Lew’s comments on “Burning the Reichstag” by Benjamin Hett … research for Lew’s novel-in-progress
Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 25, 2015
This is a well-documented report of the facts as known and the still officially unresolved question of who lit the fire.
It does seem clear that the man who was found guilty and guillotined was guilty of something, but also that he could not have been the sole perpetrator. Either it was the Nazis who set the fire to justify accelerated violence against the Communists and other political enemies or it was the Communists who set it as the first step in a planned revolution. Since there never was a planned revolution, and since the Nazis did in fact begin arresting people the night of the fire using a list they had prepared before the fire, it seems clear to me the Nazis were culpable.
For my purposes in my novel-in-progress, there are numerous fascinating details that might be incorporated into my story. Here are a few of them …
… the Berlin correspondent for the British Daily Express … one of the first reporters on the scene … tipped off by a source
… Goering & Hitler arrive at the fire while it is still burning … Goering: “This is the beginning of the Communist revolt; they will start their attack now! Not a moment must be lost!” … Hitler: “There will be no mercy now. Anyone who stands in our way will be cut down. Every Communist official will be shot where he is found. The Communist deputies must be hanged this very night. Everybody in league with the Communists must be arrested. There will no longer be any leniency for Social Democrats either.”
… on the morning after the fire … Hitler secured Hindenburg’s approval for what became known as the Reichstag Fire Decree … put an end to constitutional rights and the rule of law … the “Reichstag Fire Decree” … FIRST PARAGRAPH: suspended civil liberties contained in the Weimar Constitution … legalized imprisonment without trial for anyone the regime deemed a political threat … effectively abolished freedom of speech, of assembly and association, confidentiality of the post and telegraphic communication, and security form warrantless searches … SECOND PARAGRAPH: gave the Reich government the power to remove any state government from office
… the fire took place on the night of Feb 27 … on Feb 18 … orders had gone out (from Goering) to all Prussian police … compile lists of leaders of the Communist Party and all related communist organizations … also union leaders … include home addresses and likely hiding places … submit no later than Feb 26