ON THIS DAY IN GERMAN HISTORY
27 February 1933: The Reichstag in Berlin is set on fire, helping to more firmly establish the Nazi party in Germany.
So, for those who don’t know, the Reichstag is Germany’s Parliament building. In 1933 it was set on fire. So what? Well it’s an important event.
Let’s set up a few things: Hitler had been appointed Chancellor of Germany the month before on 30 January. He had a few goals in mind:
- Get the Nazi party the majority in Parliament. At the time it only had 32%, whilst 66% was considered “the majority”.
- Abolish democracy in a “legal” route by passing the Enabling Act.
- Abuse the shit out of the Enabling Act.
Just how Hitler prefers to operate.
The “Enabling Act” was basically a law that allowed the Chancellor to do whatever the hell he wanted by bypassing the Reichstag. It was only to be used in emergencies - and in fact it had only ever been used once before to stop hyperinflation after WWI.
Well Hitler, being Hitler, thought that everything was an emergency, all the time.
During the elections, he was all, “oh shit!! we’re on the verge of a communist takeover!! guis only the Nazi party can stop it!!” and that fear helped him get into power.
Communists can smell fear.
SO, on 27 February, Hitler was pretty much still breaking in the comfy chair and hanging his plaques up on the wall when BOOM! that night, the Reichstag goes up in flames.
They hadn’t even printed his desk name plate yet.
The Berlin Fire Department put the fire out 45 minutes after they arrived, but it was too late. Most if the inside of the building was ruined and was closed for quite a while.
FUN FACT: Hitler was at his buddy Goebbels’ apartment, having dinner, at the time of the fire. The fire department called Goebbels, but he thought it was a prank, so he hung up. Only when they called back with a “no, seriously, dipwad, get your candy ass down here” did he finally tell the Chancellor.
So who dun it?
Upon arrival, Goring immediately cried “Communists!” and everyone else was like, “Yeah what he said!” Hitler took it as a sign of God. Remember, this was before any evidence of foul play could be seen - for all anybody knew, it could have been started by a mouse chewing on a wire.
A COMMUNIST mouse
Further investigation found a young, mentally-handicapped Dutch Communist named Marinus van der Lubbe to be responsible. Holy shit, it was communists! Upon arrest, he claimed to be working alone, to gather German workers against fascist rule.
So everyone is screaming “Communists!!” and the next day, German President Hindenburg (asked by Hitler) signed into law the “Reichstag Fire Decree” which basically removed German Civil Liberties and allowed non-Nazi friendly media and opinions to be banned. It was, essentially, a legal “STFU”.
Hitler had finally found proof of his “communists ruin everything” theory.
Long story short; This gave the Nazi party the leverage they needed to gain majority in government, and a month later Hitler passed the Enabling Act, which essentially made Hitler the dictator of Germany.
van der Lubbe was arrested, tried, and guillotined along with 3 other communist party members in December 1933.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Was it communists? The jury is still out. Though van der Lubbe confessed, he confessed under torture while imprisoned. He was not caught in the act. Historians debate nowadays whether it was actually him, whether he worked alone or not - or whether everything was planned by the Nazi party.
You cannot act surprised. Seriously.
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