WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE REICHSTAG FIRE? 1. Rudolf Diels, who was the head of the Prussian police at the time, wrote source A. It says that Van Der Lubbe was caught red handed and that he must have acted alone, there was no proof of anyone else being involved, not even communists. During Van Der Lubbe's trial in 1933, he confessed he had set fire to the Reichstag, but said he hadn't been helped. Source B shows that he was insistent that he had worked alone. This agrees with source A, but Van Der Lubbe might have been lying to protect the other people who had helped him, who probably were important members of the communist party according to Goring's theory.
If he was lying, he could also be covering the tracks of the Nazi party, who could have set it all up and, as they did, place the blame on the communists. Rudolf Diels' account could be seen as reasonably reliable. However, it was written 12 years after the incident so Diels' memory might not have been that reliable after all. Van Der Lubbe's speech is not a reliable source either because he could have been protecting other people.
It was known that he was half-blind, mentally slow, injured (leg) and that he would have done anything to have his name down in history. So source B, even though it was said only shortly after the event, might not be reliable at all. So source B supports source A in the way that they both say Van Der Lubbe acted alone, but none of the source are totally reliable, so we cannot really use them to prove the theory of Van Der Lubbe acting alone. 2. Rudolf Diels, a high-ranking Nazi official, wrote an account of the fire, source A. That account seems to disagree with Goring and Hitler's theory that the Reichstag fire had been a communist plot. Because it was written after the Second World War, it is evident that Diels wasn't just simply acting on obedience to Hitler and the Nazi party.
He wouldn't have spoken against Hitler while he was still alive because he was scared of Hitler. Diels was the head of the Prussian political police at the time, so he was one of the first people to go and see the Reichstag, so he was able to investigate the scene only minutes after the crime had been committed. The account says that he found Van Der Lubbe alone in the Reichstag, he also gives evidence to prove the possibility that Van Der Lubbe started the fire alone. He talks about the architecture and materials, all of it was mostly wood, old furniture and heavy curtains, and all of these were highly inflammable. He says that Van Der Lubbe could have easily set fire to the Reichstag as he ran around the long corridors, waving his shirt around and lighting every thing possible.
His descriptions seem very clear even though the account was written a long time after the fire, so could he really remember so well? But then again it was a very important event and therefore not easily forgotten. From this evidence I believe that Rudolf Diels' account of the fire is more or less reliable, but there is no proof. But a few things suggest the opposite.
First of all he said he believed Lubbe has acted alone, but later he says, .".. several details suggested that communists who had helped him start these other fires, might have helped with the Reichstag Fire". Diels' account was also written 12 years after the actual fire but he can still remember lots of small details such as the look on Van Der Lubbe's face and the words he heard and said himself during the incident. However, he was chief of police so he probably had access to a lot of notes and records that would have helped him write the statement. Maybe Diels had been covering people who had been helping Van Der Lubbe. And also even if Diels' account seemed believable, you have to remember that Van Der Lubbe was mentally and physically handicapped and so its unlikely that he could have acted on his own. Although Diel's account is well written and on its own would probably convince a person that Van Der Lubbe acted alone, there are too many factors working against it.
So I don't think it is reliable enough to use as evidence in finding out the real cause of the fire. 3. The sources C and D agree that the communists started the fire. Source C does not directly say that the communists started the fire, but it does not say that the Nazis started it. Hindenburg, dressed as an ancient Roman, with Togas, speaks of the fire as an opportunity, not as a planned operation, and it says 'THE RED PERIL' which is referring to the Communists. Source C was also from a British magazine, which shows it wasn't just the Nazis who blamed the communists for the fire.
Source D is an example of typical Nazi anti-Communist propaganda, it was published as a direct response to the fire; its purpose was to make the German people scared and angry towards all Communists... Source D shows one of the measures Hitler took to exploit the fire. As proof of this, Hindenburg signed a decree the next day granting the Nazis the right to prevent freedom of speech and therefore eliminating all opposition to the Nazis. At this time the Nazi party is gaining more and more control, the first source show that is Hitler trying to be dictator, that he is using the fire as an opportunity, but Source D is just justifying the increased power to Hitler by blaming the communists for the fire.
This puts C and D in agreement. 4. The Nazis would have many reasons to publish such a book. The most important reason would be anti-Communist propaganda. Before the fire, Communism was becoming very popular. Hitler saw Communism as a serious threat, which was why the fire was so convenient.
The book would have backed up the Nazi theory that the fire was a Communist plot to commence an "Armed Uprising". The book would have helped convince most Germans that the Communists were planning to take power. This would have confirmed what the German people thought already and giving the Nazis a great support, which would have a big effect on the elections. The book would no doubt be only a small part in a large scale propaganda organised by Hitler's staff, they tried to get through to people by posters, radio and party speeches. Soon the people would grow to hate communists, children would be brought up to hate all communists.
It was the Nazi strategy for getting rid of all their opposition, as the Communist party and the Socialists were the biggest and therefore most dangerous opposition. But the socialists were not as extreme as the Communists and therefore less of a risk. However, the communists still polled highly in the elections, but not high enough. 5. The sources E and G do not prove at all that Goring was telling lies.
The authenticity of source G is very questionable because the communist party published it after Ernst's death. It would suit the communists to publish such information as this as it would gain them support and place some of the blame on the Nazi party. There is no other proof that Karl Ernst had made that confession, so this piece of evidence is not very reliable at all. If however there was more proof that Ernst was behind the fire, then it would probably be much more reliable, but in the meantime it just appeared as a small effort by the Communist party to place the blame on the Nazis.
However, General Franz Halder's evidence is much more plausible, but still not completely sure. He was going to jail anyway, so he could as well tell the truth, this would make his account credible as he has nothing to lose. But, he may be saying it to try and save himself, he may have thought that by giving this evidence, it would be considered in his favour when it came to his prosecution. In an extreme case, he may even dislike Goring for some reason and decide to seek revenge by making up evidence.
Therefore these two sources do not prove that Goring was behind the fire. Although Goring is also trying to save his skin as he is also on trial. It is likely that he is telling the truth and did not start the fire. I do not think such a high-ranking official would do a job as risky and apparently easy as that, when he could just easily get someone else to do it. 6. Source H suggests that the Nazis did not plan the fire, because they were not ready for it.
If the Nazis had really organised the fire, they would surely have made big preparations before. However, source I shows that Van Der Lubbe, could not possibly have done it alone and on impulse, it explains that he could not have set fire to the building so quickly especially without knowledge of the building and being mentally and physically handicapped. Both sources are unlikely to be very precise because they are from history books, however, the origin of these books is unknown, and a German or someone else could have written them. Source J backs up source I. It shows the extent of the damage that one man could not have acted alone, however it could be showing the worst effected area and the rest of the building could be unharmed. Also you would need more details such as what the room was made of and contained to say that one man couldn't have done it all. So I think that none of them prove whether it was more or less likely that the Nazis started the fire as they are all questionable and sources I and H were written a whole 40 years afterwards and are likely to be just one mans opinion.
7. Source A suggests that Van Der Lubbe was in fact a madman, and it had all been blown out of proportion by Hitler and Goring. Diels describes how it would have been easy for Van Der Lubbe to set fire to the Building because of the old furniture, the dry wood and curtains. The next source, source B, Van Der Lubbe's confession, also confirms this point. It seems that Diels believed this confession after interviewing Van Der Lubbe at length.
Source C does not express the opinion that the Nazis were not responsible for the fire but that they saw the opportunity to take the dictatorship of the country. The book about the fire, source D, clearly suggests that Van Der Lubbe was part of a communist uprising, however, it was just Nazi propaganda and so it was just part of the Nazi plot to take power and eliminate the communists. It also was used to get the support of German people. Source E suggests that the fire was started by the Nazis, the General Franz Halder explains that Goring confessed to starting the fire, but he said that it was him in person who set fire to the building, this is unlikely because it would be difficult for him to get away without anyone knowing he was there, it was also at a party so it is likely that he was drunk at the time which would have clouded the thinking of both of them. This evidence was denied by Goring at the same trial, he said that he didn't set fire to the Reichstag, it is likely that he said this simply as a lie to save himself, however neither of the sources are very reliable, so the evidence is very unclear. Source G, which was published by the communists, suggests that the fire was started by the S. A, and that they used Van Der Lubbe as a lure.
The source was also published after the death of Karl Ernst, which means that he was unable to confirm or deny any of this confession, so the whole text is very doubtful. Source H backs up the first theory, it is a text published long after the incident and by a historian. It fully supports the idea that the fire was started by Van Der Lubbe, and that the Nazis had genuinely believed that it was the start of a communist uprising and reacted as they saw it. However, the next source suggests that Van Der Lubbe would have needed help, this is a direct contradiction to source A, but it does not mention if communists or Nazis helped him. The final source simply seems to back source I up, and has no suggestion of who caused the damage. 8.
The fact that the fire happened one week before the elections called by the Nazis is very coincidental, it meant that Hitler was able to take power much more easily as he convinced the voters that the communist were about to take over. This would suggest that Hitler was behind the fire to help his own election chances. Therefore, I think that the Nazis started the Reichstag fire, so they could take power and crush all their opposition, as there is more reliable evidence to support this theory. But some of the evidence could lead me to believe that Van Der Lubbe was alone in setting the fire. But then again, the Nazi party saw all other parties as a threat, especially the communists because they were the ones prepared to fight for their beliefs, and the communists also had an enormous following, so the Nazis wanted to get rid of them. Even though I have come to the conclusion that the Nazis were behind the whole thing.
It is impossible to come to any 100% sure conclusion because there have been so many different accounts of the fire and nearly all of them are unreliable in a way. I do not think anyone will ever find out.