Reichstag Fire

They who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Recent events raise ghosts of the past.

January 30, 1933

Weimar Republic President Paul von Hindenburg appoints Adolph Hitler Chancellor.

February 27, 1933

The German Parliament (Reichstag) burns down. A dazed Dutch Communist named Marinus van der Lubbe is found at the scene and charged with arson. [He is later found guilty and executed].

February 28, 1933

President Hindenburg and Chancellor Hitler invoke Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which permits the suspension of civil liberties in time of national emergency. This Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of the People and State abrogates the following constitutional protections:

A supplemental decree creates the SA (Storm Troops) and SS (Special Security) Federal police agencies.

Who Did It?

Historians do not agree on who is actually responsible for the Reichstag Fire: van der Lubbe acting alone -- a Communist plot -- or the Nazis themselves in order to create an incident. Writers such as Klaus P. Fischer feel that most likely the Nazis were involved.

But regardless of who actually planned and executed the fire, it is clear that the Nazis immediately took advantage of the situation in order to advance their cause at the expense of civil rights. The Decree enabled the Nazis to ruthlessly suppress opposition in the upcoming election.

March 5, 1933

National elections give Nazis 44% plurality in the Reichstag. Herman Göring [who later played a central role in the Nazi government and war effort] declares that there is no further need for State governments.

Over the next few weeks, each of the lawful Weimar State governments falls to the same ruse:

March 24, 1933

The Reichstag passes the Law for Terminating the Suffering of People and Nation , also known as the Enabling Law , essentially granting Adolph Hitler dictatorial power.


The events in 1933 can be summarized as follows:

See Also

Copyright © 1995
"Orville R. Weyrich, Jr." <>

Last updated: December 31, 1997; Version: 1.6