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:
- 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 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:
- Local Nazi organizations instigate disorder;
- The disorder is quelled by replacing the elected state government by appointed Nazi Reich Commissioners.
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:
- While it is not clear whether the Nazis intentionally set the Reichstag fire in order to create a national crisis, or whether the Nazis simply were opportunistic, the event was used as justification for a sharp curtailment in constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties.
- The Nazis took advantage of the additional Federal police powers to suppress opponents.
- It is clear that in other situations, the Nazis did use the tactic of creating a "law and order" crisis so that they could provide a solution which further eroded civil liberties and entrenched their power.
- The right-wing Nazis and the left-wing communists were cut from the same cloth -- the point is not that the far right destroyed civil rights. Rather, the point is that a democracy can be 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 authority.
Take a longer look at what Mickey says below...it changes.