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IGCSE History Coursework Assignment B - Source Analysis of the Reichstag Fire

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Introduction

1) Study Sources A and B. How far is the account in Source A supported by Source B? Explain you answer. Source B supports only some points made in Source A's account. Source A suggested that van der Lubbe and a couple of other communists was involved in the Reichstag fire and in starting other smaller fires in Berlin. However, in Source B, van der Lubbe only mentioned that he was the only one that planned to set the Reichstag fire. He said, "I can only repeat that I set fire to the Reichstag all by my self." This shows that Source B does support some of the points made in Source A. However, when the writer of Source A, Rudolf Diels, interviewed van der Lubbe, he sort of believed that Lubbe could have acted on his own. Diels thought that starting fire is an easy job. Just by putting fire to the heavy curtains or furniture, then a big fire would come out. This was what Rudolf Diels thought when van der Lubbe was making his confessions and this thoughts of him could be proven by Source B. Source B stated that Lubbe set the fire on his own. No other communists helped him even though some communists were brought into court with him. The two justifications above both show that Source B only supports Source A by the fact that van der Lubbe started the Reichstag Fire on his own not with other communists. Even though Source B seemed to support Source A at first, we still don't know if the things said in the sources are true. We must analyze the provenance as well. Source A was written after WWII, so the information might be slightly altered. Diels would not want to end up in jail. Therefore, he'd try to make himself seem innocent but not too innocent. If he seemed too innocent, then the judges won't believe him. ...read more.

Middle

The Nazis needed to blame the communists because they thought the fire was a communist uprising and they were afraid. The Source does not make it seem that the Nazis planned the Fire. However, it the message was not that frank as Source I. Source I clearly shows that it was blaming the Nazis for the plan of the fire. The Source mentioned that Lubbe did not have an idea of what the Reichstag building was like and that he was mentally and physically handicapped. It shows that van der Lubbe is incapable of setting the fire on his own. The source made it seem that the Nazis were being unreasonable. However, we still could not trust both Sources H and I. Both sources were not a primary source. The historian who wrote the book was not present when the evidence was given out. The historian would probably compile many sources together and make his own judgment out of it. Also, he might also be reading or hearing sources that are inaccurate of biased. This makes the source unreliable. The writer of Source I would not know whether or not Lubbe really know the Reichstag building. The writer could not read through Lubbe's mind. Therefore, the Source is inaccurate. Another factor that would affect the two sources is because it's published in 1974. The sources were written after the war in which the historians might have developed hatred to the Nazis and they would want to put the blame to them as much as possible. Unlike Sources H and I, Source J is more accurate. This was a photograph of the remaining Reichstag building right after the event occurred. Obviously, there was not any image editing software back then, so the picture would not be false information. Although we could trust this source, Source J does not give evidence whether the Nazis or the Communists planned the Fire. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Nazis published Source D. The book could have changed people's opinion on the communist party. Hitler had only have 20.4% of the whole Reichstag seats in the November 1932 elections. He needed 50% of the seats in order to gain total control. The book was to emphasize the blame on van der Lubbe and the communists. This is to make the people of Germany more convinced that the communists were the ones who started the fire. Then Hitler could ban the communist party when van der Lubbe is proven guilty. Also, an event that happened right after World War II made some of these sources unreliable. This event was the Cold War. The Cold War was a 'war of words' between the communists and the democrats. USSR and the communist party was seen as the enemy in this war. In Source A, Rudolf Diels wrote the account after WWII. This meant that he was writing during the Cold War. Germany was split into Western Germany (democratic) and Eastern Germany (communist) in 1945. The Nuremberg trials were held in the democratic part of Germany. Therefore, Diels would write his account in a point of view where it would support the democrats to please the judges. The Cold War caused some sources to turn inaccurate. This means that there is another untrustworthy source. It makes it harder for historians to draw conclusion on who started the fire. As you can see, it's hard to choose which of the sources should we trust. Most of them are all propagandas or biased. Modern historians are also confused by with what modern history books have to say. There are not enough reliable results to prove that the communists or the Nazis were the ones who planned the fire. We don't even know whether van der Lubbe might have wanted to get the communists into trouble. There are no exact proofs and evidence to prove a statement. Therefore, much disagreement over the Reichstag Fire issue is due to the unreliable and clashing sources from the past. Michelle Koesnadi IGCSE History Coursework - Assignment B Mr. Boyd 1 ...read more.

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