Fall of the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic Links
Reichstag Fire from a sympathiser of the US militias
Hitler is Chancellor but Nazis are only a minority in the government. They
crucially control the Ministry of the Interior of Prussia (Prussia had been brought
under direct rule the previous summer as the result of an emergency decree by
Hindenburg, the President). This gives control of the police in two thirds of
Germany to the Nazis.
On the 27th February the Reichstag is empty as it had been in recess
since December. At around 20:30 one of the caretakers checks the building and
finds nothing unusual. At 20:50 a postman is passing the entrance to the
session chamber and notices nothing unusual.
At 21:05 a student sees a man carrying a burning brand on the first floor.
By 21:14 the fire alarm is received by the local firestation and the firemen are in
the building by 21:24 but fires are breaking out everywhere. At 21:27 there is a
huge explosion and the great chamber is enveloped by flames. In the rear of the
building a half naked dutchman, Marinus van der Lubbe is discovered and
arrested. He claims to have done it as "a protest".
Hitler and Goring arrive on the scene. Goring at once accuses the
communists. The next day the ageing President signs a decree which allows the
nazis to suspend freedom of speech which they use to ban virtually the entire
opposition press. Communists are arrested wholesale though the party is not
banned until after the elections so that the left vote will remain split.
Did the communists do it?
Torgler, the chairman of the Communist deputies to the Reichstag and a number
of other communists are arrested including several Bulgarians. There is
absolutely no evidence that they were involved and at the trial bought by the
Nazis collapsed some months latter the prosecution case collapsed for this
Did the van der Lubbe act alone?
That Lubbe was guilty there is little doubt. Not only was he discovered on the
spot he also proudly claimed responsibility. But he did have a history of taking
responsibility for things he had not done. While working for the Tielmann factory
a strike broke out. Van der Lubbe claimed to the management to be one of the
ringleaders and offered to accept any punishment as long as no one else was
victimised even though he was clearly too inexperienced to have been seriously
involved. During the trial he seemed to concerned only to establish his sole
responsibility and was almost hostile to any attempts to get him off. In short he
seems to have been suffering from a mental disorder that led him to seek both
fame and the role of victim.
But did he act alone? The Reichstag fire was clearly well planned and speedily
done. The building had clearly been prepared in advance with some kind of
inflammatory chemical and this had been done quickly and smoothly. Van der
Lubbe might well have been able to run round with a brand once others had
prepared the building for the conflagration. It is doubtful however if any one
person could have managed to complete the preparation in the limited time
available and it was clearly quite beyond van der Lubbe. He was half blind as a
result of a unpleasant act of bullying when some of his fellow workers put a
mason's sack over his head and the chalk dust permanently damaged his eyes
He had to bring a piece of paper to within a couple of inches of his eyes before
he could read it. He showed himself barely capable of organising his own life let
alone the smooth operation that the Reichstag fire clearly was.
It is true he made several attempts to swim the channel. These consisted him
greasing himself up in front of the press, swimming a short distance out and then
returning to announce that the currents were currently unfavourable. It is a
further sign of van der Lubbe's desperate desire for fame (that would be pathetic
if it did not end with the executioner's axe) but hardly a sign of athletic
Did the Nazis do it?
The Nazis clearly gained and for that reason were the prime suspects from the
first. However given Germany was immediately plunged into a state of total
dictatorship it was initially difficult to gather hard evidence. There is
circumstantial evidence that points to the Nazis. First van der Lubbe was, in the
period, immediately before the fire in the clutches of a couple of a couple of SA
men. Karl Ernst head of the SA in Berlin when asked by a fellow Dutch rightist
whether his Storm Troopers were responsible for the fire answered "If I said Yes,
I'd be a bloody fool, if I said no I'd be a bloody liar."
The SA clearly had access to incendiary materials as they made a habit of
setting fire to election displays of rival political groups.
Did the German State do it?
The Nazis were in power, they directly controlled the police in Berlin. Could they
have used the state itself? But there is absolutely no evidence for this and in
any case the SA were to hand to do the job. The evidence suggests the fire was
the work of the Nazi party but not the state.
The reason I've taken the trouble to post this summery is that there is an
argument used by some militia activists who suggest that the Oklahoma bombing
was work of the FBI so that the militia's could be blamed. They use the
Reichstag Fire as an analogy in support but if the analogy holds true it points to
a rather different conclusion. The closest American equivalent to the SA is not
the American state but the militia's. The real nightmare scenario is a right wing
president using militias as the muscle in imposing a right of centre dictatorship
perhaps with a democratic facade based on an electorate limited to "patriotic
It certainly possible that the FBI may well in the future falsify evidence to ensure
the conviction of militia activists and indeed may have already have done so.
However the idea that the FBI might successfully bring off an atrocity like the
Oklahoma bombing and successfully cover their tracks in the context of a free
press is simply not credible.
This account rest heavily on The Hundred Days to Hitler by Roger Manvell and Heinrich Frankel