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The Reichstag Fire

The 1933 Reichstag Fire was a key event in Adolf Hitler's ascendancy to power. During the night of February 27th, the Reichstag Building, which housed the German Parliament, was gutted by a massive fire. Adolf Hitler, who had become President Paul von Hindenburg's chancellor less than a month earlier, pressured von Hindenburg to give him essentially dictatorial powers. Hitler used the attack to roll back the legal guarantees of personal liberty enshrined in the constitution.

Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch Communist who had been protesting against Hitler's new government, was picked up on the night of the fire and charged, along with four other Communists, with setting the fires. Van der Lubbe was executed on January 10th, 1934, while the other defendants were acquitted.

Most historians think that Hitler had the fire set, while finding a scapegoat in the impoverished Dutchman, van der Lubbe.

e x c e r p t
title: The Rise and Fall of the Third Riech (Simon and Schuster, 1960)
authors: William Shirer
The whole truth about the Reichstag fire will probably never be known. Nearly all those who knew it are now dead, most of them slain by Hitler in the months that followed. Even at Nuremberg the mystery could not be entirely unraveled, though there is enough evidence to establish beyondi a reasonable doubt that it was the Nazis who planned the arson and carried it out for their own political ends.

From Goering’s Reighstag’s Presidents Palace an underground passage, built to carry the central heating system, ran to the Riechstag building. Through this tunnel Karl Ernst, a former bellhop who had become the Berlin S.A. leader, led a small detachment of storm troopers on the night of February 27 to the Riechstag where they scattered gasoline and self-igniting chemicals and then made their way quickly back to the palace the way they had come. At the same time, a half-witted Dutch communist with a passion for arson, Marinus van der Lubbe, had made his way into the huge, darkened and to him unfamiliar building and had set some small fires of his own. The feeble-minded pyromaniac was a godsend to the Nazis. He had been picked up by the S.A. a few days before after having been overheard in a bar boasting that he had attempted to set fire to several buildings and that he was going to try the Riechstag next. The coincidence that the Nazis had found a demented Communist arsonist who was out to do exactly what they themselves had determined to do seems incredible but is nevertheless supported by the evidence ...


On the day following the fire, February 28, [Hitler] prevailed on President Hindenburg to sign a decree “for the Protection of the People and the State” suspending seven sections of the constitution which guaranteed individual and civil liberties. Described as a “defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the state, the decree laid down that:

Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press, on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and phone communications; and warrants for house searchers, orders for confiscations, as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

In addition, the decree authorized the Reich government to take over complete power in the federal states when necessary and imposed the death sentence for a number of crimes, including “serious disturbances of the peace” by armed persons.

Thus with one stroke Hitler was able not only to legally gag his opponents and arrest them at his will but, by making the trumped-up Communist threat "official," as it were, to throw millions of the middle class and the peasantry into a frenzy of fear that unless they voted for National Socialism at the elections a week hence, the Bolsheviks might take over. Some four thousand Communist officials and a great many Social Democrat and liberal leaders were arrested, including members of the Reichstag, who, according to the law, were immune from arrest. This was the first experience Germans had had with Nazi terror backed up by the government.

The parallels between the Reichstag Fire and the 9/11/01 attack on New York City and Washington are striking.

symbolic target official villain(s) targeted group legislation predicated on
Reichstag Fire Germam Parliament building Van der Lubbe Communists decree suspending constitutional rights
'9/11' World Trade Center/Pentagon 19 suicide hijackers Muslims worldwide USA PATRIOT Act

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