On today’s date, 79 years ago in Berlin one of Hitler’s first and most wickedly cunning ploys to gain complete control of Germany took place. The Reichstag fire was the first of many sly Nazi trickeries that led to the most evil dictatorship in, arguably, the history of the world. So while it was not the singular event that propelled Hitler into complete control, the Reichstag Fire was the pulling of the pin on the National Socialist grenade that would explode over Europe in the coming decades.
This was the Reichstag before the fire in 1919
IN 1933, the Reichstag was essentially the German Parliament. With seats occupied by everyone from the Communists to monarchists to members of the freshly elected Adolf Hitler’s political party; National Socialism. The Reichstag operated much like the British Parliament with elections, discourse, legislating and the like. Until on the night of February 27th, 1933 the Reichstag was burnt to the ground. The exact goings-on of that night are not completely known. A lowly Dutch communist party member named Marinus van der Lubbe was arrested and eventually beheaded for the crime, but his involvement in a great Communist plot like the Nazis claimed is highly doubtful. Some say that it was the Nazi SS themselves who started the fire.
But whoever it was, the Commies got the blame. And they had to pay. Hitler and the Nazi’s affectively rallied the country and the established Reichstag itself to allow for extreme measures to ride Germany of the Communist pest. The next day, Hitler’s famous emergency policy, known as The Reichstag Fire Decree was ratified by the Reichstag. This ended democracy and civil liberty in Germany until 1945. The Nazis could now tap phones, arrest unwarranted, search houses whenever they wanted, control the press and even restrict the Reichstag itself. And all of this would be done in the name of “defeating the tyranny of Communism”. In a strange, amazingly fast turn of events, the Reichstag was politically and physically reduced to rubble by the Nazis.
Newspaper from the next day. The sensationalism of it all played right into the hands of the ever-dastardly Nazis
A month later, to make matters even worse, under a mixture of fear, political savvy and outright manipulation the Nazis pressured the Reichstag to pass a law abolishing its own existence. This gave Hitler and the Nazis complete control of all legislative affairs. Coupling that with the Fire Decree, Germany was now a complete police state, dedicated to riding itself of the Communist threat. The Nazis went to work lining up every piece of German society with the Nazi agenda. The Reichstag was replaced by the Third Reich.
Hitler (right) would soon be in charge of every aspect of German life, while Himmler (left) would be in charge of exterminating anyone that didn't submit
So today, as we celebrate the birthday of Ralph Nader and go about our daily routine, let us consider the truth that great evil can start with just a bit of sensationalism. It is important to know the great mistakes of the past so that we can prevent them in our future. And really, for the history nerds like myself, this just makes for some cool reading!