Who done it? Ex-Nazi testimony sparks further mystery over 1933 Reichstag fire

Hitler’s grip on Germany was cemented following the Reichstag Fire in February 1933. Hitler blamed Communists, Jews, labor unions and used his newly won position as Chancellor to destroy the opposition and begin the 12 years of Nazi terror.

Ninety climbers, 100,000 square meters of silvery tarpaulins and 5 million enchanted visitors — the wrapping of the Reichstag Building in the summer of 1995 is considered the most spectacular work by artist couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude. From then on everything seemed possible, including the choice to once again make the Reichstag the seat of a democratically elected German parliament. (Photo above)

Excerpted from Deutsche Welle 7.26.2019

A newly discovered witness account by an ex-Nazi officer has cast fresh doubt on claims a Dutch communist was behind the 1933 Reichstag fire. The blaze was used by the Nazis to crack down on their opponents.

Reichstag Fire IV 7.26.2019.jpg

The fire, which gutted the German parliament building, is viewed by historians as a pivotal moment in Adolf Hitler’s seizure of total power. The Nazi party used the event to justify an emergency decree and crack down on communists, who were blamed for the blaze.

Read more: Remembering the German Resistance

Marinus van der Lubbe (Ullstein)

Marinus van der Lubbe was blamed for the Reichstag fire and executed in 1934

Germany’s RND newspaper group on Friday published a 1955 affidavit found in the archives of a Hanover court.

In the account by Hans-Martin Lennings, a former member of the Nazis’ paramilitary SA unit, Lennings stated that he drove Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe to the Reichstag on the night of the fire.

According to the testimony, when Lennings and his SA group brought van der Lubbe to the Reichstag they noticed “a strange smell of burning and there were clouds of smoke billowing through the rooms.”

It’s unclear why the SA unit would have brought van der Lubbe from an infirmary to the Reichstag, but the statement suggests the fire had already started by the time they arrived.

Van der Lubbe was later blamed for the blaze, convicted of arson and executed after admitting he committed the act alone. He said he had committed the arson to rally communists against fascism. Four other defendants in the trial were acquitted, a decision that angered Hitler.

Reichstag Fire II 7.26.2019

From afar, the row of upright, black cast-iron slabs in front of the Reichstag Building are reminiscent of the narrow grave slabs of Jewish cemeteries. If you take a closer look, Dieter Appelt’s artwork reveals the names, dates and places of death of those Reichstag deputies who were murdered by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945.


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