Wikipedia.org | The Gleiwitz incident, sometimes incorrectly referred to as Operation Canned Goods, was a staged attack on 31 August 1939 against the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz in Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia, Germany (since 1945: Gliwice, Poland) on the eve of World War II in Europe.
This provocation was one of several actions in Operation Himmler, a Nazi Germany SS project to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, which would be used to justify the subsequent invasion of Poland.
January 30, 1933
Weimar Republic President Paul von Hindenburg appoints Adolph Hitler Chancellor.
February 27, 1933
The German Parliament (Reichstag) burns down. A dazed Dutch Communist named Marinus van der Lubbe is found at the scene and charged with arson. [He is later found guilty and executed].
February 28, 1933
President Hindenburg and Chancellor Hitler invoke Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which permits the suspension of civil liberties in time of national emergency. This Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of the People and State abrogates the following constitutional protections:
Free expression of opinion
Freedom of the press
Right of assembly and association
Right to privacy of postal and electronic communications
Protection against unlawful searches and seizures
Individual property rights
States’ right of self-government
A supplemental decree creates the SA (Storm Troops) and SS (Special Security) Federal police agencies.
Who Did It?
Historians do not agree on who is actually responsible for the Reichstag Fire: van der Lubbe acting alone — a Communist plot — or the Nazis themselves in order to create an incident. Writers such as Klaus P. Fischer feel that most likely the Nazis were involved.
But regardless of who actually planned and executed the fire, it is clear that the Nazis immediately took advantage of the situation in order to advance their cause at the expense of civil rights. The Decree enabled the Nazis to ruthlessly suppress opposition in the upcoming election.
March 5, 1933
National elections give Nazis 44% plurality in the Reichstag. Herman GÃ¶ring [who later played a central role in the Nazi government and war effort] declares that there is no further need for State governments.
Over the next few weeks, each of the lawful Weimar State governments falls to the same ruse:
Local Nazi organizations instigate disorder;
The disorder is quelled by replacing the elected state government by appointed Nazi Reich Commissioners.
March 24, 1933
The Reichstag passes the Law for Terminating the Suffering of People and Nation , also known as the Enabling Law , essentially granting Adolph Hitler dictatorial power.
The events in 1933 can be summarized as follows:
While it is not clear whether the Nazis intentionally set the Reichstag fire in order to create a national crisis, or whether the Nazis simply were opportunistic, the event was used as justification for a sharp curtailment in constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties.
The Nazis took advantage of the additional Federal police powers to suppress opponents.
It is clear that in other situations, the Nazis did use the tactic of creating a “law and order” crisis so that they could provide a solution which further eroded civil liberties and entrenched their power.
The right-wing Nazis and the left-wing communists were cut from the same cloth — the point is not that the far right destroyed civil rights. Rather, the point is that a democracy can be destroyed by creating a law-and-order crisis and offering as a ‘solution’ the abdication of civil liberties and state’s rights to a powerful but unaccountable central authority.
The Reichstag Burns February 27, 1933
The Reichstag was the building in Berlin where the elected members of the republic met to conduct the daily business of government.
By a weird coincidence, there was also in Berlin a deranged Communist conducting a one-man uprising. An arsonist named Marinus van der Lubbe, 24, from Holland, had been wandering around Berlin for a week attempting to burn government buildings to protest capitalism and start a revolt. On February 27, he decided to burn the Reichstag building.
Carrying incendiary devices, he spent all day lurking around the building, before breaking in around 9 p.m. He took off his shirt, lit it on fire, then went to work using it as his torch.
The exact sequence of events will never be known, but Nazi storm troopers under the direction of GÃ¶ring were also involved in torching the place. They had befriended the arsonist and may have known or even encouraged him to burn the Reichstag that night. The storm troopers, led by SA leader Karl Ernst, used the underground tunnel that connected GÃ¶ring’s residence with the cellar in the Reichstag. They entered the building, scattered gasoline and incendiaries, then hurried back through the tunnel.
On 27 February 1933, the Reichstag building was subject to an arson attack and, as a result, seen as the pivotal event in the establishment of Nazi Germany. At 21:25hrs (UTC +1), a Berlin fire station received an alarm call that the Reichstag building, the assembly location of the German Parliament, was ablaze. The fire started in the Session Chamber, and by the time the police and firefighters had arrived, the main Chamber of Deputies was engulfed by flames. Inside the building, a thorough search conducted by the police resulted in the finding of a shirtless Marinus van der Lubbe. Van der Lubbe was a Dutch insurrectionist, council communist and unemployed bricklayer who had recently arrived in Germany, ostensibly to carry out his political activities. The fire was utilized as evidence by the Nazis that the Communists were beginning a ‘plot’ against the German government. Van der Lubbe and four Communist leaders were subsequently arrested. Adolf Hitler, who was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany four weeks before on 30 January, urged President Hindenburg to pass an emergency decree in order to counter the ‘ruthless confrontation of the Communist Party of Germany’.
Meanwhile, investigation of the Reichstag Fire continued, with the Nazis eager to uncover Comintern complicity. In early March 1933, three men were arrested who were to play pivotal roles during the Leipzig Trial, known also as “Reichstag Fire Trial,” namely three Bulgarians: Georgi Dimitrov, Vasil Tanev and Blagoi Popov. The Bulgarians were known to the Prussian police as senior Comintern operatives, but the police had no idea how senior they were: Dimitrov was head of all Comintern operations in Western Europe.
Historians disagree as to whether van der Lubbe acted alone or if the Nazis were involved. The responsibility for the Reichstag Fire remains an ongoing topic of debate and research.