Marinus van der Lubbe

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Person.png Marinus van der Lubbe   SpartacusRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(“lone nut”?, arsonist?)
Born13 January 1909
Died10 January 1934 (Age 24)
Supposed perpetrator ofReichstag Fire
Interests • Reichstag Fire
• arson
Blamed for the Reichstag Fire

Marinus van der Lubbe was accused of the Reichstag Fire. Although he might have started it on its own, there are still many murky aspects to the case.

Early life

Marinus van der Lubbe was born in Leiden in the Netherlands. While working as a bricklayer, Van der Lubbe came in contact with the labour movement; in 1925, at age 16, he joined the Communist Party of the Netherlands (CPN) and its youth wing, the Communist Youth Bund (CJB). In 1926, he was injured at work, getting lime in his eyes, which hospitalized him for a few months and almost left him blind. Since the injury forced him to quit his job, he was unemployed with a pension of only 7.44 guilders a week.

Afterwards, Van der Lubbe planned to emigrate to the Soviet Union, but he lacked the funds to do so. He was politically active among the unemployed workers' movement until 1931, when he fell into disagreement with the CPN and instead approached the Group of International Communists.

In the General Election of November 1932, the German Communist Party (KPD) won 100 seats in the Reichstag. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) did slightly better with 121 seats but it was the Nazi Party with 196, that had the greatest success. However, when Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor, in January 1933, the Nazis only had a third of the seats in Parliament.

Marinus van der Lubbe read about these events in the Dutch newspapers. He told his friend, Koos Vink, that he believed that Germany was on the verge of revolution. He decided he wanted to play a role in these events and on 3rd February 1933, he decided to walk to Berlin. He arrived fifteen days later. He was disappointed to discover that the KPD was not actively resisting Hitler's rule. He decided to take matters into his own hands by setting a number of public buildings on fire. [1]

The Fire

The first report of a fire in the Reichstag came shortly after 9:00 p.m., when a Berlin fire station received an alarm call. By the time police and firefighters arrived, the lower house 'Chamber of Deputies' was engulfed in flames. The police conducted a thorough search inside the building and accused Van der Lubbe. He was arrested, as were four communist leaders soon after.

There are three theories for the fire:

  • The National Socialists spoke of a “communist uprising”, for which the fire in the Reichstag was allegedly meant to be the beacon. Much of the historical research argues that the National Socialists - initially actually believing in the communist uprising - took advantage of the opportunity and presented the suspicion as a fact.
  • Even after the fire in the Reichstag, it was suspected that the National Socialists themselves had started the fire in order to have a pretext for the persecution of political opponents and the subsequent "Gleichschaltung" of the German state. Members of the ruling NSDAP were most likely to have had the opportunity to do so - especially Reichstag President Göring, because a pipeline about two meters high led from the boiler house at his official palace to the heating center in the basement of the Reichstag.
  • Finally, there is the thesis of the sole perpetrator of Marinus van der Lubbe, who was caught at the scene of the crime. According to this line of thought, a significant element of the National Socialist expansion of power can ultimately be traced back to a coincidental event that suited the National Socialists.

Precisely four weeks after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. Hitler's government stated that van der Lubbe was the culprit, and it attributed the fire to communist agitators.

A German court decided later that year that Van der Lubbe had acted alone, as he had claimed. The day after the fire, the Reichstag Fire Decree was passed. The Nazi Party used the fire as a pretext to claim that communists were plotting against the German government, which made the fire pivotal in the establishment of Nazi Germany.

Van der Lubbe insisted that he acted alone and the burning of the Reichstag was his own idea. He went on to claim, "I do nothing for other people, all for myself. No one was for setting the fire." However, he hoped that his act of arson would lead the revolution.[2]

Marinus van der Lubbe was pardoned in 2008, although the acquittal was not based on any judgement on actual culpability, but a general amnesty against an unfair justice system[3].

1955 testimony of SA member Hans-Martin Lennings

In July 2019, more than 80 years after the event, Germany's Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung and the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland published a 1955 affidavit uncovered in some papers of Fritz Tobias which were found in the archives of the Amtsgericht (court) in Hannover. The affidavit by Hans-Martin Lennings (1904–1962), a former member of the Nazis' paramilitary SA unit, stated that on the night of the fire, he and his SA group drove Van der Lubbe from an infirmary to the Reichstag, where they noticed "a strange smell of burning and there were clouds of smoke billowing through the rooms". The statement suggests the fire had already started when they arrived and that the SA played a role in the arson.[4]

Lennings, who died in 1962, further stated in his account that he and other members of his squad had protested the arrest of Van der Lubbe. "Because we were convinced that Van der Lubbe could not possibly have been the arsonist, because according to our observation, the Reichstag had already been burning when we dropped him off there", he said in the testimony. He claimed he and the other witnesses were detained and forced to sign a paper that denied any knowledge of the incident. Later, nearly all of those with knowledge of the Reichstag fire were executed. Lennings said that he had been warned and escaped to Czechoslovakia.[5]

Lennings had asked that his account be certified in 1955, in the event the Reichstag fire case ever returned to trial.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

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  2. Marinus van der Lubbe, statement to police (3rd March, 1933)
  6. {
  11. |archive-date=11 January 2021