This is another historical folk-rock song from Stewart, who specializes in the genre. More folk than rock, it does, unfortunately, require a knowledge of Twentieth Century history to appreciate it fully.
Although he is nowadays referred to almost unthinkingly as a dictator, Adolf Hitler assumed power democratically, being sworn in as Chancellor on January 30, 1933. In the Daily Express
of October 18 the same year, Pembroke Stephens brought more objectivity than most to an assessment of the Führer when he wrote "Politically, Hitler's life is black with crime. But the private life of Hitler is without reproach. Alone among his fellow leaders his shield is pure."
Unfortunately for Germany and the rest of the world, while Hitler's private life remained pure, his political life rapidly became blacker, but before starting a local war that led to the Second World War, before expanding his empire by means of the jackboot, before even his persecution of the Jews had really taken off, he rounded on those who might have expected to share the spoils of victory with him.
On June 30, 1934, he began a purge of his rivals and internal enemies - real and imagined. Operation Hummingbird or the Röhm-Putsch - the Night of the Long Knives - ended two days later with the execution on July 2 of Hitler's one-time ally Ernst Röhm
. The pretext for this legalized murder was Röhm's homosexuality, the reality was that Röhm was in the vanguard of those who wanted a "second revolution" which included the nationalisation of heavy industry, confiscation of the estates of the aristocracy, and a programme more akin to the socialism/communism that the Nazis had been fighting against. While this would undoubtedly have led to financial ruin for the new Germany, there are more and better ways of dealing with internal dissent than murdering the dissenters. By this time, Hitler had already become a cult figure, and was riding the crest of the wave; he remained immensely popular with the great bulk of Germans well into the Second World War, when even the most dedicated of Nazis began to wonder if the overthrow of the Ancien Régime
had been worth the terrible price paid in German blood.
"The Last Day Of June 1934" ends with a vision of this price, that was to be exacted from Germany, Britain, and most of the rest of the world. Röhm and a ghostly army are seen marching to war barely a decade and a half after what up until then had been the greatest and most terrible conflict in human history. This is a very fine song indeed; two decades and more later, Al came up with "Laughing Into 1939
," which although not a sequel, fits nicely between "The Last Day Of June 1934" and the epic "Roads To Moscow
" - the fourth and sixth tracks respectively on Past, Present And Future
Alexander Baron - London, England