Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Reichstag Fire: Who dun nit?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a match must be in want of something to set fire to. But was it really a single handed man who set the Reichstag building on fire? Could it really have been that a young, innocent Dutch Communist, Marinus van der Lubbe, set it ablaze on the 27th February 1933? Let’s break it down. Nazis hate Communists. Communists are easy targets. The Reichstag building is alight. A Communist happens to walk by. The Communist is culpable. Communists are vice: Nazis are virtue. My opinion on the Reichstag fire: a fool proof premeditated Nazi conspiracy. It is easy to dismiss Van der Lubbe as a culprit as he himself ‘was charged with the crime and later confessed’. He was found guilty at his trial and then ‘executed’. Of course, this is what the ‘textbook’ says, but you’re more educated than that. We know that Van der Lubbe was known to be limited in his intelligence, and the Nazis had found their scapegoat in him and placed him right where they wanted to. To be honest, anyone would have confessed to any crime under a Nazi interrogation, and this is what many historians firmly believe till this day.

The Nazis had their plan under control. Hitler’s private army, The Storm troopers (SA) had offices that granted an underground route into the Reichstag building. So access to the Reichstag was in the bag for the Nazis. Days before the fire the SA said that they overheard Van der Lubbe boasting about planning to set fire to the Reichstag. Thus Van der Lubbe was an easy target to pin the blame on. All this was stuff of fantasies for Hitler, because if it transpired that the Reichstag fire was a Communist plot, he could easily brainwash everyone by claiming that it was a conspiracy to seize control of the government. And that was exactly what he did. Hitler was the type of person that could sell ice to an Eskimo, so once he had spoken everyone was convinced and he was in gear to take control of the government himself. Soon enough, President Hindenburg signed the Law for the Protection of the People and the State, under the persuasion of Hitler. This gave police their desired prerogative: total control. The police alongside the SA could arrest Communist leaders, and also broke up their meetings and closed down their newspapers. Furthermore, the Nazi propaganda meant that they were gaining increasing momentum at the expense of their political opponents - and the rest is history.

As for our Van der Lubbe, he was beheaded on the 10th January 1934, and on that note: Hitler was home and dry. The responsibility for the Reichstag Fire is highly debatable and, very clearly, remains an on going topic of debate. Van der Lubbe was known for admitting to deeds he didn’t know of, and many believed that he was going through a mental illness at the time. Nevertheless, Van der Lubbe is, on paper, the arsonist behind the Reichstag fire. But whether he genuinely was guilty is a fact that lies with him at this moment. It is a historian’s duty to clear the clouds of the past, but I believe; only time will pass the decree of history on this particular Communist man. By MD

Some useful links (Please let us know if you find any others)

The Reichstag Fire (Spartacus)
Reichstag Fire (United States Holocaust Museum)
Eyewitness to History

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