The Reichstag Fire Syndrome

On January 30, 1933, Weimar Republic President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolph Hitler Chancellor. On February 27, 1933, the German Parliament Building--the Reichstag-- burned down. The deep red glow of the burning Reichstag caught the eye of President Hindenburg and Vice-Chancellor Papen, who were dining at a club facing the building. Papen put the elderly Hindenburg in his own car and took him to the scene.

Hitler was at Goebbels's apartment having dinner. They rushed to the scene where they met Göring who was already screaming false charges and making threats against the Communists. At first glance, Hitler described the fire as a beacon from heaven. "You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in German history. . .  This fire is the beginning," Hitler told a news reporter at the scene.

While not all historians agree on who was actually responsible for the Reichstag Fire, writers such as Klaus P. Fischer feel that most likely the Nazis were responsible.

A dazed Dutch Communist named Marinus van der Lubbe was found at the scene and charged with arson. He was later found guilty and executed.

On February 28, 1933--the day after the Reichstag fire--President Hindenburg and Chancellor Hitler invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which permitted the suspension of civil liberties in time of national emergency.

"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 telephonic communications and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed."

This Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of the People and State abrogated the following German constitutional protections:
  • Free expression of opinion
  • Freedom of the press
  • Right of assembly and association
  • Right to privacy of postal and electronic communications
  • Protection against unlawful searches and seizures
  • Individual property rights
  • States' right of self-government

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

It's most likely that Hitler and his henchmen created the Reichstag fire crisis so they could destroy civil rights in Germany. The Decree enabled the Nazis to ruthlessly suppress opposition in the upcoming election.

On his first day as Chancellor, Hitler manipulated Hindenburg into dissolving the Reichstag and calling for new elections. On March 5, 1933, the national elections gave the Nazis a 44% plurality in the Reichstag. Herman Göring--later to become the head of Germany's armed forces--declared that there was no further need for State governments. Over the next few weeks, each of the legal Weimar State governments falls to the same ruse:
  • Local Nazi organizations instigate disorder
  • The disorder is quelled by replacing the elected state government by appointed Nazi Reich Commissioners

On March 24, 1933, the Reichstag passed the Law for Terminating the Suffering of People and Nation, also known as the Enabling Law, essentially granting Adolph Hitler dictatorial power.

The Reichstag Fire Syndrome occurs whenever a democracy is destroyed by creating a law-and-order crisis and offering as a "solution" the abdication of civil liberties and state's rights to a powerful but unaccountable central dictator. The men of wealth who put the tyrant into power are then able to reap obscene war profits.

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