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GCSE History Coursework: Reichstag Fire 1) How far is the account in Source A supported by Source B? In Source A, Rudolf Diels claims at the start of the second paragraph that

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Introduction

GCSE History Coursework: Reichstag Fire 1) How far is the account in Source A supported by Source B? In Source A, Rudolf Diels claims at the start of the second paragraph that 'The voluntary confessions of Van der Lubbe made me believe he had acted alone'. This point is supported by Source B, as it says that 'I (van der Lubbe) set fire to the Reichstag all by myself'. But, in the third paragraph of Source A, Diels changes his mind and writes 'Several details suggested that Communists who helped him start these other fires, might also have helped him with the Reichstag Fire'. This point contradicts Source B and his earlier remark, and seems to me to make Source A less reliable, as Diels cannot reach an accurate point. In Source B, Van der Lubbe states 'The other defendants (including the Communists) are in this trial, but they were not in the Reichstag'. This statement could be taken to mean two things: either he is saying he was the only one who had anything to do with the Reichstag fire and that he did it all by himself; or he could be saying that although he was the only one inside the building, others had helped him to plan it. Also, this would not contradict his first statement, as he only says he 'set fire to the Reichstag' all by himself, and doesn't mention if people had helped him get inside. If this is true, and that he was not the only person to plan this, then Diels remark about how he believed others 'might also have helped him with the Reichstag fire' would support Source B, although this would contradict Diels first statement that Van der Lubbe had 'acted alone'. This ambiguity in Source B means that it might not be very reliable, as it could be saying two different things. ...read more.

Middle

4) Do sources E and G prove that Goering (Source F) was telling lies? Source E is a statement given by General Franz Halder at his trial in Nuremburg in 1946 when he was being tried for war crimes by the Allies. It states that at Hitler's birthday in 1943, 'Goering broke into the conversation and shouted: The only one who really knows about the Reichstag building is I, for I set fire to it'. What Halder said might be true, and Goering might have exposed the truth because he had been drinking alcohol, but Hitler was tea-total, and there wasn't likely to be any alcohol at his birthday celebrations. Also, Halder was on trial for war crimes, so would want to get blame and attention drawn away from him and onto others, so could have easily lied. I don't think that there is much reliability in this source. Source G is a document that was published by Communists in 1934 and is supposedly the confession of Karl Ernst, leader of the SA, published after his death in the 'Night of the Long Knives'. It tells how Ernst and 'two SA men set fire to the Reichstag', how they 'used the underground passage leading from his (Goering's) house to the Reichstag', and how they 'used Van der Lubbe. He would climb into the Reichstag and blunder about while we set fire to the building'. This 'confession' was published by Communists who obviously would benefit a lot from something like this, as it degrades the Nazis and exposes them as frauds. But I don't see any reason why Ernst would give his confession to the Communists, or even confess, even if the confession is true. Also, it seems very useful to the Communists that Ernst has just died, and therefore would not be able to argue with the Communists or say that this is a lie. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, this source is extremely unreliable. It was a 'confession' of Ernst, published by Communists after Ernst death. I think that it's too lucky for the Communists to get hold of something like this, and that they only chose to publish it after Ernst's death so that he couldn't dismiss it. I also see no reason why Ernst would write this confession, even if it was true. Source H is from a history book published 41 years after the fire, in 1974, so might have some facts wrong as it is so long after the event. It suggests that the Nazis were not prepared for the fire, and arrested Communists whose names were on an 'out-of-date list'. If they had planned the fire, they would have been ready to take appropriate action afterwards, but here they weren't, so suggests that statement i) is correct. Source I is again from a history book published in 1974, so facts might be a bit wrong. This source doesn't support statement ii), but instead disagrees with i), as it says that 'Given the brief time available to Lubbe, it would have been impossible for any one man to set the building alight on this scale, let alone a man without knowledge of the place, and seriously handicapped, both mentally and physically, as Lubbe undoubtedly was'. It makes it very clear that Van der Lubbe could not have possibly set the building alight himself without any aid. Source J has no relevance to either statement, and is entirely neutral to both. Although there are more reliable sources and more evidence to suggest that statement i) is correct, and that Van der Lubbe did set fire to the Reichstag all by himself (although he may have had help planning the fire), I still believe that statement ii) is true. To me, it seems like the fire was just too much of a good thing to happen to the Nazis, and at a good time too. The evidence says otherwise, but I think that the Nazis were far too fortunate. Harry Ball 11-VAA 29.01.04 ...read more.

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