A Collection of Studies on Sources about the Reichstag Fire Essay Example
A Collection of Studies on Sources about the Reichstag Fire Essay Example

A Collection of Studies on Sources about the Reichstag Fire Essay Example

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  • Pages: 12 (3202 words)
  • Published: November 3, 2017
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To determine the level of B's support for A, I will examine two sources: Source A and Source B. Both were written shortly after World War II. Rudolf Diels, the head of the political police, authored Source A while Marinus Van der Lubbe confessed in Source B to being solely responsible for igniting the Reichstag Fire. In his confession in Source B, Van der Lubbe contradicted Diels and others' belief that a Communist conspiracy was involved. However, despite their conflicting perspectives, Diels did entertain the possibility of Van der Lubbe acting independently as he stated in Source A: "The voluntary confessions of Van der Lubbe made me believe he acted alone." Moreover, when Diels reported that he believed Van der Lubbe was insane following questioning him, this further strengthens the notion that Van der Lubbe acted alone since it is improbable


that an entire group would be deemed mentally unstable.

Van der Lubbe and Diels share similar views on the cause of the fire. Diels believes that Van der Lubbe alone could have started it, citing his ability to ignite various flammable materials with ease. Since Van der Lubbe was preoccupied with setting multiple fires using his burning shirt, Diels assumes he acted without assistance from others. Additionally, based on Van der Lubbe's disheveled appearance (topless, dirty, and sweaty), it seems improbable that he had help. However, Source A suggests that Van Der Lubbe's admission lacks complete corroboration.

Source A implies that the accused individual was a Communist and part of a plot to start the fires, referencing the Communist pamphlets found in their pockets. This contradicts Source B, which claims that the accused acted alone and

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states, "I set fire to the Reichstag all by myself."

The Nazi perspective was that the Communists had schemed to burn down the building. Hitler himself referred to it as a "cunning" plan, carefully crafted over a long period of time. This viewpoint contradicts Source B's claim that Van der Lubbe acted alone. The Nazi response was severe, with Goering stating that all Communists would be executed or arrested without exception. Despite lacking concrete evidence beyond Van der Lubbe's affiliation with the Communist party, the Nazis were convinced that the responsibility lay with the group as a whole.

In conclusion, my interpretation is that Source B only partially supports Source A's argument. Even though Source B asserts that Van der Lubbe acted alone in setting the Reichstag on fire, which aligns with Diels' belief, the other quotes from Source B contradict this perspective. Nevertheless, I believe that Source B somewhat supports Source A because Diels considers the possibility of Van der Lubbe being the sole perpetrator as evidenced by phrases like '...

. The notion that he acted alone was reinforced by Source B's quotes from Goering and Hitler, which are incompatible with his perspective. Van der Lubbe's assertion that he acted alone contradicts the proposition in his report that Communism was behind the conspiracy. My focus will be on assessing the value of Source C's depiction of the events of February 27th.

Source C is a quote from the 1935 book titled 'My Part in Germany's Fight' authored by Josef Goebbels, who served as the Minister of Propaganda. Given his role in influencing German citizens to support Nazi ideology, this source may lack reliability and usefulness.

The nature of Goebbels' job may have resulted in the distortion and exaggeration of facts, which suggests that the content may not reflect the complete truth.

The source contains phrases and words such as 'we raced to the scene at top speed' and 'suddenly', which create an impression of unexpectedness and detachment, thus exaggerating events and reducing the value of the account. Goebbels most likely wrote the book as a form of Propaganda with the objective of presenting the Nazi outlook to the public, encouraging support for the Nazi Party. The title 'My Part in Germany's Fight' implies Goebbels' intention to portray himself and the Nazis positively while demonizing Communists: 'There could be no doubt that the Communists had made a final attempt to seize power by creating an atmosphere of panic and terror'. Words such as 'no doubt' and 'panic' constitute distortions of reality.

The report is deemed trustworthy, as it features ideas from Source C that closely resemble those in Source A. Rudolf Diels from Source A mentioned that 'Goering sent orders that I was to go to them', while Source C states 'Goering met us', both indicating Goering's presence. This portion of the report has become dependable and beneficial. The source provides insight into the Nazi's and Goering's perspectives, which view the events as unexpected, sudden, and completely imaginary. Additionally, the source suggests that the Nazis were unaware of the plan and that it was initiated by Communists - aligning with Diels' views and further endorsing this source's reliability.

Regarding the events of February 27th, it is my belief that Source C's account is not trustworthy and should not be used to determine

what actually occurred. Despite serving as a valuable example of Goebbels' work as Minister of Propaganda and providing insight into Nazi ideology, Source C is inherently biased due to Goebbels' role in manipulating the truth to benefit the Nazi regime. Therefore, this source remains only marginally useful but can be supported by Source A. To further assess reliability, I will examine Sources D and E, but acknowledge that this can be challenging. Determining whether Source D or Source E is a more reliable account is subjective, with Source D authored by Sefton Delmer, a British journalist, in his book "The Germans and I," and Source E coming from "The Voice of Destruction," written by German author Hermann Rauschning. While Source D may offer more legitimacy, its accuracy remains open to interpretation.

The Source D, written by a British author, is assumed to be truthful due to the lack of Nazi influence in Britain at the time of publication. Additionally, Britain's freedom of speech in 1936 may have led the author, Delmer, to present an honest account. However, it is important to note that Delmer may have had biases towards the British union of Fascists and the belief that Hitler and the Nazi party were aiding Germany's economical and political issues.

According to the text, it is possible that Delmer created a report that served as propagandistic material supporting the Nazi party. This Source cannot be deemed entirely trustworthy due to the presence of several Fascist newspapers, such as The Express, which Delmer wrote for and praised Hitler's perspective. In addition, the title of the report ('The Germans and I') implies that Delmer had a close relationship

with Germany, and more specifically with Adolf Hitler, which may have influenced his potential bias. Therefore, although Source E has some credibility, it should be approached with caution.

Rauschning's non-biased discovery states that Hitler approved the National Socialist leadership's sole responsibility for the Reichstag fire. Although Sources F and H are unreliable, they can provide supporting evidence for the reliability of Source E. General Halder's trial reveals that Goering boasted about setting the fire, consistent with Source E. In addition, Source H quotes Karl Ernst admitting to starting the fire, further confirming the credibility of Source E.

According to the text, Source H Goering utilized a secret passage that connects his house to the Reichstag, which is similar to the one mentioned in 'a passage from the President's Palace' in Source E. Therefore, the credibility of Source E is strengthened by the support of Sources F and H. However, it is also possible that Source E may not be trustworthy, as Rauschning's strained relationship with the Nazi party may have influenced his views before the start of World War II.

Source E's author, being biased against Nazi views, left Germany and published his book outside the country. This calls into question the reliability of his account as he may not have been able to reveal the whole truth without risking Nazi control. 'The Voice of Destruction,' the title of his book, may have served as anti-Nazi propaganda to convince Americans to support the war effort. It is worth noting that the title was changed for its American release. While Source D may be slightly more reliable than Source E, evaluating author reliability accurately remains challenging. Nonetheless, corroborating evidence

in favor of Source E outweighs any potential strengths of Source D.

After examining Source E alongside F and H, which support Source E to a significant extent, I must conclude that Source E is the more trustworthy account. Therefore, I only agree with the statement due to Britain's freedom of speech at the time. Moving forward, I will assess sources F, G, and H to determine if F and H discredit Goering's testimony during his trial in Nuremburg. General Franz Halder's trial provides Source F, while Source G comes from Goering's trial, and Source H is an excerpt from a Communist-published book about Karl Ernst's supposed "confession" as an SA leader in 1934. While both Source F and Source H allege that Goering is responsible for setting the fire, which contradicts Source G's account, I will evaluate these sources' reliability to determine if they disprove Goering's statements.

The reliability of Source F, presented at Halder's 1946 trial, is questionable due to the circumstances in which it was given. As a Nazi standing trial, Halder had a motive to shift blame onto others to avoid repercussions from the opposing allies. Additionally, as he was already facing consequences, there was little incentive for him to tell the truth. In fact, lying could even benefit him as confessing to his actions may result in severe punishment. Halder provided this evidence in an attempt to defend himself from punishment at Nuremberg, giving him the potential to fabricate or overstate his claims.

Halder claimed that Goering admitted to setting fire to the Reichstag building during a conversation, thus implicating Goering. Halder's accusation was made after the Nazis had lost power,

making it easier for him to lie without fear of consequences. Goering was a likely target for escape from blame due to his use of the fire as a means to blame the Communists, but this could make Halder's statement unreliable. However, Source E supports Halder's claim by stating that the National Socialist leadership was responsible and that Hitler approved of the plan. This strengthens the reliability of Halder's accusation and allows for analysis of whether F can prove G's falsehood.

Karl Ernst, who was a leader of the SA, is said to have written Source H. However, since it was published by the Communists in 1934, there may be some changed parts towards the view of the Communists. Consequently, this may make the source unreliable. Nonetheless, this source blames Goering just like Source F and this agreement between sources increases their reliability. This 'confession' was released after the death of Karl Ernst during the Night of the Long Knives. Thus, Karl Ernst was unable to accept or deny its contents at the time of publication. It could therefore be suggested that the Communists were free to alter what was originally said.

Ernst accuses Goering of initiating the Reichstag fire, stating that he proposed using the underground passage connecting Goering's residence to the Reichstag. This highlights Goering's direct involvement. While some aspects of the claim are corroborated by other sources, including source E which mentions a similar "passage from the President's Palace," source G offers additional proof as it was presented during Goering's trial at Nuremberg in 1946. Considering these sources, it appears that Goering was dishonest and indeed responsible for starting the fire.

Goering's motivation to

lie was strong, given his lack of stake after Hitler's death and the accusations previously made by Halder. At his trial, Goering prioritized portraying innocence to the allies, even if he was not, in order to avoid being blamed if found guilty. Consequently, this renders Goering an untrustworthy and unreliable source. He gives no blame within the source and refuses to admit responsibility: "Even if I had started the fire, I would most certainly not have boasted about it".

The possibility exists that Goering lied to evade punishment if he confessed, but it cannot be verified. The lack of corroboration from other sources prevents a definitive conclusion. Sources F and H are not dependable enough to establish Goering's deception beyond doubt. While the inclination is towards his dishonesty, insufficient evidence in the sources prevents this assertion from being justified.

Although they have the support of each other and E, the unreliability of F and H overshadows any potential evidence. Therefore, it can be concluded that they do not provide proof. The objective is to establish which interpretation has the most substantial backing from available sources: whether Van der Lubbe acted alone, as part of a Communist conspiracy, or if the Nazis were responsible for setting fire to the Reichstag. To determine which interpretation is most trustworthy, I will also evaluate the dependability of every source. In particular, Source A proposes that Van der Lubbe acted solo in igniting the Reichstag blaze. This assertion is supported by Diels' remarks in this source: 'The voluntary confessions of Van der Lubbe made me believe that he acted alone.'

Although Diels, the head of the political police, may seem like

a reliable source, his account was written after the Second World War, making it difficult to verify its accuracy. A similar argument can be made for Source B, which is a quote from Diels' trial in 1933. He claimed that he set fire to the Reichstag alone and was not part of any Communist plot. However, it's possible that he was protecting other Communists, as he stated that "The other defendants in this trial were not in the Reichstag." This ambiguity makes Source B unreliable for supporting the Communist plot interpretation. On the contrary, Source L suggests that Van der Lubbe did not start the fire, stating that "It is established beyond any doubt that..."

According to the statement, it would have been too difficult for one person to set the building ablaze on such a large scale. This refutes the theory of an individual perpetrator and suggests the involvement of other individuals.

Although the account in Source A could potentially disprove the interpretation, it was written in 1974, long after the war, hence its reliability is contested. This affects how well it can support the statement. Moreover, Source A hints that the blame for the situation lies with the Communists, with the phrase 'Every Communist must be shot or hanged. Everybody supporting the Communists must be arrested.' Nonetheless, given that it was written after the war, its validity may be in question, and it may not furnish sufficient evidence to support the interpretation.

Source C and D present a similar perspective. According to Source C, the Communists attempted to seize power by creating panic and terror. This claim is supported by a quote attributed to Goebbels, the

Minister of Propaganda, who may not be the most reliable source due to his role in spreading propaganda. However, Source D, an account written by British journalist Sefton Delmer, supports this interpretation by stating that Hitler himself believed the Communist plot theory, as evidenced by his statement "God grant this be the work of Communists".

Delmer's association with Hitler and membership in the British Unionists of Fascists raises concerns about his reliability. Source I, a piece of Nazi propaganda, displays a book cover titled 'Armed Uprising' featuring Van der Lubbe and other Communists. This attempt to depict their involvement in the fire is questionable, as a Nazi author naturally places blame on Communists. Thus, the accuracy of this source may be flawed.

Some sources attribute the Reichstag fire to the Nazis, while others remain uncertain. According to 'The Voice of Destruction' by Hermann Rauschning, the National Socialist leadership was solely responsible and Hitler knew and approved of it, implicating the Nazis. However, the source may not be entirely reliable as it was published outside of Germany during World War II and Rauschning had a falling out with the Nazis, possibly making him biased. Therefore, it should not be solely relied upon to support interpretations. Additionally, Source F supports the claim that the Nazis were responsible for the fire. During a lunch with Hitler, Halder recalls Goering shouting, "The only one who really knows about the Reichstag building is I, for I set fire to it'.

It has been suggested that Goering was responsible for setting fire to the Reichstag. This interpretation is supported by a quote, but some question the reliability of this source due

to its origins in a trial where Halder sought to shift blame onto another party. Source H provides a more trustworthy account, confirming Nazi involvement in the arson. However, this quote originates from a book published by the Communist Party, who did not want any suspicion cast on their role in the plot. Moreover, Karl Ernst, who made the declaration supporting Nazi involvement, had already passed away and could not verify or refute what was written.

The source's reliability diminishes when it contradicts the notion of Nazi culpability. This is evident in Source G from Goering's trial, where he denies responsibility by stating that even if he started the fire, he wouldn't brag about it. However, this statement may not be entirely trustworthy since his primary objective was to prove his innocence. If he were to speak the truth, he would likely face punishment, which strengthens his motivation to lie. Consequently, this implies that the Nazis might have been accountable for the fire and marginally supports this interpretation. Furthermore, other sources indicate that the fire benefited the Nazis as revealed in Source J by providing legal authority for Gestapo to detain individuals without trial and ultimately enhancing Nazi dominance.

The possibility that the Nazis caused the Reichstag fire in order to benefit from it is suggested by a historian's writing. However, since this was written much later it may not be entirely trustworthy. Additionally, picture source K portrays Hitler and Hindenburg in strong leadership positions, indicating that the Nazis would have gained power and Hitler would become a dictator. "This is a heaven sent opportunity my lad" is also expressed in the picture.

The statement "If you can't

be a dictator now, you never will be" suggests that the Reichstag fire presented an opportunity for the Nazis to establish a powerful leader, potentially even prompting them to start the fire themselves. However, as this British cartoon is humorously anti-Nazi and likely manipulative in order to persuade viewers, its reliability is questionable. Overall, based on various sources indicating that the Nazis had motive and benefited from the fire, it is most plausible that they intentionally started it for the purpose of gaining power and used the Communist plot as a cover-up. This is where the Communist accusation stemmed from.

Despite the presence of unreliable sources, the abundance of firsthand accounts leads me to maintain this interpretation.

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