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Historical Investigation into; How were the Nazi Government able to benefit from the Reichstag Fire?

Word Count: 1,752
Section A: Plan of the Investigation

The subject of this investigation is to study how the Nazi government was able to benefit from the Reichstag on fire in 1933. I will conduct research into this topic using primary and secondary sources. This evidence will be discussed in section B. Two key texts, A.J Nicholls, Weimar and The Rise of Hitler and Ian Kershaw, Hitler will be closely examined in section C. Detailed analysis will be undertaken in Section D. A conclusion will be reached in Section E.

Section B: Summary of Evidence

Historical Context:

On January 1933, after years of struggling for power, Hitler and entered General Hindenburg’s office, where he were sworn into power. Thirteen years after he had set up the NSDAP in Munich, Adolf Hitler, forty-three years of age, was appointed chancellor of Germany.

As Chancellor Hitler did not have full power over the country, the Nazi politicians were only a minority in the cabinet and in the Reichstag.

Hitler decided that one more election must be held in order to gain majority of the cabinet for the Nazis.

Strong resistance was present by the Communists towards the Nazi party.

On 27th February 1933, the Reichstag in Berlin, Germany’s lower house of parliament was set on fire.

Marinus Van Der Lubbe was arrested hours later under suspicion of setting the fire.

Van der Lubbe was put on trial, and confessed to setting the fire. He was ruled guilty for treason, and sentenced to death.

Seven months later, he was beheaded by an axeman in evening dress

Evidence for the fire being a communist plot:

Van der Lubbe was found to have in his possession, fire starting equipment and various pro communist pamphlets.

Van der Lubbe openly admitted to setting the fire, and claimed that he hoped his action would be the signal for a revolution.

Van der Lubbe had committed three other attempts of arson on 25 February in different buildings in Berlin but failed.

The man arrested for setting the fire, Marinus van der Lubbe, was an active communist party member.

Evidence for the Fire being a Nazi conspiracy:

After Van der Lubbe was arrested at the site, Hermen Goring, a Nazi official and chief of police, showed up at the scene and took very little convincing to decide that it was a communist plot. Hitler showed up soon after and he too was suspiciously quick to draw the same conclusion as Goring, and was quoted as saying to Vice Chancellor Von Papen, “This is a god given signal, Herr Vice-Chancellor! If this fire, as I believe, is the work of the communists, then we must crush out this murderous pest with an iron fist.”

Even though Van der Lubbe confessed to setting the Reichstag alight, he almost certainly was suffering from a mental illness.

The communist pamphlets that were said to be “in his possession” were not specific to him, and were publically distributed everywhere.

Hitler also used the fire as an excuse to issue a presidential decree ‘for the protection of the people and the state’. This allowed the Nazi party and the S.S to break up any political gatherings, and abuse any opposing party’s, in perfect time for the upcoming elections.

Nazi leaders used the fire as an excuse to arrest 3000 leading communists and social democrats, and made an attempt to ban the communist party from the Reichstag, giving the Nazis the clear majority.

The Nazi Party had a lot to gain from the Reichstag being set alight on February 27th 1933, and the event played a major role in the following months to come, as Hitler became “Der Fuhrer” and the sole leader of Germany.

Section C: Evaluation of Sources

Weimar and the Rise of Hitler by A.J Nicholls, published in 1991 in London, is...
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