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History Coursework – the Reichstag Fire

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Introduction

HISTORY COURSEWORK - THE REICHSTAG FIRE Jamie Lake 1. Study sources A and B. How far is the account in source A supported by source B? Explain your answer. To some extent, source A is supported by source B. The writer of source A, Rudolf Diels, is a Nazi and head of the Prussian police. His account of the Reichstag fire is written in 1950, seventeen years after the Reichstag fire took place. He gives a detailed account of the arrest of Van der Lubbe, the arrival of the Nazi leaders Goering and Hitler and their orders and words. Source B however is an account of Van der Lubbe's words at his trial in 1933. Both accounts could be accused of being bias and giving one-sided views of the event. After all, it was a crucial time for politics and led to a great turning point for both the Communist and Nazi Parties. Source A describes how Rudolf Dies "pushed his way into the burning building" and discovered Van der Lubbe naked from the waist up, with a "wild triumphant gleam in the eyes of his pale young face". He is described to be panting as if he has completed a tremendous task, but later, when questioning Van der Lubbe, his stories are confused. On one hand, this does not support Source B, in which Van der Lubbe states that he did set fire to the Reichstag building all by himself: his statement is clear, concise and to the point. There is no sign of confusion. On the other hand, Van der Lubbe would obviously have been exhausted and possibly in a state of shock after the Reichstag fire, leading to confusion when he was questioned that night. In source B, Van der Lubbe says "I set fire to the Reichstag all by myself" and this supports Diels account, Source A, which states that, "The voluntary confession of Van der Lubbe made me believe that he had acted alone". ...read more.

Middle

This would have been to the Nazi's advantage as it meant many people would fear being members of or supporting the Communist party. Hitler believed that "Only the strong will win, the weak will always lose" - the cover of the book is very strong and striking, it catches attention and is shows that the Nazis are serious enough about the allegations against Van der Lubbe and the Communist party to write a book supporting their views and enhancing their power over the German people. 5. Study Sources E, F and G Do sources E and G prove that Goering, (Source F), was telling lies? Explain your answer. Source E and G both suggest that Goering was partly, if not entirely responsible for the Reichstag fire. Goering condemns these allegations as being "ridiculous"; he says that General Halder's suggestion- that he told a group of people at a dinner party in 1943 he set fire to the Reichstag- is not true. General Franz Halder claims that while at lunch on Hitler's birthday party in 1943, during a conversation about the Reichstag, Goering broke into the conversation and said how "The only one who knows about the Reichstag is myself, as it was I who set fire to the building". However, Halder is giving evidence at his trial for War crimes in 1946. He is obviously trying to protect himself during these trials and people say many things under pressure that are not necessarily true but help them in some way. This means that the statement by Halder cannot be proved to be correct and therefore does not prove anything. It is ten years after the fire that the birthday party for Hitler in which these allegations where said to have taken place was held. The seriousness of the issue would have probably blown over by then, so Goering could have been joking. After all, it was a happy occasion and Goering, being an important Nazi figure, could not afford for allegations of this nature. ...read more.

Conclusion

For example, source G which was written after the Confessor had been killed. Also, source E which are the words of a man who is defending himself in trial. Van der Lubbe was mentally and physically handicapped and had limited knowledge of the building. This and the extent of the damage (shown in source J) to the Reichstag, was so great that it is difficult to believe his statement in source B which says he acted alone. Because many books and sources written at the time show bias points of views in support of either the Communist or Nazi party it is difficult to come to a clear conclusion as to who set fire to the Reichstag. There weren't many people who did not take a side either with the Communists or the Nazis in those days and if they weren't part of the Nazi or Communist party they would be scared to publish their view of who planned the Reichstag fire as it meant that they would be in danger of conflict from either party. Both parties were powerful; especially the Nazi party and this power meant that if the Nazi party had planned the fire they would have been able to cover it up easily. On the other hand, if Van der Lubbe did act alone there is not enough compelling evidence in support as he was executed so soon after the Reichstag fire. In conclusion there has been much confusion over the Reichstag fire as many sources and confessions are unreliable either because they are written from a bias point of view, which is common, or they are confessions made while under pressure. Some sources cannot be supported as the writer or confessor was killed shortly after their statements were made. There is also doubt over whether Van der Lubbe was solely responsible for the fire for many reasons, including his mental and physical health. Even if he was responsible for the fire we will probably never know for certain because he was killed so soon after his confession. 1 ...read more.

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