When they arrived on the scene, Adolf Hitler wasted no time in making the pronouncement: “This is a God-given signal.” He continued: “If this fire, as I believe, is the work of the Communists, then we must crush out this murderous pest with an iron fist.” The scene was the parliamentary building in Berlin, the Reichstag, that went up in flames from an arson attack. The date was February 27th in 1933.
It was a flashpoint event that made it possible for Adolf Hitler to play upon public and political fears and thereby consolidate power, setting the stage for the rise of Nazi Germany. The competing narratives and revisionist history only added to the national chaos, while also facilitating power grabs. To some, it was a Communist plot, to others the staging of Antifascism. It is certain that Hitler played upon the FIBS of Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear to consolidate power, thus setting the stage for the rise of Nazi Germany. Today, the “Reichstag Fire” is a powerful political metaphor that serves as a cautionary tale.