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Study the following interpretations of the Reichstag Fire.

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Introduction

Question 5 Study the following interpretations of the Reichstag Fire... * Van de Lubbe was a madman who set fire to the Reichstag on his own. * Van de Lubbe set fire to the Reichstag as art of an attempted Communist lot or revolution. * The Nazis started the Reichstag Fire. Using all the sources and your own knowledge consider all three interpretations and explain which is best supported by the evidence. It is not possible to be certain who started the Reichstag Fire. Some historians believe Van de Lubbe's confessions that he acted alone, some believe that Van de Lubbe acted as art of an attempted Communist lot or revolution. The final theory is that the fire was a deliberate plan by the Nazis to win support by getting rid of their opposition. The sources contain evidence for all three interpretations, although some sources are more reliable than others are. There is evidence in the sources that Van de Lubbe may have acted alone. For example in Source A Rudolf Diels believes that Van de Lubbe could have 'easily set fire to the old furniture, the heavy curtains and the bone dry wooden panels'. Diels is saying that the conditions of the furnishing inside the Reichstag was ideal for a fire to spread. ...read more.

Middle

However in Source B Van de Lubbe said at his trial 'the other defendants in this trial were not in the Reichstag'. The 'other defendants' who were being tried alongside Van de Lubbe were Communists. Van de Lubbe is denying that he acted alone with a group of Communists although Van de Lubbe had a good reason to say this. The Reichstag Fire could have been art of a lot to frame and therefore get rid of the Communists. The Nazis did make gains from the fire whilst the Communists only appear to have suffered. In Source E Rauschning says 'It was not until I heard this conversation that I discovered that the National Socialist leadership was solely responsible', according to Rauschning, he overheard Nazi leaders boasting about setting fire to the Reichstag. If the Nazi leadership were responsible for the Reichstag Fire, surely they wouldn't be talking about it so as to let people overhear them. But according to Rauschning they were talking about it with 'laughter, cynical jokes, boasting, being very complacent about it'. Source F, a speech by General Franz Halder says that 'Goering confessed that "The only one who really knows about the Reichstag Fire building is I, for I set fire to it'. The fact that this happened at 'lunch on Hitler's birthday' makes the source quite believable because there would have been Nazis at the lunch ...read more.

Conclusion

The Source is very unbelievable because Nazis wrote it. Source J and K also talk about Nazi gains. Source J talks about how Goering ordered "the arrest of all communists, deputies and leading officials". Written by a modern day British historian there seems to be no reason why he would lie, however we cannot be sure of this. Source K depicts Hitler and Hiddenburg as Roman emperors, with Hiddenburg telling Hitler (whilst handing him the emergency powers) to take advantage of the situation. The Source is saying that because of the fire, Hitler was able to become a dictator. They are shown as roman emporers because roman emporers were dictators. The title of the cartoon is 'The Red Peril' meaning Communists being a danger. There seems to be chaos in the background as the Reichstag building burns. This was taken from a British magazine and does have reliability problems. Hindenburg did not actually say this to Hitler. In conclusion it seems there is evidence to support all three interpretations. Source A and B suggest Van de Lubbe was guilty alone, Source C and D suggest it was a Communist lot and sources E, F and H suggest that the Nazis did it. However it seems that it is most likely the Nazis set fire to the Reichstag because the evidence that supports this interpretation seems to back up each other well and also because of the way the Nazis were able to gain from the fire. History Reichstag Fire Coursework ...read more.

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