‘Reichstag moment’ meaning: General Mark Milley's comparison explored

Mafalda Costa July 15, 2021
‘Reichstag moment’ meaning: General Mark Milley's comparison explored
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What’s the meaning of ‘Reichstag moment’ as an expression? In I Alone Can Fix It, a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, Gen. Mark Milley is reported to have used the expression “This is a Reichstag moment” when referring to the potential aftermath of the US presidential elections. But what did Milley mean by this?

At the time of the November elections, top officials feared a coup d’état

The top US military officer, chairman of the joint chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, and other top officials informally planned for different ways to stop Trump from potentially seizing power after the November election, according to excerpts from an upcoming book obtained by CNN.

The book, I Alone Can Fix It, from Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, describes how Milley and the other joint chiefs discussed a plan to resign, one-by-one, rather than carry out orders from Trump.

According to CNN, Milley spoke to friends, lawmakers and colleagues about the threat of a coup.

The book claims that Milley told aides: “This is a Reichstag moment,” meaning the potential for a dramatic outcome to the elections.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
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What is the meaning of ‘Reichstag moment’?

The expression used by Milley, ‘Reichstag moment’, can be traced back to the Reichstag (pronounced: rike·staag) fire – the burning of the parliament building in Berlin on the night of 27 February 1933.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Reichstag fire is believed to have been provoked by the newly formed Nazi government to turn public opinion against its opponents and to assume emergency powers.

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The supposed arsonist was a Dutchman, Marinus van der Lubbe, whom some have claimed was brought to the scene of the crime by Hitler’s agents.

On 28 February 1933, the day after the fire, Hitler’s dictatorship began.

Though the ensuing elections still did not give the Nazi party an outright majority, they were able to persuade the Reichstag to pass an Enabling Act (23 March) whereby all its legislative powers were transferred to the Reich Cabinet, sanctioning the dictatorship.

Van der Lubbe was convicted of treason and was executed by guillotine in January 1934.

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I Alone Can Fix It: Book release date

The book, I Alone Can Fix It, was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker.

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The book recounts how for the first time in modern US history, the nation’s top military officer was preparing for a showdown with the commander in chief since he feared a coup attempt after Trump lost the November election.

Reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker have also written A Very Stable Genius (2020), which presents an account of the first three years of Trump’s presidency.

The book, I Alone Can Fix It, is scheduled to be released next Tuesday, 20 July.

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Mafalda Costa is a second year BA Journalism student originally from Portugal. Her main passions if life are music, arts and culture, while she's particularly knowledgable on cinema and anime.