Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of the People and the State (Reichstag Fire Decree), February 28, 1933
On February 27, 1933, 24-year-old Dutch militant Marinus van der Lubbe set fire to the German parliament (Reichstag), causing extensive damage to the building that had long been the symbol of German unity. The government falsely portrayed the incident as part of a Communist plot to overthrow the state in response to Adolf Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg on January 30, 1933.
On February 4, Hitler's cabinet had restricted the press and authorized the police to ban political meetings and marches. Nazi leaders then exploited the Reichstag fire to gain President von Hindenburg's approval for a more extreme measure called the Decree for the Protection of the People and the State.
Popularly known as the Reichstag Fire Decree, the regulations suspended important provisions of the German constitution, especially those safeguarding individual rights and due process of law. The decree permitted the restriction of the right to assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, among other rights, and it removed all restraints on police investigations. With the decree in place, the regime was free to arrest and incarcerate political opponents without specific charge, dissolve political organizations, and suppress publications. It also gave the central government the authority to overrule state and local laws and overthrow state and local governments. This law became a permanent feature of the Nazi police state.