In the view of the notable historian William Shirer and many others, it has been established "beyond a reasonable doubt" that on Feb. 27, 1933, a team of Hitler's commandos fanned out through the Reichstag building (the German parliament), using incendiary fluids to quickly touch off a massive blaze. Before the fire had died down, Hitler proclaimed that the outrage must have been the responsibility of the Communists.
Apparently, by and large, the German public believed Hitler was telling the truth: the Enabling Act was passed giving Hitler a dictator's powers -- and in the general election a few days later, the National Socialists cemented their hold over the German government. Communist leaders stood trial, accused of participating in a vast conspiracy to destroy the Reichstag -- and, by extension, the German people themselves. Finally, a pogrom was commenced against the Communists -- which culminated years later, in WWII, with the German war against the Soviet Union which killed ten million people or more.
One item in the litany of evidence of Nazis' conspiratorial role in the Reichstag fire is the eyewitness testimony of an SA member named Adolf Rall, who levied his accusation in an interview in the magazine Pariser Tagiblatt, and was later murdered by the Nazis. Other testimony to this effect came at the Nuremberg trials. Also, technical analyses of the spread of the fire have led to the conclusion that it spread so rapidly that it must have been set by an organized team of arsonists. Unfortunately, one potential source of testimony is not available to us -- the entire team of SA commandos, fingered by Rall, were said to have been killed by the Nazis in 1934. The pattern of murders seems to indicate that a cover-up of the crime was underway.
Hitler's team also arranged to have a "patsy" on the scene at the Reichstag. A young Dutch communist, half blind, named Marinus van der Lubbe, had an encounter with the German police a few days earlier. According to some accounts, he had just recently attempted to set fire to an unemployment office; and he was overheard at a bar, threatening to burn the Reichstag itself. Now, given that van der Lubbe was a suspect in one crime, and known to be plotting another, one might imagine that the Nazis would have been prudent to keep him under custody. But they let him loose, and by some strange synchronicity, van der Lubbe was caught setting fire to the Reichstag just as Hitler's men were finishing their work. At trial, Hitler's experts provided conclusive evidence that van der Lubbe could not have started the fire alone, so a conspiracy must have been afoot. Yet all of the Communist leadership on trial were ultimately absolved of any responsibility, due to air-tight alibis. Van der Lubbe repeatedly testified that he alone was responsible for setting the fire, and so he alone was convicted and executed.
To this day, not everyone is convinced of the Nazi's conspiratorial role in setting the blaze. Some historians maintain that van der Lubbe truly did set the fire alone, and Hitler got a bad rap in this instance. Perhaps given the inflammatory nature of the accusation, it is best to concentrate on other aspects of the event: Hitler's illogical response in blaming an entire political movement, and ultimately an entire country, for the purported actions of just a few individuals; the rush to judgment and the eagerness to fix blame on the "vast Communist conspiracy" before the embers had a chance to cool; the coverup and the mysterious deaths of so many of those involved with the incident; and the moves to squash individual rights and freedoms in Germany, along with the death throes of German democracy, and the onset of world war. Even if Hitler's minions did not directly set the fire at the Reichstag, certainly Hitler's response was more than sufficient to earn the contempt of history.
Nevertheless, with all of the circumstantial evidence and all of the testimony pointing to Hitler's guilt for the Reichstag fire, it is also enlightening to look at those who confidently proclaim his innocence. One such figure is the journalist Sefton Delmer, who wrote in his 1961 book "Trail Sinister" that "the 'Hitler, Göring and Goebbels did it' legend has been thoroughly exploded". Delmer, who was a member of Hitler's inner circle in 1933, provided a great deal of colorful eyewitness detail which tended to support Hitler's innocence; evidence which is poorly corroborated elsewhere, to say the least. However, Delmer's own life story turns out to be most interesting: he was recruited in 1940 by the British Special Operations Executive to organize "black propaganda" broadcasts into Germany. In this intelligence capacity, he has recently been accused of fabricating a failed Nazi invasion of Great Britain out of whole cloth, according to reports by the BBC.
The lesson here is, that it is important to know when you have entered the hall of mirrors created by intelligence operatives. Why would a British journalist go out of his way to exonerate Hitler? It is hard to explain by any conventional analysis, yet I maintain that it can and does happen. Perhaps for the same sorts of reason that Americans like Prescott Bush and George Herbert Walker, the founders of the Bush dynasty, worked so hard to provide funding for Hitler's brownshirts -- and for the same reason that many German intelligence operatives were brought into the US intelligence fold after WWII, to create the embryonic CIA.
It has now been more than seventy years since the Reichstag fire, so we have the benefit of some historical perspective. It has only been a little more than two years since 9-11, so we're just starting to accumulate some of that same sense of perspective. Nevertheless, we can now see quite clearly that war has been launched, first in Afghanistan and later in Iraq, and the attacks of 911 have been given as the justification. Speaking about recent American casualties in Iraq, President Bush stated on Nov. 4, 2003: "We are at war, and it is essential that the people of America not forget the lessons of September 11, 2001." This in spite of the fact that no credible evidence has emerged linking 911 to Iraq. So here we have the first analogy to the Reichstag Fire: a campaign to scapegoat an entire population (in this case, Middle Eastern Islamics) for the purported actions of a few, and along with that, an aggressive campaign of warfare.
Another clear parallel is that there has been a cover-up, or at least a remarkable lack of interest by the authorities and the mainstream media in following-up the anomalies of 9-11.
Internet site reference: http://www.911-strike.com/reichstag.htm