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Who burnt the Reichstag?

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history coursework Who burned the Reichstag? On the evening of the 27th of February the Reichstag parliament building was burned down. The fire started at approximately 9pm. a lecturer from Bremen, Floeter, saw as he was walking past the Reichstag, a man breaking in through the window of the building. He quickly found a policeman and when they returned they saw a mysterious figure in the Reichstag, but more importantly he saw flames. The time was 9:03 p.m. Thaler was next on the scene and he told the policeman to shoot the figure. The policeman fired his gun, and the figure disappeared. at 9:13pm the first report reached the fire station, and at 9:15pm the first fire engine reached the scene. At 9:22pm a policeman tried to enter the building but the flames were so fierce he had to retreat. At 9:27pm the police found a half naked man, the man was Marina Van Der Lubbe. At 9:42pm the 60 fire engines from Berlin all arrived at the Reichstag. However they could not control the blaze and the Reichstag was ruined. The Reichstag was important in German history, because it was vital in the increasing the Nazi's election results. I will study a number of sources' that have been produced, primary and secondary, and try to determine who started the fire, for this I will consider the Nazi's, the Communists and Van Der Lubbe himself. After I have read all the sources and wrote down all relevant details, I will write a conclusion saying who I believe burned the Reichstag. The first group of people to be accused of burning the Reichstag, was the Communists, I will study all sources on them.We know the Communists were the first to be accused because Herman Goering was inside the smouldering Reichstag when he shouted over to Von Papen, "This is a Communist crime against the new government." ...read more.


There is however considerable evidence that suggests the Nazis did not burn the Reichstag. The "Brown Book" which insists that the Nazis did burn the Reichstag is biased, because it was written by the Communists who regarded that Nazis as their worst enemies. The Communists have therefore a good reason to be biased. Whilst Goebels has been accused of organising the fire there is evidence to undermine this claim. When Goebels received the phone call to tell him the Reichstag was on fire, he did not believe it, and he had to get a number of calls before telling Hitler. Goebels was convinced that the news was "pure fantasy", why would Goebels be suprised if he knew all along that the Reichstag was to be burned. As Goebels wrote this down in his diary he is probably telling us the truth- only he was supposed to read his diary so there would be no point in lying to himself. Goering was also blamed but the evidence against him is not foolproof. John Heartfield is famous for his photo montage of Goering standing in front of the burning Reichstag wearing an apron holding an axe in his hands. Heartfeild is biased because he was a Communist and would like to have seen Goering's reputation in shreds. The strongest piece of evidence against Goering was his confession, however the confession was made at a party and Goering may have been confused or maybe just trying to impress Hitler, so this piece of evidence may be unreliable. Also the three Nazis (Gisevius, Diels and Hadler) who gave evidence at the nuremburg trials, may not be reliable, because they may have been trying to get themselves a lighter sentence by inventing stories about Goering. They may have been essentially trying to save their own skin. William Shirer's idea that the Nazis used the underground tunnel to the Reichstag also has flaws in it. ...read more.


After studying all the evidence and sources that I have been given, I have come to the conclusion that Van Der Lubbe burned the Reichstag on his own. I do not think that the Nazi's assisted Van Der Lubbe but the Nazi's did get massive gains from the fire. I believe this because after looking at all the evidence I was not convinced by shirer and saw clearly that AJP Taylor's criticisms of Shirers interpretation/ representation, crucially Van Der Lubbe's confessions that he acted alone, helped to convince me that Van Der Lubbe was guilty. The police were satisfied that they caught the right man and so am I. It was quite difficult to study the evidence because it is, at times contradictory, some of them suggest that the Communists started the fire, others the Nazi's and still others just Van Der Lubbe. Therefore it is hard to come to a definite conclusion. Some of the evidence is biased such as "Armed Uprising", the book written by the Nazi's, blaming the Communists. Although "Armed Uprising" is very useful, because it shows who the Nazi's considered was guilty. A further difficulty was that I did not have all the evidence, Van Der Lubbe was executed before all information could be extracted from him and leaving several areas of mystery. Even though historians have examined the same evidence they can come to very different conclusions, for example AJP Taylor thought that the Nazi's had Burned the Reichstag, but once he read what another historian had to say, he changed his mind and claimed that Van Der Lubbe had burned that Reichstag on his own with no help. Therefore although I have studied the sources and I believe Van Der Lubbe to be responsible someone else studying the same sources could easily come to a different conclusion. If there was however, a chance that somebody found new evidence I may have to change my conclusion, if the evidence was strong enough to suggest Van Der Lubbe was innocent. Andy Clarke History ...read more.

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