On the 27th February 1933, the Reichstag building was destroyed by a fire. The fire spread so quickly that is was believed to be arson. Marinus Van der Lubbe, a young Dutchman of low intelligence was arrested. Van der Lubbe was caught at the Reichstag building with matches and firelighters. Van Der Lubbe admitted to committing the crime, he was then tried and executed. The Nazi government claimed that it was the communists first move in a conspiracy to unleash a revolution in Germany .
However others believed that the Nazis had caused the fire with Van Der Lubbe so as to provide an excuse for taking emergency measures against Germany’s left wing parties. Finally, recent evidence suggests that Van Der Lubbe was responsible for starting the fire and that the Nazis had exploited the incident. Many people wonder if Van Der Lubbe did actually tell the truth or did the Nazis want an excuse to ban the communists and win the election on March the 5th.
The rise of the nazis Adolf Hitler was a soldier who fought in the German army during World war 1. It had a huge effect on him as it was ”the first real purpose of his life” and turned him into a very patriotic man. He was proud to be alive at such a time and felt great pride in representing his country. The treaty of Versailles which followed Germany’s defeat also had a huge impact on Hitler’s life. Hitler began to feel hatred for the ”stab in the back” which lost them the war. He blamed the communists and the jews and he would not make a pact with the jews.
Germans began to respect Hitler because in schools they were taught to feel that communists were responsible for the ”stab in the back”. When Hitler came to terms with losing the war his main aim was to win back 13% of the land that Germany had lost during the war which contained 48% of Germany’s iron production and 15% of its agricultural production. 6 Million Germans lived in this part of the land and the treaty of Versailles gave the Germans a big disadvantage – their army only consisted of 100,000 men and they couldn’t have an air force or use battleships because they weren’t allowed.
Source A2 is an extract from the 25 point programme which was issued in 1921. It explains why the Nazis were so popular in the early years:
– They demanded for the abolition of the treaty of Versailles which appealed to the public because he felt humiliated by it.
– They demanded for the union of all Germans to form a great Germany
– They demanded generous allowances for old age pensioners
– They demanded that the state financed the education of gifted children and the strong creation of a central government.
Between 1919-23 the Nazi party had become very popular. They years 1919-23 were named ”the nightmare years”. The Nazi party became very popular because they promised to try and save Germany, and their appeal to the nation improved with hyperinflation. During these years, people were homeless, there were food shortages and high taxation. Both the rich and the poor were suffering; neither could afford essential things and people turned against the government and began to support extremists like the Nazi’s and communists.
In 1923 Hitler tried to seize power in Munich – this was to be the first stage of setting up a right wing dictatorship. This plan failed and Hitler was arrested and his party were banned. Hitler was put on trial on the 24th of February,1924 for treason. He served only 9 months of a 5 year sentence and by 25th February 1925, he had re-founded the party and had changed the way he was going to get into power; the party was now going to follow a legal path to power through the ballot box.
During the years 1924-28 the Nazi party declined because the quality of life in Germany was improving under the rule of Gustav streseman. Under streseman’s rule, he stopped the printing of paper money and abolished the mark, replacing it with a new currency called the Rentermark. That was only the beginning of one of his great ideas. To begin with very few Germans could be persuaded to join the nazi party, however in the years of 1929-33, inflation and unemployment re occurred and it was now Hitler’s chance to shine again. The Weimar politicians appeared to have no solutions to the rising inflation and unemployment but Hitler and the Nazi’s had plenty. In every election Hitler and the Nazi party built up support and offered simple solutions to Germany’s complicated problems.
In 1929 Wall street in America crashed, causing a world wide depression which resulted in high numbers of unemployment. This was a chance for the Nazi party to offer a way out of the depression and to come up with some solutions for the unemployment. They promised tax cuts to the farmers which were now needed and also promised an increase in jobs. In the years following 1929, two parties benefited the most; the Nazis and the communists. In 1928 the nazis had 12 seats – in 1930 they had 107.
The rise in votes meant that the Two parties were not bitter rivals and competed fiercely against each other to get elected into power. Source A6 is useful to a historian studying why people voted for the nazis because it was written by a leading nazi, Albert Speer writing in his memories after world war 2. This is a primary source and is therefore more reliable. It explains how he and his mother saw how the nazi party would bring hope to Germany. They liked the fact that the storm troops were on patrol and had things under control. This source may be slightly un reliable because it could be biased as he was a member of the nazi party. It may not be very useful to a historian because he was a member therefore only gave his point of view which was positive unlike other people who may have had different reasons for supporting the nazis.
Source A7 could also be useful to a historian studying why people voted for the nazi party because it was written by Christopher Isherwood in 1936 after he had experienced life in Germany. The purpose of the source is to describe how bad life was in Germany before Hitler became chancellor. The source is useful because it tells us that people turned to violence and that people supported the nazis as they appeared to be the only remedy to rid Germany of all the violence. This source may be slightly unreliable because it was a novel therefore he may have made things make more exciting and dramatic to sell more copies and make it more popular.
According to source A8 , Hitler became chancellor on January 30th 1933 because the elite in Germany applied pressure to the senile president to appoint him. These people were the right wing political leaders – the military and the industrialists. The right wing political leaders wanted Hitler to become chancellor because they liked the idea of getting rid of the communists. The military liked the idea because Hitler said he would re-arm Germany and abolish the treaty of Versailles . The industrialists wanted to get rid of trade unions to stop workers going on strike and so they could control their workers. Everybody believed they could get something out of the nazis!
In source A8b Hitler was made chancellor because people thought they could control him . Within a few days of Hitler being chancellor they lost control of him and were proved wrong.
Source A9 tells us that 63% of people didn’t want Hitler to become chancellor, but instead of trying to stop him, they were too busy in their own fights and Hitler took advantage of the situation.
Source A12b tells us that there were too many political parties fighting each other so again Hitler took advantage of the situation as the Weimar governments were too weak and ineffective to pull Germany through the depression.
When the nazis found out about the Reichstag being burnt down their immediate reaction was to ban the communists. Their proof was that van der lubbe was caught with firelighters at the scene and he was a communist. The enabling act allowed Hitler to pass any law he wanted. The nazis wanted this so that they could get into full power and eliminate any other parties which may jeopardise their power and make communism illegal. The enabling act brought an end to human rights in Germany because if people had beliefs that Hitler didn’t like, they were put into concentration camps. Hitler threatened the Reichstag to vote for the enabling act with methods such as threatening with guns and name calling.
The case against the nazis
In section B I will be looking at the evidence that suggests that the nazis were responsible for the Reichstag fire.
Source B1 shows the ‘gutted remains’ of the Reichstag building the morning after the fire. It was said that one man could not have started a fire that caused so much destruction.
The Reichstag fire helped the Nazi’s as the following week it was the election and communist support decreased, meaning the nazis got over 50% of the votes which they wanted. Van der Lubbe was caught at the scene of the fire wielding matches and firelighters and he admitted to starting the fire but it was believe that he could not have started the fire alone as he was deformed and half blind so they concluded that other communists were also to blame.
Other sources claim that there were seven people involved in plotting and committing the fire, these seven were:
-Heines and Schultz (who were SA men)
-Goering and Goerbels (who were Hitler’s right hand men)
-Sandler(who looked after Van Der Lubbe)
-and Van Der Lubbe himself
The SA men wanted to set fire to the building because they believed that they would be serving Hitler and doing him proud.
An English journalist wrote source C1, it explains how ”even Hitler himself was not absolutely certain that the fire was a communist plot”. Him seeing Hitler acting this way with Goebbles will have made his suspicion of the nazi’s plotting the fire no more.
Source C2 is a report in ”the times” newspaper which was a report issued by the Prussian authorities about how much the communists were to blame. This source is probably biased because the Prussian authorities were Nazis.
In my opinion the Nazis put Van der lubbe up to setting the Reichstag building on fire. I think this because Van Der Lubbe would not have been able to commit the crime himself as he was mentally and physically disabled. I think he was set up by the Nazis because the Nazis wanted to secure their seat so thought that using a ‘dumb’ communist would set them up.