DELAYED JUSTICE January 12, 2008Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.
The Reichstag fire on 27 February 1933 was a critical turning point in the rise of Hitler and National Socialism in Germany. It achieved more for the Nazis than they were ever able to achieve at the ballot box. While the unemployed Dutch bricklayer was found inside the building was summarily executed for purportedly lighting the fire.
Photo via Speigel Online
Speigel Online has the story:
Now — 74 years after his execution — the German federal prosecutor has thrown out the verdict. The court said it had been notified by a Berlin lawyer that a 1998 law rehabilitating those convicted of crimes by the Nazis should be applied to van der Lubbe as well. His conviction was overturned, prosecutors say, because his execution resulted from Nazi laws “that were created to implement the National Socialist regime and enabled breaches of basic conceptions of justice.”
German law had not allowed for arsonists to be sentenced to death when van der Lubbe allegedly set the Reichstag blaze. Only an emergency decree passed the next day — and made retroactive to include the Dutch bricklayer — cleared the way for his eventual death.
The case has been debated by historians and legal experts for decades. Indeed, many assume the Nazis were intimately involved in the blaze, a position bolstered by the benefits Hitler’s NSDAP reaped from the crime.
Within hours of the fire, Hitler’s propaganda guru Joseph Goebbels, along with Nazi bigwig Hermann Göring, had sent bulletins across Germany and around the world. The communists, according to their newsflash, were trying to start a revolution. The country had to act quickly to prevent it.
The next day, at the behest of Göring — and on the strength of his tale of a coming revolution — the cabinet handed police powers over to Adolf Hitler, a move rubber-stamped by aging German President Paul von Hindenburg. A wave of arrests targeting Communist Party parliamentarians and activists began. They were locked away in hastily erected prisons that would eventually grow into Nazi Germany’s notorious network of concentration camps.
A week later, general elections were held. The vote was planned from the outset as a way to consolidate Hitler’s power. Though he was named Chancellor on the strength of 1932 elections, he still had no absolute majority in the Reichstag. He didn’t get one in March 1933 either, but by criminalizing the Communist Party on the strength of the post-fire decrees and by patching together a right-wing coalition, the Nazis managed to vote the parliament into insignificance, clearing the way for Hitler’s dictatorship. The speed of Hitler’s seizure of power has led many to suspect the Nazis were behind the fire.
The suspicions that the Nazis lit the fire could never be proven. I cannot help but to see parallels with recent events – the Tampa in Australia and the Twin Towers in the US.