Trump’s ‘Reichstag Fire’: Nazi Germany History May Repeat In U.S., Experts Fear

Donald Trump is laying the groundwork for a present day “Reichstag Fire,” a modern, United States version of the terrorist incident that allowed Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party to seize absolute power in Germany 84 years ago, many political experts now fear. Trump’s furious tirade on his Twitter account attacking the judges who have now blocked Trump’s executive order banning travelers from seven Middle Eastern countries from entering the United States is laying the groundwork for a power grab by the Trump administration, the commentators warn.

After U.S. District Court Judge James Robart initially blocked further implementation of the ban — which has been widely termed a “Muslim ban” in part because Trump himself characterized it as such on the campaign trail — Trump posted a Tweet apparently claiming that the judge would be to blame for any upcoming terror attack.

“There it is, folks. People huffing and puffing about Trump’s attack on separation of powers are not wrong, but they’re still missing the point. He says it right there — Trump’s main concern isn’t preventing an attack, it’s making sure that the right person gets blamed for it,” wrote legal analyst Elie Mystal on the Above The Law site this week. “It’s exactly the kind of thing you’re concerned about when you are more interested in using an attack than stopping it.”

“The Trump administration’s move to shut America’s doors to refugees and stop all entry from nationals of seven Muslim countries has me thinking more and more about the Reichstag fire,” political expert Paul Waldman wrote in The Week magazine this week. “There will come a moment when something awful happens, and Americans need to be ready for the Trump administration’s effort to exploit it.”

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The Israeli newspaper Haaretz also warned that Trump may be actively pursuing his own Reichstag Fire scenario.

“The ability of Trump and his aides to invent incidents and concoct attacks that never were, from massive voter fraud to Muslims dancing in the streets on 9/11 to the Bowling Green Massacre, can be reasonably compared to the sinister conspiracies, many anti-Semitic, fabricated by the Nazis during their first years in office,” wrote Haaretz political analyst Chemi Shalev.

But what was the “Reichstag Fire,” and why has it come to represent what the above experts and numerous others fear may be the ultimate objective of Trump and his close advisers? The following video from History Pod provides a concise explanation of the incident.

In brief, the Reichstag — Germany’s parliament building — was set ablaze by arson on February 27, 1933, less than one month after Adolf Hitler — whose Nazi party had won 230 parliament seats in 1932’s elections — was named German chancellor. The Nazis main political rivals were the Communists, who held the second-largest bloc of Reichstag seats.

When a Dutch Communist, who was reportedly mentally ill, was arrested in connection with the fire, Hitler immediately declared the Reichstag Fire to be part of a Communist uprising to overthrow the German government by force.

“This is a God-given signal!,” Hitler declared later on the night of the blaze. “If this fire, as I believe, turns out to be the handiwork of Communists, then there is nothing that shall stop us now crushing out this murder pest with an iron fist.”

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The following day, Hitler issued what has come to be known as The Reichstag Fire Decree, ending freedom of the press, of assembly and freedom of speech, and other rights. Communist Party members of parliament were placed under arrest.

In March 1933, the newly powerful Hitler made another dramatic power grab. He introduced legislation in the Reichstag that would eliminate the parliament itself — and name Hitler absolute dictator of Germany. The parliament easily voted in favor of the resolution to effectively end its own existence and name Hitler “der fuehrer.”

After World War II, evidence surfaced to show that the Reichstag Fire may have been the work not of a communist plot even of one lone communist, but in fact was planned and carried out by Hitler and his Nazi henchmen.

Could Trump carry out a similar plan in the United States?

“Given the fact of Trump’s serious unpopularity with a significant portion of American society,” wrote Columbia University scholar Hamid Dabashi on Friday, “This ‘Reichstag Fire’ incident is increasingly a dangerous possibility.”

[Featured Image By Mario Tama/Getty Images]