TIME conflict

Who Started the Reichstag Fire?

World War Two
FPG / Getty Images Firemen surveying the ruins following the Reichstag fire in Germany, 1933.

On Feb. 27, 1933, the building was destroyed — and no matter who did it, the Nazis got what they wanted

It’s a semi-mystery that’s over eight decades long: who set fire to the Reichstag, the German parliament, on Feb. 27, 1933?

As described in the Mar. 6, 1933, issue of TIME, the arson came amid “a campaign of unparalleled violence and bitterness” by then-Chancellor Adolf Hitler, in advance of an approaching German election, and it turned a building that was “as famous through Germany as is the dome of the Capitol in Washington among U. S. citizens” into “a glowing hodge-podge of incandescent girders.”

Marinus van der Lubbe, an unemployed Dutch bricklayer linked to the Communist party, was tried and executed for the crime the following year, but even then TIME questioned whether the Nazis who held him responsible were also the ones who had paid him to set the fire, “promising to save his neck by a Presidential reprieve and to reward him handsomely for hiding their identity and taking the whole blame in court.”

In 1981, a West Berlin court declared that the trial had been “a miscarriage of justice,” though they stopped short of saying that he had been innocent. In 2001, evidence emerged that the conspiracy theory had been right along, with historians announcing that the Nazis had been the ones responsible for the fire, though even then others disagreed — and, as recently as 2014, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum noted that “the origins of the fire are still unclear.”

But, while van der Lubbe’s life still hung in the balance, reporting on the aftermath of the fire made clear that, whoever set the spark, the aftermath had already been determined by Nazi powers, in their own favor. Here’s how TIME summed it up just a week after the original report on the fire:

Before German Democracy could thus be downed this week, the Hitler Cabinet had to launch last week a juggernaut of super-suppressive measures & decrees for which they needed an excuse. What excuse could be better than the colossal act of arson which had just sent a $1,500,000 fire roaring through the Reichstag Building […] gutting completely the brown oak Reichstag Chamber and ruining its great dome of gilded copper and glass.

The Reichstag fire was set by Communists, police promptly charged. Over a nationwide radio hookup the Minister of Interior for Prussia, blustering Nazi Captain Hermann Wilhelm Göring, cried: “The Reichstag fire was to have been the signal for the outbreak of civil war! … The Communists had in readiness ‘terror squads’ of 200 each … These were to commit their dastardly acts disguised as units of our own Nazi Storm Troops and the Stahlhelm … The women and children of high Government officials were to have been kidnapped as hostages and used in the civil war as ‘living shields’!…

“The Communists had organized to poison food … and burn down granaries throughout the Reich … They planned to use every kind of weapon—even hot water, knives and forks and boiling oil!…

“From all these horrors we have saved the Fatherland! We want to state clearly that the measures taken are not a mere defense against Communism. Ours is a fight to the finish until Communism has been absolutely uprooted in Germany!”

The “juggernaut” of new decrees included increasing the weaponry provided to Nazi troops (despite violation of the Treaty of Versailles) and the transfer of the majority of state powers from President Paul von Hindenburg to Hitler and his cabinet. Rights ensured by the German constitution were suspended, and a gag rule was placed on foreign journalists within the country, with severe punishments for violation. The German government was moved from Berlin to Potsdam. Within the month, TIME reported that nearly all of the country’s leading Communists and Socialists were in jail. By April, Nazis were using the threat of another fire to ensure the passage of the Enabling Act, which solidified Hitler’s place as dictatorial leader for years to come.

Whether Nazi involvement in the Reichstag fire was direct or indirect or, improbably, nonexistent, the result was the same.

TIME Accident

Witness the Aftermath of the New York Train Crash

Seven people were killed and several others injured after a commuter train collided with an SUV and caught fire Tuesday evening outside New York City

TIME Disaster

Firefighters Battle Massive Blaze Amid Freezing Temperatures in NYC

Largest blaze FDNY has battled since 2006

Around 270 firefighters and emergency medical services personnel were working to contain a seven-alarm fire on the New York City waterfront Saturday.

The blaze, which engulfed a storage building in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, cast thick, black smoke across the New York City skyline.

Firefighters are expected to be on the scene for days and possibly weeks, a FDNY spokesperson told TIME. Attempts to contain the fire were hampered by sub-freezing temperatures and high gusts of wind.

The fire is the largest the FDNY has battled since a 2006 fire at the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse, also in Brooklyn.

 

TIME fire

New Jersey Fire Leaves 1,000 Homeless

Massive fire at apartment complex in New Jersey
Cem Ozdel—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Firefighters at the scene after a fire broke out in an apartment complex at in Edgewater, N.J. on Jan. 22, 2015.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the blaze

A massive fire at a luxury apartment complex in New Jersey on Wednesday night left more than 1,000 people homeless on Thursday.

There were no deaths in the blaze that destroyed the complex in Edgewater, just across the Hudson River from New York City, NJ.com reports, and only a few minor injuries were reported. Officials were still investigating the cause of the fire Thursday morning. The Avalon complex was quickly engulfed in flames that destroyed 240 units, leaving 500 residents homeless. It then spread to nearby homes, displacing another 500.

“Everyone got out,” Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland said. “You can always rebuild.”

[NJ.com]

TIME Italy

8 Dead After Passengers Evacuated From Burning Italian Ferry

Passenger is helped as he leaves from the " Spirit of Piraeus" cargo container ship as they arrive in Bari harbour, after the car ferry Norman Atlantic caught fire in waters off Greece
Reuters A passenger is helped as he leaves from the " Spirit of Piraeus" cargo container ship as they arrive in Bari harbour, after the car ferry Norman Atlantic caught fire in waters off Greece December 29, 2014.

427 people were rescued, including 56 crew members

At least eight passengers have died after a grueling evacuation of an Italian ferry was completed Monday, more than 24 hours after the ship burst into flames Sunday in the Adriatic Sea.

Search efforts are continuing after the all survivors were evacuated by Monday afternoon, with 427 people rescued, including 56 crew members, from the Norman Atlantic ferry, the Associated Press reported.

The original ferry manifest contained 422 passengers and 56 crew members, but officials said it was too early to speculate if people were still missing, as some may have not boarded the ferry. Officials also said some survivors were not listed on the manifest, which suggests they had been traveling illegally.

Poor weather conditions and choppy seas reportedly slowed rescue efforts being carried out by Italian and Greek authorities.

“It will be a very difficult night. A night in which we hope we will be able to rescue all on board,” said Greek Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, according to the Associated Press.

Medical personnel had been dropped on to the ferry to treat passengers who were believed to be suffering from hypothermia as they waited for rescuers to evacuate the rest of the ship.

Officials last inspected the craft less than two weeks ago and six deficiencies were reportedly discovered; however, the vessel was still deemed seaworthy, according to AP.

The fire broke out in the early hours of Sunday morning on the ferry’s car deck, when nearly 500 people were on board, including 422 passengers and 56 crew members.

[AP]

TIME natural disaster

See the Worst Natural Disasters of 2014

When it comes to acts of God, 2014 wasn’t a particularly active year. No powerful hurricane struck the U.S. like Sandy in 2012 or Katrina in 2005. There was no singlecatastrophic event like the Asian tsunami of 2004, which killed nearly 300,000 people, the Haiti earthquake of 2010, which killed over 200,000, or even the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland in 2010, which disrupted air travel for weeks.

But while there wasn’t a single iconic catastrophe, Mother Earth was still plenty busy in 2014. A volcano in Hawaii, a typhoon in the Philippines, wildfires in California and seven feet of snow in Buffalo—this year has witnessed its share of extreme weather and other natural disasters. The photos that follow are a reminder that when the Earth moves or the heavens strike, the results can be gorgeous to see—provided you’re not caught in the middle.

MORE: The most beautiful wildfire photos you’ll ever see

TIME advice

A Foolproof Guide to Building a Better Fire

Oh the weather outside is frightful... here's how to build a fire that'll be so delightful

Building a wintertime fire doesn’t have to be intimidating—we demystified the process with this simple chart.

fire lifecycle
Graphic by Katie Field

One last tip: The process is the same for a woodstove—except it’s more forgiving. There’s no need to stress about using wood that doesn’t spark or leaving the fire unattended. Reference the stove’s instructions, but in general keep the primary and secondary vents fully open for 10 to 15 minutes. Then leave the primary vent open a crack and the secondary open a third of the way.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

More from Real Simple:

TIME Disaster

See the Massive Fire That Illuminated Downtown L.A.

A large blaze lit up the Los Angeles skyline early Monday morning, consuming an entire city block

TIME cities

Eight Firefighters Were Injured Battling a Los Angeles Blaze

The fire occurred in a storage building full of combustibles but without a sprinkler system

A huge blaze in a “death trap” of a building in Los Angeles led to eight firefighters sustaining injuries, local fire officials have said.

The building, a storage facility, was packed with flammable materials, including vinyl records and furniture, yet it had no sprinkler system, was organized “like a mouse maze,” and had poor ventilation, Reuters reports.

More than 360 firefighters were called in to fight the “extremely hot and stubborn major emergency blaze” on Saturday overnight, the Los Angeles fire department said in a statement. Though much of it was contained within six hours, putting the fire out took just over 14 hours in total.

“Firefighters battled until they were low on air, and had to exit to get new air bottles, then rejoined the fight,” the department says. Firefighters also had to slice through the building’s metal roof to let smoke escape.

Five of the eight injured firefighters, all of whom suffered non-life-threatening injuries, required hospital care but were released, the fire department said.

About one-third of the building was damaged in the blaze, and “loss to the building’s contents, which included many family heirlooms, is inestimable,” the department says.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

[Reuters]

TIME Autos

More Than 200,000 GM Cars Have Been Recalled for a Brake Defect

Los Angeles Auto Show Previews Latest Car Models
Kevork Djansezian—Getty Images The Cadillac 2013 XTS is unveiled during the LA Auto Show on November 16, 2011 in Los Angeles.

The problem has been reported in the 2013-2015 Cadillac XTS and the 2014-2015 Chevrolet Impala

The latest in a series of recalls from General Motors was announced over the weekend, with hundreds of thousands of cars being pulled off the roads due to defective parking brakes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that brake-indicator lights in at least two GM models failed to illuminate when the brake was not retracted completely, according to Reuters.

“Brake pads that remain partially engaged with the rotors may cause excessive brake heat that may result in a fire,” NHTSA said.

The problem has been reported in the 2013-2015 Cadillac XTS and the 2014-2015 Chevrolet Impala, and General Motors said 221,558 vehicles have been recalled so far.

“GM is not aware of any crashes, injuries or fatalities as a result of this condition,” the company said.

General Motors has already recalled more than 15 million cars this year, because of a problem with ignition switches that has resulted in at least 19 deaths.

[Reuters]

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