to Belarus, while Prigoshin would not be prosecuted. Later he was seen on visits to Russia and even appeared in a televised meeting in Moscow with the President.
However, as various experts on Putin immediately pointed out, this leader regards “treason” as the ultimate crime against him personally. Proof of this is a long list of persons having been shot, hanged, poisoned or deported to prison camps. Putin might have thought it necessary to agree to a compromise with the Wagner boss at the time being to prevent a further destabilization within Russia, but he would take his deadly revenge later. It happened, just two months later. We probably will never get undeniable proof as long as “Czar Vladimir” stays in power and is able to manipulate the truth.
Now to the Hitler parallel:
The Röhm “Putsch”
In the night of June 30 to 1 July 1934 the leader of the SA (Sturmabteilung/Storm Division) Ernst Röhm and his entourage, while vacationing in Bad Wiessee (southern Bavaria), were taken prisoner by Hitler’s SS (Schutzstaffel), supported by the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei/Secret State Police) and units of the Reichswehr (Army). Several people were killed immediately, shortly later Röhm was also shot dead, after having appealed in vain to Hitler , whom he saw as a “personal friend”. Altogether some 90 people were killed.
The Nazi propaganda claimed that Röhm and his SA had prepared a coup against the “Führer”. The truth, however, was that Hitler no longer needed the SA. It had helped his rise to power in the second half of the 1920s, but he had “legally” become chancellor in January 1933, so he saw the SA as surplus to requirements. It had gained a reputation as a criminal gang which harassed political enemies and dreamed of a much more radical revolution. Hitler in the meantime had created his more reliable power base, the SS, and this became his major tool for safeguarding his power and achieving his ultimate goal in the coming war: the annihilation of European Jewry.
Hitler had a second important goal: he wanted to mend fences with the German army which had watched the SA’s activities with strong suspicion. Bringing the army under his control was absolutely necessary for Hitler to pursue his future war goals. After President Hindenburg’s death on 2 August 1934 Hitler also took over the Presidency, and all German soldiers had to swear allegiance to the “Führer”! There was no proof that the SA had actually prepared a coup against the “Führer”, but the Nazi propaganda used the “coup” claim to justify the unexpected bloodbath.
For Hitler as well as for Putin the killings of Prigoshin and Röhm had one central goal in common: safeguarding their absolute power. However, there are also significant differences: In June 2023 Putin had been in power for more than 22 years. He certainly felt danger from Prigoshin, who had gained some aura as a “war hero” in Ukraine, while the military leadership was accused of the failure to reach a decisive victory. In June 1934 Hitler had been chancellor for just 18 months and had not achieved a stable power base. In particular, he had to “win” the army to stabilize his rule. Putin, on the other hand, already controls the army leadership and has the secret services as his most important power base. Still, he has to worry about dissatisfied military units, in particular when there is no “victory” in Ukraine.
There is a second link between the killings of Prigoshin and Röhm, which few people are aware of:
The Wagner connection
When you have read my article on the Wagner group, you will know why Prigoshin’s and Utkin’s group carries the name of the German composer Richard Wagner. And here comes the missing connection with Ernst Röhm: Since the mid 1920s he was a close friend of the Wagner family in Bayreuth. The heirs of the famous composer all shared a hatred of the Jews, whom they accused of being responsible for Germany’s defeat in the “Great War” and the humiliating Versailles peace treaty. Siegfried Wagner, the son of the composer, and his wife Winifred, were ardent supporters of the Nazi movement from the very beginning in the early 1920s and later personal friends of both Hitler and Röhm. Winifred, an adopted orphan from England who had grown up near Berlin, had become Siegfried’s wife, because the Wagner clan needed children to preserve its future. (Siegfried actually fathered four children, but preferred male friends). After Siegfried Wagner’s early death on 4 August 1930 Winifred became the “leader” of the Wagner clan and key organizer of the Bayreuth festivals.
Both Hitler and Röhm were ardent Wagner admirers and visitors of the Clan and the festivals since 1930. For Winifred Wagner the sudden death of her personal “dear friend” Erich Röhm was a tremendous shock, shortly before the much anticipated festival of 1934 took place. The other “dear friend Wolf” (i.e. Adolf Hitler) had quite some difficulties explaining his brutal killing of an “old friend”.
Isn’t it ironic that Richard Wagner and his Clan constitute such a link between Hitler’s and Putin’s henchmen Röhm and Prigoshin ?!