'History Today': Who Burnt the Reichstag? Dutch protester Marinus van der Lubbe — Theory the Nazis planned it themselves entirely baseless

This article is especially trustworthy, coming from History Today, which takes a mainstream, anti-Germany stand on WWI and II.
And the author clearly states his reprehensible opinion of Hitler in the full article.
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From: History Today

AJP Taylor

By A.J.P. Taylor

Published in History Today Volume 10 Issue 8 August 1960

The conflagration of the Reichstag provided Hitler with a heaven-sent opportunity. But, writes A.J.P. Taylor, the theory that the Nazis had planned it themselves now appears to be entirely baseless.


A retired civil servant, Fritz Tobias – an anti-Nazi – recently looked at the evidence. He published his results in an illustrated German weekly, Der Spiegel, from which I take them. They are surprising. Here is the story.


At 9.27, the police discovered and arrested a half-naked young man. He was a Dutchman called Marinus van der Lubbe.

Meanwhile, the fire brigade had also been alarmed. The first report reached them at 9.13. The first engine reached the Reichstag at 9.18. There were inevitable delays. Only one side-door was kept unlocked after eight o’clock in the evening.

The firemen, who did not know this, went to the wrong door. Then they wasted time putting out small fires in the passages. There was confusion as one alarm crossed another. The full strength of the Berlin fire-brigade – some sixty engines – was mobilized only at 9.42. By then, the whole building was irreparably lost. It still stands, an empty shell.


Van der Lubbe was taken to the nearest police station. He was interrogated until three in the morning. Then he slept, was given breakfast, and at 8 a.m. questioned again. He gave clear, coherent answers. He described how he had entered the Reichstag; where he had started fires, first with the aid of four firelighters, then by stripping off his garments and setting light to them.

The police checked his story by going round the Reichstag according to his statement with a stop-watch. They found that it fitted precisely up to the moment of his arrest.

Van der Lubbe was clear about his motive. He had hoped that the entire German people would protest against the Nazi government. When this did not happen, he determined that one individual at any rate should make his protest.

Although the burning of the Reichstag was certainly a signal for revolt – a ‘beacon’ he called it – he had given the signal alone. He denied steadily that he had any associates. He knew no Nazis. He was not a Communist – that is, he was not a member of the Communist party. He was, in fact, a Socialist with vaguely left-wing views.

Van der Lubbe also described his movements during the previous weeks, drifting across Germany from one casual ward to another; he even described the shops where he had bought fire-lighters and matches. Here, too, the police checked his story. Every detail was correct. The police-officers concluded that he was unbalanced, but more than usually intelligent, with an exceptionally accurate sense of place and direction.

His interrogators were experienced men, without political commitment. They were convinced that he was speaking the truth and that he had set fire to the Reichstag all alone. The officers of the fire-brigade were also agreed that, so far as they could tell, the Reichstag had burnt exactly as van der Lubbe said it had.

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