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 Van der Lubbe
Dr Sack
A Hayes
Fireman Roth
Herr Wingurth


Sefton Delmer

You are: Arthur Koestler

This is a document which you have. It says: ‘I hereby declare that I, Karl Ernst, and 2 other SA men (Heines and Schultz) set fire to the German Reichstag. Goring told me to do it, and he and Goebbels planned the fire. There was a young man called Van der Lubbe. We tricked him into setting a small fire in the Reichstag, but we set the main fires in the main Chamber. One of my men stayed with him all afternoon, so that we would be sure he would turn up and get the blame.

                We met at 8 pm. We went into Goring’s room, and went into the Reichstag by an underground passage. We put paraffin on the chairs and curtains. We started the fire at exactly 9.05 pm. But I do not trust Goring and Goebbels. If I die, you must publish this letter to the world.

Signed Karl Ernst, Berlin, June 1934.’

Koestler was a Communist and hated the Nazis. Koestler and the Communists did not believe that Van der Lubbe started the fire. They held a mock trial in Paris in 1934 to ‘prove’ that the Nazis started the fire. Karl Ernst was an SA man who had been killed in 1934. This ‘confession’ was published at the trial. But in 1954, Koestler admitted that the confession was made up.

1.       Who claimed to be the author of the document you have?

2.       What was Karl Ernst?

3.       Who, according to Ernst, started the Reichstag fire?

4.       Who, according to Ernst, planned the fire?

5.       Did Ernst say that he tricked Van der Lubbe into getting the blame for the fire? How did he do this?

6.       How, did Ernst say, did the SA men get into the Reichstag?

7.       What time did they meet?

8.       What time did they start the fire?

9.       How did they start the fire?

10.   Why, did Ernst say, did he write down this amazing confession?


11.   What political party do you belong to?

12.   So do you hate the Nazis?

13.   Do you think that Van der Lubbe started the fire?

14.   When did you publish this confession.

15.   Was this trial a ‘mock’ trial, held purely to prove that the Nazis started the fire?

16.   Did you make up this confession?


William Shirer 
Arthur Koestler
Herr Rauschning
Franz Halder
10 Witness question sheets, Prosecution/Defence sheets, Complete teachers pack

See the video of the roleplay at the International School of Toulouse

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