after my arrival in the burning Reichstag, the National Socialist
elite had arrived. On a balcony jutting out of the chamber, Hitler
and his trusty followers were assembled. As I entered, Goering
came towards me. His voice was heavy with the emotion of the
dramatic moment: "This is the beginning of the Communist
Revolt, they will start their attack now! Not a moment must be
could not continue. Hitler turned to the assembled company. Now I
saw that his face was purple with agitation and with the heat. He
shouted uncontrollably, as I had never seen him do before, as if
he was going to burst: "There will be no mercy now. Anyone
who stands in our way will be cut down. The German people will not
tolerate leniency. Every communist official will be shot where he
is found. Everybody in league with the Communists must be
arrested. There will also no longer be leniency for social
A few of
my department were already engaged in interrogating Marinus Van
der Lubbe. Naked from the waist upwards, smeared with dirt and
sweating, he sat in front of them, breathing heavily. He panted as
if he had completed a tremendous task. There was a wild triumphant
gleam in the burning eyes of his pale, haggard young face.
voluntary confessions of Marinus Van der Lubbe prevented me from
thinking that an arsonist who was such an expert in his folly
needed any helpers. He had been so active that he had laid several
dozen fires. With a firelighter he had set the chamber aflame.
Then he had rushed through the big corridors with his burning
shirt which he brandished in his right hand like a torch. During
the hectic activity he was overpowered by Reichstag officials. I
reported on the results of the first interrogations of Marinus Van
der Lubbe - that in my opinion he was a maniac. But with this
opinion I had come to the wrong man; Hitler ridiculed my childish
Diels, head of the Prussian political police. He wrote this
account after the Second World War.)
am a Leftist, and was a member of the Communist Party until 1929.
I had heard that a Communist demonstration was disbanded by the
leaders on the approach of the police. In my opinion something
absolutely had to be done in protest against this system. Since
the workers would do nothing, I had to do something myself. I
considered arson a suitable method. I did not wish to harm private
people but something belonging to the system itself. I decided on
the Reichstag. As to the question of whether I acted alone, I
declare emphatically that this was the case.
van der Lubbe, statement to police, 3rd March, 1933)
27th February 1933: ‘Work at home in the evening.
The Leader [Hitler] comes to dine at 21h00. We have some music and
talk. Suddenly a phone call from Dr. Hanfstaengl: “The Reichstag
is on fire!” I take this as a bit of wild fantasy and refuse to
report it to the Leader. I ask for news wherever possible and at
last obtain the dreadful confirmation: it is true! The great dome
is all ablaze. Incendiarism! I immediately inform the Leader, and
we hasten at top speed down the Charlottenburg road to the
Reichstag. The whole building is aflame… Goering meets us on the
way…There is no doubt that communism has made a last attempt to
cause disorder by means of fire and terror, in order to grasp the
power during the general panic… Goering at once suppresses the
entire Communist and Social Democratic Press. Officials of the
Communist Party are arrested during the night.’
(Joseph Goebbels – My Part in Germany’s Fight, 1935)
What had happened, as I later discovered, was that Hanfstängl,
who was trying to sleep off an attack of flu in a room of
Goering's presidential palace opposite to the Reichstag, had been
awakened by the fire engines. He looked out of his window, saw the
fire, rushed to the telephone and called Goebbels.
Reichstag is on fire," he almost shrieked. "Tell the Führer."
stop that nonsense, Putzi. It is not even funny," answered
I am telling the truth."
am not listening to any more of your stale jokes. Go back to bed.
Good night!" And Goebbels hung up.
trouble was that just about four days earlier that merry little
prankster Goebbels, to amuse Hitler, had played a telephone hoax
on Hanfstängl. And when Hanfstängl called him with the Reichstag
fire alarm he thought he was being hoaxed back.
Hanfstängl rang again. "Look here! What I am telling you is
the absolute truth. It is your duty to tell the Führer. If you
don't I guarantee there'll be trouble!" Even then Goebbels
would not believe him.
Delmer, Trail SinisterMartin Secker & Warburg, London 1961.)
I read for the first time
Goebbels' hand-written entry about the Reichstag fire. As he
described it, he was at his home with Hitler on that evening of
February 27, 1933, when the phone rang at nine o'clock. It was the
prankster "Putzi" Hanfstaengl, saying: "The
Reichstag's on fire." Goebbels remembered that he'd been had
twice by Hanfstaengl already that week, and he thought this was
another prank, so he just put the phone down. Hanfstaengl phoned
again and said, "You'd better listen to what I'm saying, The
Reichstag's on fire." Goebbels realized this could be serious
after all, so he made a phone call to the police station at the
Brandenburg Gate, which confirmed that the Reichstag was on fire.
Thereupon he and Hitler jumped into a car and drove straight to
the Reichstag where they found their worst fears confirmed. This
is in the hand-written diary, it is obviously genuine, and it
confirms what we know from other sources.
I got there
at a quarter to ten - just forty minutes after the first alarm had
been given…An excited policeman told me, "They've got one
of them who did it, a man with nothing but his trousers on. He
seems to have used his coat and shirt to start the fire. But there
must be others still inside. They're looking for them there."
…two black Mercedes cars drove through the police
cordon. I knew those cars. "That's Hitler, I'll bet!" I
said to a man beside me. I ducked under the rope the police had
just put up to keep spectators back and rushed across to check up.
I got to the Reichstag entrance Portal Two, it was just as Hitler
jumped out and dashed up the steps two at a time, the tails of his
trench coat flying, his floppy black artist's hat pulled down
over his head. Goebbels and the bodyguard were behind him…
the entrance stood Goering, massive in a camel hair coat, his legs
astride like some Frederician guardsman in a UFA film. His soft
brown hat was turned up in front in what was called 'Potsdam'
fashion. He was very red in the face and glared disapprovingly at
me. How he would have loved to have thrown me out. But Hitler had
just said "Evening , Herr Delmer," and that was my
ticket of admission.
made his report to Hitler, while Goebbels and I stood at their
side listening avidly. "Without a doubt this is the work of
the Communists, Herr Chancellor," Göring said. "A
number of Communist deputies were present here in the Reichstag
twenty minutes before the fire broke out. We have succeeded in
arresting one of the incendiaries."
picked a piece of rag off the floor near one of the charred
curtains. "Here, you can see for yourself Herr Chancellor how
they started the fire," he said. "They hung cloths
soaked in petrol over the furniture and set it alight."
the 'they'. 'They' did this, 'they' did that. For Göring there
was no question that more than one incendiary must have been at
work. It had to be more than one to fit in with his conviction
that the fire was the result of a Communist conspiracy. There had
to be a gang of incendiaries. But as I looked at the rags and the
other evidence, I could see nothing that one man could not have
done on his own…
Delmer, Trail Sinister Martin Secker & Warburg,
from a British magazine by David Partridge, 8th March
1933. Click on the picture to see
a bigger version. The text reads ‘The
red peril – This is a heaven sent opportunity my lad. If you
can’t be a dictator now you never will’
Hitler heard the news about the fire he gave orders that all
leaders of the German
Communist Party should "be hanged that very night." Paul
von Hindenburg vetoed this decision but did agree that Hitler
should take "dictatorial powers". KPD
candidates in the election were arrested and Hermann
Goering announced that the Nazi Party planned "to
exterminate" German communists.
luncheon on the birthday of Hitler in 1942 the conversation turned
to the topic of the Reichstag building and its artistic value. I
heard with my own ears when Goering interrupted the conversation
and shouted: "The only one who really knows about the
Reichstag is I, because I set it on fire!" With that he
slapped his thigh with the flat of his hand (Franz Halder)
nothing to do with it. I deny this absolutely. I can tell you in
all honesty, that the Reichstag fire proved very inconvenient to
us. After the fire I had to use the Kroll Opera House as the new
Reichstag and the opera seemed to me much more important than the
Reichstag. I must repeat that no pretext was needed for taking
measures against the Communists. I already had a number of
perfectly good reasons in the forms of murders, etc. (Herman
on the Reichstag Fire given at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial in
night of the fire to this day, I have been convinced that the
Reichstag was set on fire neither by the communists nor Herman
Goering, but that the fire was the piece de resistance of
Dr. Goebbels's election campaign, and that it was started by an
handful of Storm Troopers all of whom were shot afterwards by SS
commandoes in the vicinity of Berlin. There was talk of ten men,
and of the Gestapo investigating the crime. This was reported to
me on the one hand by Ernst, the Chief of the Berlin Stormtroopers,
who was filled with poisonous hatred of Goebbels, and also by the
police chief Dr. Diels who gave me exact details about the crime
and the identification of the 10 victims.
Sommerfeldt was the Minister of the Interior's press officer at
the time of theReichstag
Fire. He wrote this account in 1956.)
declare that on February 27, 1933 I and two SA men set fire to the
Reichstag. We did so in the belief that we would be serving the Führer.
I suggested to Goering that we use the underground passage leading
from his house to the Reichstag. We decided to start the fire at
about 9 pm, in time for quite a number of radio bulletins. We used
van der Lubbe. He would climb into the Reichstag and blunder about
while we set fire to the building.
confession of Karl Ernst, a leader of the SA, published by
communists in 1934 after Ernst had been killed in the Night of the
of meticulous research, the two authors of the book, historian
Alexander Bahar and physicist and psychologist Wilfried Kugel,
carried out the first comprehensive evaluation of the 50,000 pages
of original court, state attorney office and secret police
(Gestapo) files that had been locked away in Moscow and East
Berlin until 1990. The result is a remarkable and explosive, more
than 800-page document… They “base their evidence largely on
original documents that are stored in public archives, but have
not been evaluated up to now... The book contradicts in many ways
all of the research reports that have been published so far on the
Reichstag fire, based on what the authors say is the first
thorough evaluation of all presently available relevant sources...
Socialist Website < http://www.wsws.org/index.shtml
> Book Review ‘The Reichstag Fire, 68 years on’ by Wilhelm
Klein 5 July 2001. A guest review of the book: Der
Reichstagbrand - Wie Geschichte gemacht wirdby Alexander Bahar, Wilfried Kugel Berlin 2001)