Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pop History Moment: The Burning of the Reichstag

PhotobucketShortly after 2:15 AM on this day in 1933 an unemployed Dutch brick layer named Marinus van der Lubbe was discovered shirtless inside the German parliament building, which was by then being inexorably engulfed in flames. He quickly confessed to having set the fire, and was arrested.

Whatever van der Lubbe had hoped to achieve by torching the Reichstag, undoubtedly it wasn't the suspension of democracy and the rise of National Socialism, although that is what happened. Newly elected Chancellor Adolf Hitler jumped on the fact that the arsonist in custody was a prominent Communist, and took the fire as an excuse to begin implementing his agenda.

Hitler's first pogrom dealt a savage blow to Germany's Left, beginning with a ban on that country's Communist Party; by the time van der Lubbe was executed 11 months later the Nazis had swept to power and the Third Reich was no longer just a paranoid fantasy but a very chilling reality.

The Reichstag became the focus of German reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, and was extensively renovated by Norman Foster (having been rebuilt between 1961-4 by Paul Baumgarten). It now houses the country's Bundestag once again.
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