Reichstag Fire that occurred in the night of the 27th February 1933

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Last updated: November 11, 2019

The two sources are extracts that address the issue of the Reichstag Fire that occurred in the night of the 27th February 1933. Source A is an extract from a book “Germany 1919-45” by M. Collier and P. Pedley, it says that the Nazis gained from the Reichstag fire, and moved to make sure it benefited them as much as possible, and seems to suggest that the Nazis moves were reactions to the fire.Source B by Frank Mc Donough, an extract from “Hitler and Nazi Germany” also tells us that Hitler used the event to achieve the downfall of the communist party, but implies that premeditation was involved, as it depicts Hitler in control of the aftermaths of the event. We do not know who was responsible for the Reichstag fire even today. At this time, Hitler was Chancellor of Germany, having being appointed so on the 31st January 1933, and this appointment had calmed the storm that was brewing in the party at Hitler’s refusal to accept vice-chancellor in a Von Papen government in November the previous year.So resistance to the Nazi party came from within the party itself, with Rohm, as head of the SA demanding that the SA take the place of the old Wehrmarcht.

At this time, Hitler’s speeches were sporadic in their anti-Semitic content; also, many people now took the Nazi party seriously, with its leader being chancellor of Germany and it being the largest party in the Reichstag.The only real opposition from outside the party at this stage were the political parties the Nazi party competed with, which was a step barring Hitler to power. The main opposition from the political parties came from the left.

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Not only the KPD (the Communists), but also from the SPD (Social Democrats). “The Law for the Protection of the People and the State” was decreed the next day after the Reichstag fire, as Hitler got the document signed by Hindenburg, by this time an old, ageing and frail man.This suspended civil liberties, and gave the power for the Nazis to arrest people indefinitely, arrest all Communist leaders and enable them to beat them up in the street, which effectively became the fundamental law when the Nazi regime actually ascended to power absolutely.

Source A is written by Academic historians, so it can be regarded that thorough research has gone in to it. It is quite recent, written in the year 2000 and so there is no reason not to assume that it is accurate and up to date, as academic historians have a reputation to protect and would not knowingly write false information.The source’ reliability is also contested by my own knowledge, as van der Lubbe was indeed the person charged with burning the Reichstag fire. There were fears of a Communist led uprising, as it had occurred in Russia, which would see not only the end to capitalists, but with the bad propaganda spread by the western world about the harsh and low standards of living that the Russian people now had cope with, some German “Proletariat” were now fearful of the Communists.The extract also tells us the decree passed by Hindenburg, from pressure by Hitler that enabled him to clamp down on the left, and aid him in getting rid of his opponents, it suggests the Nazis were not expecting such a bold “move” by the Communist opposition, but Hitler’s action proved to be their downfall as a political power.Source B is written by McDonough, an author/historian I am somewhat familiar with, as his book is a standard A-level text in which I have and as an historian writing in a book his credibility is at stake, it also compliments my own knowledge, as Hitler indeed arrested “Communist Party leaders” and issued a state of “martial law”, suspending civil liberties and thereby I deem it trustworthy.

Source B suggests a calculation in Hitler’s tactics, waiting till after the March elections before banning the Reichstag, as he feared the Communist voters switching to the SPD, in which the Communists racked up eleven million votes, however they were later banned. This was true when the Enabling Act of March 1933 was passed, where the Communists were banned and the SPD alone voted against it, despite pressure from the SA and SS who were present.This shows us that Hitler was calculating in his actions, and the Reichstag fire as an event could be seen as the ending of serious political resistance. The Enabling Act rendered the Reichstag obsolete as it declared that the cabinet could pass laws without a majority in the Reichstag, and the Enabling act may not have passed if the KPD were allowed to vote against it as well. Source B implies that the Nazis gained from the Communist party being banned after the elections, it just neglects the actual event at which Hitler gained autonomy from the Reichstag.However I feel I must point out the weaknesses in the sources.

Source A is from a book and seems to be an overview concerning with the Nazi’s and Hitler in general over 1919-45, a twenty-six year period, so must be very general and only contain a small part on the Reichstag, so not much time could realistically be allocated to studying the Reichstag fire, a mere single event in 1933. Also, we can see that it is an extract as it says “On 27th of the same month”, and we do not know if it gives any more information about the Reichstag fire.Source B, again is only an extract, and we are not told who Mc Donough is, and it seems to also be a book dealing with all of Germany over a period of time, so not specialising in the Reichstag fire and the factors of resistance to the Nazi party linked with it. Source A tells us that Hitler used it to immediately “clampdown on the left”, and Source B implies that Hitler faced constitutional rivalry, however there were two political parties on the left, the KPD, in which he did clamp down on, and the SPD, in which by this time he had not affected or “beaten”.The SPD had the working class vote, but also spread into the middle class with its democratic beliefs, and its conservative nature, in not wishing to destroy Weimar and setting up another kind of system. It was a Weimar friendly party however, so would only “fight” any party by constitutional means. While the Communists had already tried to, with the Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg revolt, set up a Communist government in Germany, so their threat seemed worse to the stability of Hitler.

The KPD also had a share in the working class vote, which the Nazi party also drew the majority of its share, and so these three parties were in direct competition for votes in the Reichstag. Opposition also came from the old conservative elites, with the elitist right wing parties plying for their votes, they regarded Hitler as an upstart, and the army, fearing replacement with the SA, mocked Hitler’s lowly rank of Corporal, which he achieved during his service in the army during world war one.This information, the type of resistance offered by different institutions, is not referred to in sources A and B, but is very important as to consider Hitler as not only facing the left wing, but the right wing and even the army, etc at this time. The sources both suggest that this was the end of Communist resistance altogether, however this is not true, as later, and especially during the war groups such as the “Red Orchestra”, a spy ring, gave resistance to Hitler and aid to Stalin, and that could be seen as Communist resistance in its own right, as Hitler was fighting the USSR, the Communist state.

Even the SPD, with its SPORADE reports depicting life in Nazi Germany and showing the “suffering” of the people, put up a resistance to the Nazi party at a later stage than its dismantlement in 1933. Also, opposition came from youth movements, the church, with the confessional church being set up by Martin Niemoller in 1933 which rivalled the Nazi’s national church.Towards the closing years of the war there was opposition from within the army, with the Beck-Goerdeler group, and the “Kreisau Circle” who consisted of wealthy land owners who resented Nazi rule and the decline in their incomes since the Nazi’s coming to power met and discussed new rule and supported these army resistance groups. So resistance, it can be concluded, came from all over, regardless of social class, especially in the later year of the war when things got tough for the German people.

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