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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.

"The Reichstag is on fire," he almost shrieked. "Tell the Führer." 

"Oh, stop that nonsense, Putzi. It is not even funny," answered Goebbels.

"But I am telling the truth." 

"I am not listening to any more of your stale jokes. Go back to bed. Good night!" And Goebbels hung up.

The 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. 

But 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. 

Sefton Delmer, Trail Sinister  Martin Secker & Warburg, London 1961.


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