The burning of the original Reichstag building gave Hitler the excuse he needed to constitute anti-democratic laws, and begin his crazed path, that will lead to the death and destruction of all of Europe and millions of people.
The famous photo of Russian soldiers waving the Soviet flag on the roof of the destroyed Reichstag was the strongest symbol of the victory over the Nazi regime.
It is no surprise that with the unification of Germany in 1988, it was decided that Germany will resume their parliament at the Reichstag, but with a modern and new twist to the building. In a big renovation effort, a transparent glass dome was added on the roof, signaling the transparency of the new democratic German government. This glass dome enables a beautiful outlook upon the city of Berlin. The center of the dome has an area which tells the story of the history of the building, and many these opem areas are to the public viewing, where from the terrace it is possible to see a panoramic view of Berlin.
From here is it possible to see the wonderful gardens of Tiergarten Park, which is located nearby, and the modern Potsdam Square.
From the inside of the dome it is possible to observe the plenary hall, where German Parliament sits and makes decisions.
The fire erupted in the Reichstag during the evening hours of February 27th, 1933. When the police received warning of the fire, the fire seemed as though it was spreading from several locations inside the building simultaneously, a sign that the building was purposely set on fire. A huge explosion ended up destroying the Plenary Hall of the German Parliament. Police members who arrived on the scene found a half-naked Dutch young man in the yard, who was very confused, named Marinus van der Lubbe.
This Marinus van der Lubbe was an unemployed communist, who arrived in Germany with the purpose of stopping the Nazi rise to power. The police claim that Mr. van der Lubbe admitted to starting the fire, with the intention of causing a riot against the Nazis. Later on, while being tortured, he denied that the fire was a part of a communist plan against the Nazis.
Regardless of his confession, Hermann Goering rushed to notify Hitler and the heads of state that the fire was a communist act. Hitler ordered to arrest the communist party leaders in Germany. The next day, Hitler hurried to declare a state of emergency and convinced President Paul von Hindenburg to sign the ‘Reichstag Fire Decree.’ Hitler claimed this was done in order to “protect the nation against dangerous violence from the Communists.”
This decree overruled seven articles in the laws of the Weimar Republic, and gave the government the ability to infringe on personal freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom for the right to privacy. The government was therefore allowed to conduct house searched as they wished, confiscate property, and even impose the death punishment on a long list of crimes.
Hitler hurried to ensure a list of 4,000 people to be taken into custody as part of the decree. Mostly communists, but some were also rival Nazi leaders, some social- democratic liberals, religious figures and of course, Jewish people. Even with their Parliamentary status, some German Parliament member were also arrested. In a note of sarcasm, they were all arrested for ‘defensive custody,’ as though to protect them…
And so the Reichstag fire was a monumental time for the Nazi regime in Germany and its reign of terror. Hitler hastened to use this event to get rid of his opponents, and to establish his anti-democratic government, while at the same time releasing himself from the laws placed by the Weimar Republic. This is how he begun what 6 years later would start the biggest and most horrifying war in the history of the world.
When looking at the Reichstag building is seems as though nothing correlates between the building and the modern glass dome that was added to it. The combination between the classic building to the modern glass dome ensures that the building is without a doubt a spectacular thing to look at.
And truly, the dome belongs to a new era, a different time from when the facade of the building was built. It was added 100 years later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the Reichstag was being restored and became the Parliament building for unified Germany.
Even after the remodeling, the original exterior of the building remains, which creates to a big contrast between the emerged dome and the building’s exterior. The original building was built on columns. The front exterior has arc like windows, lined by many statutes along the entire facade.
Do this in advance, via the Reichstag building website (see link below).
Visiting the Reichstag building is free of charge.
Be sure to pay attention to opening days. The building is closed during German holidays.