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
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.
||legislation predicated on
||Germam Parliament building
||Van der Lubbe
||decree suspending constitutional rights
||World Trade Center/Pentagon
||19 suicide hijackers
||USA PATRIOT Act
page last modified: 2010-12-18