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The Reichstag fire was a cynical plot hatched by the Nazis to further their quest in control over the

political process - How valid is this assessment of the Reichstag Fire An arson attack on the Reichstag building took place on 27th February 1933. Many Historians believe that as a direct result of this event the Nazi Party were able to gain complete control of Germany. For this reason some believe the fire was intentionally started by the Nazis. This is not, however, the only theory. Structuralist historians such as Hans Momsen and Ian Kershaw argue that the Nazi Party did not start the fire and simply took advantage of the situation to further their own political gain. Support for the Nazi Party as well as other extremist political parties had been on the rise since the death of former chancellor Gustav Stresseman, in 1929. Stresseman had previously been credited with transforming the Weimar after the effects of World War I. Moreover, the Great Depression following the Wall Street crash meant increased support for extremist parties. The Great Depression caused unemployment rates to dramatically increase, as well as economic chaos in which the Nazi and Communist parties thrived. Extremist parties preferred violent means to the democratic tactics of other parties within Germany. This rise can be seen in Document 17 of my resource pack which shows a rise from 12 deputies in the Reichstag in May 1928 to 107 Deputies in September of 1930 for the Nazi Party. It could therefore be argued that in setting fire to the Reichstag the Nazi party were taking an unnecessary risk as they were likely to gain control anyway. On top of the support following the Great Depression, the Nazis road to power was also helped by Franz Von Papen, former German Chancellor. In hindsight, Von Papen can be seen as severely underestimating the ability of Hitler in the consolidation of the power. He saw Hitler as a minor political figure and after he had served his purpose planned on ousting him from his position and forming a majority government. This however, backfired greatly, with the Nazi partys ever increasing support, Hindenburg had no choice but to appoint Hitler as chancellor in January 1933, with Von Papen Vice Chancellor. Despite their already large group of followers, the Reichstag fire can be seen as very important for the Nazi party as it allowed them to effectively remove their only political rivals in the Communist Party (KPD).Document 2 in my resource pack shows how the Nazis used propaganda techniques to attack the KDP as well as a personal attack by Hitler shows in document 3. After the fire and the arrest of pro-Communist Marinus Van der Lubbe and three Bulgarians (Georgi Dimitrov, Vasil Tanev and Blagoi Popov), Hitler declared a state of panic and convinced President Hindenburg to issue a decree entitled Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State, more commonly known as the Reichstag Fire Decree, this decree nullified many civil liberties of the German citizens, allowed the imprisonment of anyone opposing the Nazis and to suppress all anti-Nazi publications( As seen in Document 8 in my resource pack). What the decree effectively did was establish a one-part Nazi state in Germany just 4 weeks after Hitler was named chancellor on January 30th, 1933. For these reasons, historians have debated for decades over who started the Reichstag Fire, was it a Nazi plot to gain Totalitarian rule or was it truly just one man attempting to make a statement, what all parties can agree on however, is that the Reichstag Fire of 1933 was capitalised by Hitler and allowed him to gain complete control over Germany until the end of the Third Reich. This can be seen in Document 11 of my resource pack where Sorence

Swigart states arrest on suspicion, imprisonment without trial, the horrors of the concentration camps. This condition would persist until the end of the Third Reich. Intentionalist Historians agree with the idea that The Reichstag fire was a cynical plot hatched by the Nazis to further their quest in control over the political process because the party profited so greatly in creating an establishment that Hitler had complete control over. A source that supports this theory is Document 9. At the Nuremburg Trials in 1946, former Army General Franz Halder states Goering interrupted the conversation and shouted: "The only one who really knows about the Reichstag is I, because I set it on fire!" With that he slapped his thigh with the flat of his hand. This supports the internationalist idea that the Nazis had started the Fire and implies that the blaming of the KPD and framing of Van Der Lubbe was seen as a joke between the Nazis emphasised when Halder says he slapped his thigh with the flat of his hand. The reliability of this source can be questioned as this testimony is being given at the Nuremburg Trials. Therefore, it may be the case that Halder is intentionally creating fictional ideas in order to incriminate the Nazis and distance himself from them in hopes of some approval, being such a leading figure in the German Army, it was likely he would receive a tough sentence. Another possible reason as to why this source may be unreliable is the fact that Halder was dismissed from his post after frequent disagreements with Hitler, in 1942. This evidence could therefore be seen as a way of getting back at Hitler, by further incriminating him and creating more contempt with the idea of them laughing over their actions. The idea that the Nazi party planned and executed the Reichstag fire is also supported in Source I of the initial document pack. In This source is the testimony of Karl Van Ernst, an SA Gruppenfhrer (Group Leader) who was killed in a purge in 1934. The testimony states that the Nazi party intended to use the Reichstag Fire as a gateway to attack the Communists in Germany. Van Ernst states i suggested to Goring that we use the subterrenean passage because that would minimise the risk of discovery as well as Goebbels insisted on postponing the fire and Goring and Goebbels agreed to throw suspicion on the Communists This source suggests that the arsonist Van Der Lubbe was set up to think he was acting alone, while the Nazis also committed the crime. This would therefore explain the later testimonies given by Van Der Lubbe stating that he worked alone. This source seems to be very precise in explaining all the details of a Nazi plan to set the Reichstag Fire. It suggests that Goebbels and Goring went to great lengths to strategically plan this Fire, and for this reasons, many Historians conclude that this source was more than likely tampered with by the KPD as it turned up after Ernst was killed and would be a very useful outlet to incriminate the Nazis. Both of these sources support the idea that the Reichstag Fire was a Nazi plot with the intention of laying the blame of the Communists to further Nazi political gain. However, throughout many sources that also follow this idea, there lay some inconsistencies. This can be seen in the two sources that I have quoted already. Source I is of the impression that Van Der Lubbe started the fire which was then encouraged by leading Nazis while Document 9 states that Goring stated because I Set it on fire!. These two sources therefore contradict each other allowing the validity of each to be seriously questions. Furthermore while Document 9 depicts an informal environment with Goring shouting, Source I implies that everything was meticulously planned. It is therefore unlikely that Goring would talk so openly about the sabotage of the Communist as he has previously been so careful.

Source A of the initial document pack written by Hans Bernd Gisevius, a junior lawyer for the political police for 4 months in 1933. Gisevius also gives evidence at the Nuremburg Trials in 1946; he states It was Goebbels who first came up with the idea of setting fire to the Reichstag. This is then followed up put the blame for this crime on the Communist. This Intenationalist source supports the idea that the Nazis started the fire, the primary source may be reliable because as Gisevius was a member of the political police it is likely that he would have been involved in Nazi plans at that period in time. Nevertheless, the validity of this source can be question because it was given after Nazi defeat in World War II thereby Gisevius cannot be punished. Furthermore it could be suggested that Gisevius might not be truthful, intending to protect his image and receive a kinder sentence. It has been argued that the Reichstag Fire was another ploy by the Nazis to get into power via a legal revolution. This is the idea put forward by Hitler while he was imprisoned after failing to gain power by force in the Munich Putsch of 1923. Document 15 of my resource pack is an extract from the book I knew Hitler by Kurt Ludecke, he states that Hitler said Instead of working to achieve power by armed coup, we shall have to hold our noses and enter the Reichstag. This meant that the Nazi Party would have to bite there tongue and comply with the law until they got into power. The Reichstag Fire proved as a platform to legally disband the Communist Party via Article 48 which meant in the state of an emergency the President had the power to act alone without consulted parliament, this then had a ripple effect and eventually led to Hitler legally passing the Enabling Act on march 23rd 1933 which gave him complete control over Germany putting into perspective how important the Reichstag Fire was into helping the Nazis into power. Document 14 of my resource pack is an expert from the book Voice of Destruction published in 1940 by Herman Rauschning, a former Nazi who became one of the parties largest critics. In the book it states I myself had unhesitatingly ascribed it to arson on the part of persons under Communist and I discovered that the National Socialist leadership was solely responsible, and that Hitler knew of the plan and approved it. This Source supports the theory that the Riechstag Fire was a Nazi plot to gain power and eliminate any opposing threat. Rauschnings evidence also complies with the before mentioned idea of a legal revolution. This Source introduces the idea that only a select few of the Nazi Party new about the plot and those lower down in the party genuinely believed that it was a Communist threat. The reliability of this source could be questioned due to the fact that Rauschning was previously a leading Nazi and could be trying to gain some credibility by disassociating himself with the party or perhaps created false accusations to further public hate after his own disillusionment. In contrast to this, Voice of Destruction was published in 1940 and other works by Rauschning were published even earlier. During this period the Nazis were still very much in control of Germany and by writing this Rauschning was taking a risk. Contrary to the evidence that the Reichstag Fire was started by the Nazis, there is also evidence suggesting that the Communists started the fire. Document 13 of my Resource pack is an article published in the Pro-Nazi magazine Der Sturmer, shortly after the Reichstag Fire. The Article states Secret passages were found in the basement of the Communist Party Headquarters. Materials promoting civil war were found; including detailed plans to murder individuals and groups of citizens. It then goes on to say The truth is that both the parties that want civil war, that hate the Fatherland, the KPD and SPD were founded by Jews and Jews still lead both of them. This article is of the opinion that the Communist Party were in fact the culprits of the Reichstag Fire and was seen as a way to attack the Communists in

1933. However these documents were never produced as shown by William L Shirer is Source E of the initial document pack which shows Publication of the documents proving the Communist conspiracy was promised but never made It is likely that this article was intended to affect public opinion of the Nazi Party as well as the Communist Party in a way to justify The Reichstag Fire decree, for this reason the article can be seen as another cog in the Nazi propaganda wheel. Further Evidence to support this is the fact that the magazine was published by the Nazis therefore its certain all articles were to be pro-Nazi and furthermore, Der Sturmer was edited by Nazi Julius Streicher. Steicher himself was renowned for his extremist views and anti-Semitic behaviour, the fact that this article also bad mouths the Jews makes it easier to establish this piece as propaganda as the accusation is proven false and we know of Streichers anti-Semitic views were so extreme. Streicher was removed from the Nazi party for being a liability. Other evidence that suggests that the Communists started the fire is Document 1, this source is an extract for the diary of Goebbels, in which he states I thought the news pure fantasy and wouldnt even tell the Fhrer about it as well as There was no doubt that the Communists had made a final attempt to seize power by creating an atmosphere of panic and terror.. This source shows that Goebbels appeared to be genuinely surprised by the activities of the 27th of February. It could be suggested that if the fire was a Nazi plot he would not appear so genuine. Furthermore, if this was part of Goebbelss propaganda coups he would more likely act in a public forum as opposed to in his diary. However, as before mentioned the Nazis often excelled in meticulous planning and Goebbels was Head of Nazi propaganda. Many would put this writing down to Goebbels attempting to lay blame on the Communists once more. There isnt a lot of evidence suggesting that the Communists started the Reichstag fire and nearly all of the sources that back up this idea are sources produced by Nazis. For this reason most people agree that while it is a possibility, it is unlikely that the Communist started the fire due to a lack of substantial evidence and the fact that we know the Nazis wanted to incriminate the Communist; This questions the validity of nearly every source that suggests the Communists started the fire as we know the Nazis success in propaganda and ulterior motives. There have been numerous theories as to who caused the Reichstag Fire, but it is unlikely that we will ever know for sure. There are countless pieces of evidence supporting multiple different views, and from these theories have developed two different schools of thought. The interpretation of the Reichstag Fire is divided between Intentionalist historians and Structuralist historians. The Intentionalist view was popularised in the years immediately following World Wars II, during the 1940s and 1950s. These post war historians saw Hitler as powerful leader and mastermind at the helm of all that the Nazis did. They see strong connections between what Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf and what he later did in power. They were quick to determine that anything negative was as a result of Nazi rule, as is the case with the Reichstag Fire. They believed that the German people were forced into the Nazis beliefs through fear and due to a lack of no alternatives. They saw the chaos of the Reichstag as part of Hitlers belief in Social Darwinism. This theory is supported by historians like William Shirer and Alan Bullock. Document 18 of my document pack is an extract from Hitler: a Study in Tyranny (1952) by Alan Bullock. Bullock states An underground passage linked Gorings Palace of the

President of the Reichstag with the main building across the street. and As they were leaving, a half crazed young Dutchman, who had been picked up by the SA. From this document we can see that Bullocks views comply with the Intentionalist view that the Nazis had everything planned and were attempting to remove the Communist party. William Shirer shows similar views in Source E of the initial document pack in which he states publication of the documents proving the communist conspiracy was promised but never made. Shirer again complies with the Intentionalist view in believing that the Nazis had total control by saying the fact, however, that the Prussian government itself vouched for the authenticity impressed many Germans. It is likely that post-war Intentionalist historians views were influenced by a number of factors. One of which is the evidence available to these historians were largely from the Nuremburg Trials. At these trials former Nazi members tried to distance themselves from the policies of the Nazi party by claiming that they were simply following orders. It is therefore reasonable to suggest that Hitler appeared to these Historians in complete control. Moreover, many historians may have been emotionally influenced by the events of the war, and struggling to understand how such atrocities like the holocaust could occur. It is easier to see Hitler as the initiator of these policies and fathom that the German people were supportive of Nazi ideology. Contrasting the Intentionalist view is the Structuralist view. Structuralist historians see Hitler as a weak leader, unable and unwilling to make decisions. They see Hitler as an opportunist who exploited situations for Nazi gain. The Intentionalist view developed after World War II was fresh in peoples minds and new evidence became available, enabling Historians to see the situation from an outside perspective. They think that Hitler wasnt an all -powerful leader and instead of the German people being forced to follow him, they public support Hitler and the Nazis and were the ones who initially voted him in. It is from this line of thought that another opinion as to who started the Reichstag Fire stemmed, the opinion that Marinus Van Der Lubbe acted alone in setting the Reichstag alight and that The Nazis merely exploited it for political gain. Document 5 of my resource pack supports the theory that Van Der Lubbe acted alone. At Van Der Lubbes trial Detective Walter Zirpins gave the following evidence van der Lubbe drew everything so perfectly that afterwards, when we inspected the scene of the crime, everything fell into place. I myself would quite frankly have been quite unable to reconstruct the scene nearly as well as he did. From this source we can see that Van Der Lubbe was quite intelligent, with Zirpins stating that he was a genius for numbers. This evidence is then backed up by Document 6 of my resource pack which shows the route that Van Der Lubbe supposedly took through the Reichstag, showing the situation to be entirely plausible. This evidence is the complete opposite to Document 18 of my resource pack which states that Van Der Lubbe was a a half crazed young Dutchman. It has been suggested that the evidence showing Van Der Lubbe as having mental health issues were fabricated by the Communist Party in attempt to distance the connection between them and the Dutchman. The validity of this Source can be questioned because it was given at the trial of Van der Lubbe and therefore information could easily of been fabricated by the Nazi Party to ensure Van Der Lubbes arrest. Another Source that suggests that the Nazis exploited the fire for their own gain is Document 4 of my resource pack. In this Source, Martin Sommerfeldt (Gorings press officer) speaks of how the news of the Reichstag Fire was taken by Goring. Nothing is

impossible! Why mention a single man? There were ten or even twenty men! Dont you understand whats been happening? The whole thing was a signal for a Communist uprising! They must have come through the tunnel.. This exert shows typifies the idea that the Nazis were quick to capitalise on the Reichstag Fire but did not actually start it . It shows Goring thinking on the spot to incriminate the Communist party. This is a Primary source and it is reliable because this is exactly the type of thing that Goring would tell his press officer. It could be suggested that Sommerfeldt was attempting to gain sympathy and recognition. However, if this was the case it is fat more likely that he were to say the Nazis actually started the fire. Van Der Lubbes Statement to the Police also supports the idea that he acted alone, as seen in Document 7 of my resource pack when he states I must insist that my action on 27 February was inspired by political motives and As to the question whether I acted alone, I declare emphatically that this was the case. No one at all helped me. The fact that Van Der Lubbe himself admits to starting the Reichstag Fire Often gets overlooked. The language used by Van Der Lubbe again suggests that he was intelligent and did not suffer from a mental illness. Nevertheless the validity of the source can still be questioned. The statement to the police by Van Der Lubbe could have easily been falsified by the Nazis to lay the blame on Van der Lubbe. All of these sources are primary sources and can be used as evidence to back up Structuralist view that the Nazis did not start the fire but merely exploited it for their own political gain. However, this school of thought didnt come to fruition until the 1960s and 1970s through Historians like A.J.P Taylor. Taylor was a British Historian who was one of the first people to controversially challenge the Intentionalist View, along with Fritz Tobias. In Source C of the initial document pack, Taylor writes an introduction to Tobiass book The Reichstag Fire. Taylor produces evidence proving the theory that Van Der Lubbe started the fire alone by saying In fact, only the Debating Chamber was burnt out; and the burning of a Chamber, with wooden panels, curtains dry with age, and a glass dome to provide natural draught was not surprising.. He then states that Van Der Lubbe was quick-witted, ingenious, and physically active. As well as The police took him through the Reichstag with a stop watch. He covered the ground at exactly the right times. This corresponds with Van der Lubbes statement in Document 7 and the police report given in Document 5. However, the sources that Taylor and Tobias use might themselves be unreliable. While different Historians provide different views on the Reichstag Fire, it is likely that we will never know for certain its true origins. What we do know however, is that the Reichstag Fire proved a pivotal part in the consolidation of power by the Nazi by allowing President Hindenburg to effectively begin a One Party state and the fire also complies with Hitlers idea of a legal revolution. Analysing all of the facts, I am of the opinion that Van Der Lubbe acted alone in starting the Reichstag Fire, but Hitler profited greatly from it. I feel in light of Structuralist evidence it is easily conceivable that Van Der Lubbe started the fire alone, shown in the fact that he both admitted to the fire and proved that he started it. Claims that he was a degenerate have been proven wrong, and I feel that Intentionalist Historians were too narrow minded, coming of the back of the war, a lot may have been emotionally tied as well as only being able to work with evidence given at face value as opposed to Structuralist who can see things from a wider angle with evidence not available to Intentionalists. Despite the difference of opinion, all Historians can agree that the Reichtag Fire was fully exploited by Hitler and the Nazi party allowing them complete control over Germany for the horrific years

that followed.