75 years, justice for Marinus
a West German court reduced Marinus van de Lubbes 1933 sentence
for arson and treason to a prison term of eight years. In 1980 the same
court lifted the sentence entirely, but the German federal court reversed
this decision. The next year another court overturned the original conviction
on the grounds that van der Lubbe was insane.
of which mattered much to Marinus van der Lubbe himself because he was,
in fact, very dead, having been guillotined in 1934. They do things
differently in Germany.
crime? In what became became one of the turning points of world history,
Marinus van der Lubbe was convicted of setting fire to the Reichstag
the pre-Nazi Weimar Republics parliament.
75 years after the event, van der Lubbes conviction has been overturned
by the German federal prosecutor under a 1998 law that allows pardons
for people convicted of crimes under the Nazi regime.
Marinus van der Lubbe was twenty-four. He had joined the Dutch Communist
Party in 1925 and shortly afterwards lost seventy-five per cent of his
eyesight in an industrial accident. In 1927 he moved to Germany and
became active amongst the unemployed while his politics moved increasingly
towards anarchism. By then he was quite clearly psychologically disturbed
and probably ripe for manipulation.
has never been any doubt that Hitler cynically used the Reichstag fire
as a pretext for assuming dictatorial power, rounding up his Social
Democrat, Communist and trade union enemies, and setting Germany on
the road towards militarisation. Historians, however, have long argued
over whether the Nazis themselves set fire to the building, using van
der Lubbe as the patsy, or whether they opportunistically made use of
the act of a desperate loner.
in other words, a government-sponsored false-flag operation? Since 2001
the answer has been, almost certainly, yes.
50,000 pages of German court, government and Gestapo files located
both in East Germany and Moscow, became available to a team of researchers,
principally the historian Alexander Bahar and physicist and psychologist
Wilfreid Kugel who spent a decade carefully reviewing the material before
publishing The Reichstag Fire How History is Created, in 2001.
an authoritative array of circumstantial evidence, Bahar and Kugel reconstructed
the Reichstag fire operation:
27, 1933, at about 8:00 p.m. a commando group of at least 3, and at
most 10 SA men [Brownshirts] led by Hans Georg Gewehr entered the
basement of the palace of the Reichstag President. The group took
the incendiary substances deposited there, and used the subterranean
passageway to go from the Reichstag Presidents palace to the
Reichstag building, where they prepared the assembly hall in particular
with a self-igniting liquid they probably mixed in the hall. After
a certain latency period, the liquid set off the fire in the assembly
hall. The group made their getaway through the subterranean passageway
and the basement of the Reichstag Presidents palace (and possibly
also through the adjacent basement leading to the machinery and government
employees building) to the public street Reichstagsufer.
[Reich President Hermann] Göring entered the burning Reichstag
building at 9:21 p.m. at the latest, presumably in order to provide
a cover for the commando groups retreat.
der Lubbe was brought to the Reichstag by the SA at exactly 9:00 p.m.
and let into the building by them. The sound of breaking glass which
was noticed by witnesses and which was allegedly due to van der Lubbe
breaking window panes to get into the building was probably only intended
to attract the attention of the public.
hours before the Reichstag fire, the head of the political police (and
subsequently of the notorious Gestapo), Rudolf Diels, had sent a telegram
to all police stations in Prussia warning them of a plan by communists
to raid police stations and nationalist associations (a
euphemism for Nazi Party armed squads) and disarm them. The police were
to take suitable countermeasures and arrest communist functionaries.
was, of course, no such communist plot, but thousands were arrested
and all left-wing newspapers were closed down. Two days after the fire,
two decrees annulled the essential basic rights incorporated in the
constitution of the Weimar Republic. They stayed in effect until the
collapse of the Third Reich and formed the pseudo-legal basis for the
Nazi dictatorship. Hitler seized the opportunity to undermine the once-powerful
German working class movement and prepare its destruction. This was
a critically important step because Reichstag elections had been scheduled
for March 5, 1933, and a Nazi election victory was not a foregone conclusion.
torture, van der Lubbe confessed to setting the fires but the scientific
experts were agreed that the job must have been the work of more than
one person. This was fine by the Nazis, because they wanted to implicate
the Communist Party.
matter came to trial the former chairman of the Communist Partys
Reichstag parliamentary group and three Bulgarian communists living
illegally in Germany were charged along with van der Lubbe. The young
Dutchman was found guilty but, in a last display of German judicial
independence, the four communists were acquitted. This was a major embarrassment,
but it hardly mattered because the Nazis, who had never won near a majority
in any federal election, were now firmly entrenched in power.
rest, as they say, is history.