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Profile: Marinus van der Lubbe
Marinus van der Lubbe was a participant or observer in the following events:
Marinus van der Lubbe. [Source: Spartacus Educational]The German house of parliament, the Reichstag building, is set ablaze, allegedly by Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch communist. At 9:14 p.m., a fire station in Berlin receives an alarm that the Reichstag, assembly location of the German parliament, is on fire. The fire seems to have been started in several places, and by the time the police and firemen arrive, a huge explosion has set the main Chamber of Deputies in flames. Looking for clues, the police quickly find 24-year-old van der Lubbe, naked and cowering behind the building. Van der Lubbe is a Dutch insurrectionary council communist and unemployed bricklayer who recently arrived in Germany. Chancellor Adolf Hitler and political aide Hermann Göring arrive soon after, and, when they are shown van der Lubbe, Göring immediately declares the fire was set by the communists and has the party’s leaders arrested. [Shirer, 10/11/2011, pp. 191-192]
State of Emergency Will Be Declared in response to the Fire - Hitler will subsequently take advantage of the situation to declare a state of emergency and encourage aging President Paul von Hindenburg to sign the Reichstag Fire Decree, abolishing most of the human rights provisions of the 1919 Weimar Republic Constitution. The Nazis are running on a platform of hysterical anti-communism, insisting that Germany is on the verge of a communist revolution and the only way to stop this is to pass the Enabling Act. Hitler’s platform in the campaign will comprise of little more than demands that voters increase the Nazi share of seats so the Enabling Act can be passed. In order to decrease the number of opposition members who can vote against the Enabling Act, Hitler plans to ban the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), which holds 17 percent of the parliament’s seats, after the elections and before the new Reichstag convenes. [Chicago Tribune, 4/27/1942]
Nazis Will Claim that the Alleged Perpetrator Is Part of a Communist Conspiracy - The Reichstag fire will allow Hitler to accelerate the banning of the Communist Party and will be used to confirm Nazi claims of a pending communist revolution. The Nazis will argue that the fire was meant to serve as a signal to launch the revolution, and warn the German public about the grisly fate it will suffer under communist rule. The Nazis will allege that van der Lubbe was part of the communist conspiracy to burn down the Reichstag and seize power, while the communists will allege that van der Lubbe was part of a Nazi conspiracy to blame the crime on them. The resulting Leipzig War Crimes Trial will be widely publicized and broadcast on the radio. The public will assume that the court will find the communists guilty on all counts. However, Georgi Dimitrov, who will stand accused in the trial for involvement with the Reichstag fire, will give up his right to a court-appointed lawyer and defend himself successfully. He will prove his innocence and the innocence of his communist comrades (except van der Lubbe) and be set free. In addition, he will present evidence that the organizers of the fire were senior members of the Nazi Party. However, van der Lubbe will say that he set the Reichstag fire, and did so in an attempt to rally the German people against fascism. He will be sentenced to death and be executed by guillotine on January 10, 1934, three days before his 25th birthday. [Milwaukee Journal, 8/24/1942; Guardian, 1/12/2008]
Responsibility for the Fire Will Become a Subject of Controversy - Historians will generally agree that van der Lubbe was involved in the Reichstag fire. The extent of the damage, however, will lead to considerable debate over whether he acted alone. Considering the speed with which the fire engulfed the building, van der Lubbe’s reputation as a mentally disturbed arsonist hungry for fame, and cryptic comments by leading Nazi officials, it will be generally believed the Nazi hierarchy was involved in starting the fire in order to reap political gain. Journalist William L. Shirer will argue that van der Lubbe was goaded into starting the fire by someone else, while the Nazis set a more elaborate fire at the same time, thereby placing van der Lubbe at the scene of the crime and framing him for an attempted communist takeover. Despite the outcome of the event and the dubious claims by the Nazi Party of a takeover, the issue of responsibility for the fire will still be debated decades later. [Shirer, 10/11/2011, pp. 191-192; Oxford University Press, 12/14/2013] The Enabling Act will be passed by the Reichstag on March 23, 1933. It will be the second major step after the Reichstag Fire Decree through which the Nazis legally establish Nazi Germany by providing the government with legislative powers, effectively handing dictatorial powers to Hitler. [Daily Telegraph, 4/15/2001; Koonz, 11/30/2005, pp. 33; Guardian, 1/12/2008]
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