The Reichstag fire was an important event in the
establishment of the Nazi Party as the rulers of Germany in 1933. On the night of 27 February (yes, a Monday), the
Reichstag – the building in which the German
Parliament assembled – caught fire and was partially destroyed by a subsequent explosion.
Hitler had been sworn in as Chancellor of Germany less than a month earlier. Parliamentary president and Nazi Party official
Hermann Göring quickly declared the fire the work of
communist insurgents. Hitler then declared a state of emergency and persuaded the aging German President
Paul von Hindenburg to sign the
Reichstag Fire Decree, which suspended the
Weimar Constitution, thus nullifying many of the basic
civic liberties previously guaranteed to German citizens on the grounds that the state needed to act against communism
and needed the powers to search, detain, ban, disperse, and censor anything they deemed subversive.
In hindsight, von Hindenburg’s assent wasn’t the greatest political move ever made.
As to the fire itself, known communist Marinus van der Lubbe was tried, found guilty, and executed by the Nazis after he
confessed to starting the fire. It later emerged that van der Lubbe had been tortured to confession. Later in 1933, a retrial
held by the pre-Nazi German Imperial Court found the (now dead) van der Lubbe and the Communist Party leaders to be innocent.
This infuriated Hitler, who established his own court, the Volksgerichtshof,
at which treason and other capital offences were to be tried. The Volksgerichtshof became famous for the huge number of death sentences
it handed down.
Further investigation into the Reichstag fire further muddied the waters, with serious suspicions (including a sworn affidavit by Nazi
general Franz Halder at the Nuremburg Trials) that Göring himself had started the fire. Historians argue variously that communists
really did start the fire and that the Nazis simply seized a golden opportunity to tighten their grip on Germany, while others conclude
that the Nazis masterminded the entire plot themselves and framed the communists.
Any resemblance to current events is simply coincidental.
I do not believe that Bush is a Hitler wanna-be. I simply use this to point out – when the citizens stop watching, this is what can happen.
Let me reemphasize this.
I am not drawing a correlation between any current U.S. government official, elected or otherwise and Hitler. I am not even saying that we are heading down this path. I am simply stating that a strong, active, and knowledgeable populace is what we need to stave off this kind of event.