Reichstag Fire and 9-11
Source Paul Zarembka
Date 03/05/01/22:49


The Reichstag Fire, 68 years on

Alexander Bahar, Wilfried Kugel:
Der Reichstagbrand - Wie Geschichte gemacht wird
(The Reichstag Fire - How History is Created), edition q, Berlin
2001, ISBN 3-86124-523-2,
864 pages, price: 68.00 DM

A guest review by Wilhelm Klein
5 July 2001

On February 27, 1933 more than 68 years ago the Berlin Reichstag, the seat
of Germanys parliament, was set on fire. Shortly after the fire began, the
Dutch left-wing radical Marinus van der Lubbe was arrested at the scene of
the crime, apparently as the sole culprit.

Even before his identity was established, the Nazi leaders accused the
German Communist Party (KPD) of having committed arson. According to Nazi
propaganda, the Reichstag fire was intended as a signal for a communist
uprising that had long been planneda claim for which there was not a shred
of evidence. In actual fact, the KPD leadership was neither willing nor
able to organize such an uprising, so the Reichstag fire could not have
been a signal for it.

For the Nazis, who had been in power less than a month, since January 30,
1933, the Reichstag fire was the excuse for a hitherto unparalleled
persecution of Communist and Social Democratic workers, intellectuals and
party leaders. On February 28, 1933 alone, just one day after the fire,
thousands of persons active in, or allied with, the workers movement were
arrested. The first to be arrested also included writers Egon Erwin Kisch,
Ludwig Renn and Carl von Ossietzky, later murdered by the Nazis in a
concentration camp.

All left-wing newspapers, including the Social Democratic daily Vorwrts,
the Communist Party press and the German Trotskyists newspaper Permanente
Revolution, were confiscated and banned.

Two decrees put into effect only one day later, the Decree on the
Protection of People and State, subtitled against communist acts of
violence endangering the state, and the Decree Against Treason of the
German People and High-Treason Activities, were used to annul practically
overnight the essential basic rights incorporated in the constitution of
the Weimar Republic. These so-called fire decrees stayed in effect until
the end of the Third Reich and formed the pseudo-legal basis for the
entire Nazi dictatorship.

In the days immediately following the fire, the Nazis used the opportunity
to generally weaken the entire German workers movement and prepare its
destruction, a pressing task since early Reichstag elections had been
scheduled for March 5, 1933, and a Nazi election victory was by no means

There were still millions of workers organized in the SPD (Social
Democrats), the KPD and the trade unions who were prepared to fight
against the Nazis. The results of the March elections made this clear: the
SPD and the KPD were still able to garner a combined vote of 13.2 million,
the same number of votes they had received during the last elections in
1932. The NSDAP (Nazis) received 17.2 million votes (compared to 11.7
million in the 1932 elections), but were not able to gain an absolute
majority of votes on their own. This was only possible with the aid of
their German Nationalist allies from the Kampffront Schwarz-Rot-Weiss.

It was the SPD leaderships capitulation before the Nazis and the division
of the workers due to the social fascism theory propagated by the leaders
of the Stalinist KPD that prevented National Socialism from being stopped
at the last minute and combated.

As early as 1931, Leon Trotsky already formulated the task at hand in his
open letter to the members of the KPD, How Can National Socialism be

"The front must now be directed against fascism. And this common front of
direct struggle against fascism, embracing the entire proletariat, must be
utilised in the struggle against the Social Democracy, directed as a flank
attack, but no less effective for all that.

"It is necessary to show by deeds a complete readiness to make a bloc with
the Social Democrats against the fascists in all cases in which they will
accept a bloc... We must understand how to tear the workers away from
their leaders in reality. But reality today is-the struggle against

"The overwhelming majority of the Social Democratic workers will fight
against the fascists, but--for the present at least--only together with
their organisations. This stage cannot be skipped. We must help the Social
Democratic workers in action--in this new and extraordinary situation--to
test the value of their organizations and leaders at this time, when it is
a matter of life and death for the working class."(1)

As we know, history took a different turn: the Nazis were victorious, and
the German and European working class suffered its worst and most
devastating defeat. The authors leave no doubt as to the fact that the
leaders of both the SPD and the KPD bear decisive responsibility for this
defeat. This is made particularly clear in the authors portrayal of the
so-called Prussian coup, the ouster of the SPD-led Prussian government in
July 1932 by the Reich Chancellor (head of government) of the time, Franz
von Papen. Although the majority of their members were only waiting for
the word to offer massive resistance, the SPD and trade union leaders
didnt put up even the semblance of a fight against Papens cold coup detat,
and thus paved the way for the Nazis.

[View the list]

InternetBoard v1.0
Copyright (c) 1998, Joongpil Cho