Reichstag fire

The Reichstag fire (German: Reichstagsbrand, listen ) was an arson attack on the Reichstag building, home of the German parliament in Berlin, on Monday 27 February 1933, precisely four weeks after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. Hitler's government stated that Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch council communist, was the culprit, and it attributed the fire to communist agitators. A German court decided later that year that Van der Lubbe had acted alone, as he had claimed. The day after the fire, the Reichstag Fire Decree was passed. The Nazi Party used the fire as a pretext to claim that communists were plotting against the German government, which made the fire pivotal in the establishment of Nazi Germany.

Reichstag fire
Firefighters struggle to extinguish the fire.
Native name Reichstagsbrand
Date27 February 1933 (1933-02-27) (88 years ago)
LocationReichstag building, Berlin, Germany
TypeArson
ParticipantsMarinus van der Lubbe
Outcome
  • Van der Lubbe executed
  • Civil liberties suspended
  • Nazi control of government entrenched

The first report of the fire came shortly after 9:00 p.m., when a Berlin fire station received an alarm call.[1] By the time police and firefighters arrived, the lower house 'Chamber of Deputies' was engulfed in flames. The police conducted a thorough search inside the building and accused Van der Lubbe. He was arrested, as were four communist leaders soon after. Hitler urged President Paul von Hindenburg to issue an emergency decree to suspend civil liberties and pursue a "ruthless confrontation" with the Communist Party of Germany.[2] After the decree was issued, the government instituted mass arrests of communists, including all of the Communist Party's parliamentary delegates. With their bitter rival communists gone and their seats empty, the Nazi Party went from having a plurality to a majority, thus enabling Hitler to consolidate his power.

In February 1933, Bulgarians Georgi Dimitrov, Vasil Tanev, and Blagoy Popov were arrested, and they played pivotal roles during the Leipzig Trial, also known as the "Reichstag Fire Trial". They were known to the Prussian police as senior Comintern operatives, but the police had no idea how senior they were. Dimitrov was the head of all Comintern operations in Western Europe. The responsibility for the Reichstag fire remains a topic of debate and research.[3][4] The Nazis accused the Comintern of the act. However, some historians believe, based on archive evidence, that the arson had been planned and ordered by the Nazis as a false flag operation.[5][6] The building remained in its damaged state until it was partially repaired from 1961 to 1964 and completely restored from 1995 to 1999. In 2008, Germany posthumously pardoned Van der Lubbe under a law introduced in 1998 to lift unjust verdicts dating from the Nazi era.