The mysterious Reichstag fire in 1933
The famous fire of 27 February 1933 that destroyed the Reichstag marked the beginning of a period during which the German parliament was no longer seated in the Reichstag – a period that would last for 6 decades. Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe was accused of setting the fire; he was later convicted and decapitated for this act. However, doubts about his guilt soon began to emerge. The case continued for decades after his death, and in 2007 Van der Lubbe was finally acquitted of the charges and pardoned.
The identity of the real arsonist is still a mystery but various conspiracy theories exist. One says that the fire was ordered by Nazi minister and Reichstag president Hermann Göring. The fact is that the fire greatly benefited the Nazis who had just come to power. Hitler blamed the communists, declared a state of emergency, and ordered the arrest and imprisonment of members of the opposition around the country. New elections were called and the NSDAP obtained a majority of the votes. Hitler changed the constitution, granting him absolute power – the beginning of the Third Reich. For Hitler, the fire of the Reichstag was heaven-sent.
1989, still without the glass dome
Back in Berlin
After World War II, the ruined Reichstag stood right next to the Wall, in West-Berlin. Bonn served as the new capital of West-Germany and for more than half a century the building did not serve its original purpose. After the German reunification in 1990, Berlin would be reinstated as the country’s capital. Of course the Reichstag would also be restored as the seat of parliament.