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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… 

Inside 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. 

Goering 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." 

…Göring 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."

Notice 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… 

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


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