Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Berlin March 28th 1933
Berlin was thrown into great excitement last night by two fires - the one at the Reichstag building (the German Parliament) and the other at the former Imperial Palace. Fire broke out at the Reichstag shortly after 9 p.m., and burned so fiercely that within an hour the main hall in which representatives of the German people meet when Parliament is in session was completely destroyed. Flames leaping from the great glass dome surmounting the building could be seen for miles around, and attracted huge crowds to the scene.
Police in full force on horseback and on foot kept the crowd back, while all the fire brigades in Berlin poured water on to the flames. The building was surrounded by the fire-fighting appliances, and high ladders were run up the walls and illuminated by searchlights. Firemen directed streams of water into the burning building, and hoses were run in through the numerous entrances to the seat of the fire, in the main session hall. It is believed (says an Exchange Berlin telegram) that the fire was due to arson, as it commenced at five or six different points simultaneously. A man was arrested in the building . He was found clad only in his trousers.
A Reuter telegram says that the fire was started by heaps of documents which were set alight in six different places. The police assert that Communists are responsible, and apart from the man who was arrested there were several other people in the building, although the Reichstag is not in session. The wildest rumours were circulating in Berlin last night, adds Reuter. One was to the effect that secret orders had been issued to the Nazi Storm Troopers to create a Bartholomew night on Saturday, when all political opponents of renown were to be "disposed of." Although the police asserted the Communists are responsible, some people think that the fire might have bee started by irresponsible Nazis with the object of provoking trouble.
The fires were extinguished at 10.45 p.m. The session hall presents a scene of desolation with all the deputies' seats, diplomats', public, and press galleries destroyed, and all the iron pillars supporting the dome twisted out of shape. The fire brigade state that the fire must have started at several points. It developed with extraordinary rapidity and began to find its way downstairs to the rooms below.
The police, "suspecting the conflagration to be the first of a series of Communist acts of terrorism," have arrested a number of Communist leaders "in order to forestall any attempt to cover up tracks." The man who was discovered in the Reichstag building and arrested is stated to be a Dutchman named Van der Luebbe, aged 24 (photo left). He is said to have confessed that he started the fire, but denied that he was acting as anyone's agent. It is added that he said he used his shirt as firing material. The police found a rag steeped in petrol as they entered the building, and the arrested man's cap was found close to other firing material. He has been conducted to police headquarters, where he is being subjected to a thorough examination. His manner had been extremely calm and self-possessed throughout.
Herr Hitler, Herr Göring, Herr von Papen, and other prominent persons including Prince August Wilhelm, entered the building whilst it was still burning, and Herr Goring, President of the Reichstag and "Commissarial" Minister for the Interior in Prussia, took command of the police and issued orders to keep the crowds at a distance. If the new Reichstag is summoned after next Sunday's elections it is unlikely to be able to meet in the Reichstag building owing to the extensive damage done by the fire. The fire at the former Imperial Palace broke out earlier in the day in an attic, and was quickly subdued by the fire brigade before any damage had been done. The police suspect arson, as burnt matches were found in the attic.
Report from the Guardian. Now visit the rebuilt Reichstag.
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