February 27th 1933: Reichstag fire
On this day in 1933, the Reichstag building in Berlin, which housed the German Parliament, was set on fire. The Nazi government of Adolf Hitler then ordered a thorough hunt to track down the arsonist. The police identified the perpetrator as Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch communist; he and four other Communist leaders were arrested for their supposed role in the blaze. The Nazis used the event as evidence of a Communist plot in Germany, and Hitler urged President Hindenburg to pass an emergency decree to counter the Communist threat. This Reichstag Fire Decree gave Hitler considerable powers, and is considered a pivotal moment in Hitler’s consolidation of power into a one-party dictatorship. Van der Lubbe was found guilty and executed by guillotine on January 10th 1934. However, his role has been questioned by historians with some even suggesting he was not responsible and that the fire was ordered by the Nazis themselves.