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Book Review: Burning the Reichstag: An Investigation into the Third Reich’s Enduring Mystery by Benjamin Carter Hett

9780199322329

A Hot New Read Published in January 2014: Burning the Reichstag: An Investigation into the Third Reich’s Enduring Mystery

Hett, Benjamin Carter. Burning the Reichstag: An Investigation into the Third Reich’s Enduring Mystery. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Benjamin Carter Hett’s Burning the Reichstag: An Investigation into the Third Reich’s Enduring Mystery, delivers an exemplary in-depth reexamination into 1933’s mysterious Reichstag fire in Berlin Germany. Burning the Reichstag benefits significantly from Hett’s legal background, researching and addressing key legal documents overlooked by previous historians. The former attorney-turned-historian received his Ph.D. in modern German history from Harvard University and now teaches at Hunter College and the Graduate Center at CUNY. Hett’s other work in German history includes Crossing Hitler: The Man Who Put the Nazis on the Witness Stand, and Death in the Tiergarten: Murder and Criminal Justice in the Kaiser’s Berlin.

Hett suggests that Nazi activists had indeed orchestrated and participated in setting the fires throughout the Reichstag building; the blaze was not the result of a single conspirator. Since 1945, historians have contended that Marinus van der Lubbe had acted alone as asserted by the Nazis. Hett’s contribution sheds new light on the fire and the trial’s legal process behind van der Lubbe’s hasty execution. van der Lubbe was executed by guillotine on 10 January 1934.

The Reichstag fire became the genesis for Hitler and the National Socialists rise to power and control; and as such, had much to gain from the fire by placing responsibility on communists for the destruction. “The ‘Reichstag Fire Decree’ was the legal basis for the brutal dictatorship that lasted for twelve years, marking the true beginning of the Third Reich” (Hett, 2013). Marinus van der Lubbe was nothing more than a patsy for the Nazis, and Hett illustrates through reexamination of testimonies, archival research and interviews that it was impossible for just one man to set multiple fires in the short time-frame before Berlin’s firefighters had arrived.

Burning the Reichstag is enhanced by research on van der Lubbe’s trial and witness testimony which had not previously been considered. This provocative new contribution from Hett advances the literature on this important subject by decades. Burning the Reichstag will appeal to those interested in the genesis of the Third Reich and the beginning of Nazi Germany’s reign of terror.

The book is available now through Oxford University Press.

Hett, Benjamin Carter. Burning the Reichstag: An Investigation into the Third Reich’s Enduring Mystery. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

 
 
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