Marinus van der Lubbe

Marinus van der Lubbe : Nazi Germany

Marinus van der Lubbe was born in Holland in 1909. His father left home soon after he was born and he was brought up in extreme poverty.

Lubbe worked as a bricklayer but after an industrial accident in 1925 he spent five months in hospital. He never fully recovered from his injuries and was now unable to work and had to live on a small invalidity pension.

In 1926 Lubbe joined the Dutch Communist Party (KPH) and worked hard trying to recruit young unemployed workers into the party. He also organized demonstrations and spoke at protest meetings.

Lubbe decides he wants to live in the Soviet Union but is unable to raise enough money for his fare. However, in 1933 he moves to Germany where he immediately begins protesting against the new government headed by Adolf Hitler.

On 27th February the Reichstag caught fire. When they police arrived they found Lubbe on the premises. After being tortured by the Gestapo he confessed to starting the Reichstag Fire. However he denies that he was part of a Communist conspiracy. Hermann Goering refuses to believe him and he orders the arrest of several leaders of the German Communist Party (KPD).

As well as Lubbe the German police charged four communists with setting fire to the Reichstag. This included Ernst Torgler, the chairman of the KPD and Georgi Dimitrov of the Soviet Comintern.

Marinus van der Lubbe was found guilty of the Reichstag Fire and was executed on 10th January, 1934. Adolf Hitler was furious he rest of the defendants were acquitted and he decided that in future all treason cases were taken from the Supreme Court and given to a new People's Court where prisoners were judged by members of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP).

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Marinus van der Lubbe, statement to police (3rd March, 1933)

I myself am a Leftist, and was a member of the Communist Party until 1929. I had heard that a Communist demonstration was disbanded by the leaders on the approach of the police. In my opinion something absolutely had to be done in protest against this system. Since the workers would do nothing, I had to do something myself. I considered arson a suitable method. I did not wish to harm private people but something belonging to the system itself. I decided on the Reichstag. As to the question of whether I acted alone, I declare emphatically that this was the case.

(2) Rudolf Diels arrived at the Reichstag soon after it had been set on fire on 27th February 1933.

Shortly after my arrival in the burning Reichstag, the National Socialist elite had arrived. On a balcony jutting out of the chamber, Hitler and his trusty followers were assembled. As I entered, Goering came towards me. His voice was heavy with the emotion of the dramatic moment: "This is the beginning of the Communist Revolt, they will start their attack now! Not a moment must be lost."

Goering could not continue. Hitler turned to the assembled company. Now I saw that his face was purple with agitation and with the heat. He shouted uncontrollably, as I had never seen him do before, as if he was going to burst: "There will be no mercy now. Anyone who stands in our way will be cut down. The German people will not tolerate leniency. Every communist official will be shot where he is found. Everybody in league with the Communists must be arrested. There will also no longer be leniency for social democrats.

(3) Rudolf Diels was in charge of interrogating Marinus van der Lubbe after the Reichstag Fire.

A few of my department were already engaged in interrogating Marinus Van der Lubbe. Naked from the waist upwards, smeared with dirt and sweating, he sat in front of them, breathing heavily. He panted as if he had completed a tremendous task. There was a wild triumphant gleam in the burning eyes of his pale, haggard young face.

The voluntary confessions of Marinus Van der Lubbe prevented me from thinking that an arsonist who was such an expert in his folly needed any helpers. He had been so active that he had laid several dozen fires. With a firelighter he had set the chamber aflame. Then he had rushed through the big corridors with his burning shirt which he brandished in his right hand like a torch. During the hectic activity he was overpowered by Reichstag officials. I reported on the results of the first interrogations of Marinus Van der Lubbe - that in my opinion he was a maniac. But with this opinion I had come to the wrong man; Hitler ridiculed my childish view.

(4) Marinus van der Lubbe, statement at his trial (23rd November, 1933)

I can only repeat that I set fire to the Reichstag all by myself. There is nothing complicated about this fire. It has quite a simple explanation. What was made of it may be complicated, but the fire itself was very simple.