German soldier lighting his cigarette with a flamethrower; ca. 1940s.
Flamethrowers had two fuel lines. The line he is lighting is cigarette with is sort of like a pilot line. It is a smaller fuel line that stays lit and can produce a bit of a larger flame when its trigger is pressed. The second line is for the big fire. This contains a thicker gelatinous type of fuel. So the flamer will pull the first trigger making the pilot flame larger, then pulls the second trigger emitting the thicker fuel which gets lit by the pilot flame raining hellfire upon anyone in its path. So technically its not really a blowtorch, but just a little pilot flame.
Aftermath of Houston, Texas’s worst disaster the Gulf Hotel fire; Sept. 7, 1943.
The Gulf Hotel fire claimed 55 lives in the early-morning hours of September 7, 1943 in downtownHouston, Texas. This fire remains the cause of the worst loss of life in a fire in the city’s history.
The hotel was located on the northwest corner of Louisiana and Preston Streets and occupied the upper two floors of a three-story brick building, with a variety of businesses occupying the first floor. It was an inexpensive hotel near the city’s bus depot, and reportedly had 87 beds, most divided from one another by thin wooden partitions, and 50 cots available for half the price of a bed. That night the guest log showed 133 names registered.
Shortly after midnight, the desk clerk was alerted to a smoldering mattress in a room on the second floor. The clerk and a few guests thought they had extinguished the burning mattress and moved it to a closet in the second floor hall. Moments later, the mattress erupted in flames. The fire spread quickly through the second floor and headed toward the third. There were two exits from the hotel, both on the Preston side, one an interior staircase, the other an exterior fire escape.
The fire department’s central station was located only a few blocks away at Preston and Caroline Streets. The alarm was received at 12:50 a.m. Deputy Chief Grover Cleveland Adams was the first to arrive at the burning hotel where he summoned a general alarm as he witnessed flames shooting from windows and the roof.
Ted Felds of Harris County’s Emergency Corps arrived at about the same time and noticed many men on the fire escape, including a few on crutches, who were slowing the progress of others behind them still trying to escape.
Two men died at the scene after jumping from the hotel’s windows. There were 15 other fatalities in area hospitals. Firefighters recovered 38 bodies from the burned out building. In all, 55 people died in the fire and more than 30 were injured. A mass funeral was held for 23 victims of the fire who were never identified and they were buried at the South Park Cemetery in Houston.
Hitler’s Pants being burnt by the allies after the war; ca 1947
The Nazis had carefully preserved the pants from the Operation Valkyrie assassination attempt and the allies inherited them after the war. They were concerned that if they put them in a museum they’d end up becoming a shrine to Hitler so they burnt them instead.
An Iranian soldier looks out over the desert, darkened under clouds of burning oil set alight by Iraqi forces in 1990.
Werner Herzog made a great movie about these fires, Lessons of Darkness.
Today is the 110th anniversary of the third worst conflagration to affect an American city in history: The Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.
According to the Fire Museum of Baltimore, some 1,231 and 1,200 National Guardsmen were needed as part of the effort. In about 30 hours, 140 acres of downtown Baltimore had burned, taking down 1,526 buildings and 2,500 businesses in its fury.
The Reichstag Fire, Berlin, (February 27, 1933.)
We will never know the absolute truth of the events surrounding the Reichstag Fire. People have debated this for decades and have never managed to get any closer to the truth. Many say the Nazis started it, others say they had nothing to do with it.
My interpretation of the facts is this:
The Reichstag Fire was started by a Dutch Anarchist named Marinus van der Lubbe, who snuck into the Reichstag on the night of the 27th of February, 1933. This act really isn’t all that surprising in hindsight. This was a period of considerable political violence across the country and one act of extreme vandalism should not necessarily be seen as “shocking”, although the effects of the event were to be enormous.
Now, many have claimed that either Marinus van der Lubbe was not responsible, and that it was actually a supporter of Hitler and the Nazi party who may or may not have been acting under orders, or that Marinus van der Lubbe was actually affiliated with the Nazi party.
Now, both of these assertions are perhaps plausible, but I would not say that they are necessarily likely, or that we should support them. The truth is that there is no evidence of either claim. There has never been a shred of credible evidence which points to either conclusion. As far as we know, and likely as far as we will ever know, Marinus van der Lubbe acted on his own instincts and to his own political ends. Any other assertions are essentially conspiracy claims. While they may be PLAUSIBLE, in my view they can not be legitimately entertained as possibilities from A HISTORICAL STANDPOINT because there is no proof of either alternative possibility being true. We can not, change the facts just because it makes the story better.
While it might sound more interesting to argue that the Nazis planned the Reichstag Fire and that they covertly hired a Dutch anarchist to carry it out, the lack of evidence pointing to this makes that claim entirely unreliable.
So who started it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The debate is, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant. What IS important is to look at how the Nazi party reacted to the event. The fact that Marinus van der Lubbe was unaffiliated with the Nazi party makes this story all the better. The Reichstag Fire and the subsequent passing of the Decree for the Protection of the People the very next day shows how cunning and ruthless the Nazi party was in their quest to power. They knew how to manipulate and control the volatile political culture which existed in Germany in the early 1930’s and this is a far more important distinction to make.
I think that the Nazi Party were not necessarily “puppet masters” who organized a chaotic burning of a governmental system, but rather master reactionaries who successfully seized an opportunity to wrestle more governmental and authoritative control from the Wiemar government, and it is this which makes the story of the Reichstag Fire all the more sinister and indeed all the more interesting.