Marinus van der Lubbe
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Marinus (Rinus) van der Lubbe (13 January 1909 – 10 January 1934) was a Dutch council communist convicted of, and controversially executed for, setting fire to the German Reichstag building on 27 February 1933, an event known as the Reichstag fire.
Marinus van der Lubbe was born in Leiden in the province of Zuid-Holland. He was born with learning difficulties, and apparently had a fascination with fire. His parents were divorced and, after his mother died when he was 12, he went to live with his half-sister's family. In his youth Van der Lubbe worked as a bricklayer. He was nicknamed Dempsey after boxer Jack Dempsey, because of his great strength. At his work, van der Lubbe came in contact with the labour movement; in 1925, he joined the Dutch Communist Party (CPN), and its youth section the Communist Youth Bund (CJB).
In 1926, he was injured at work, getting lime in his eyes, which left him in hospital for a few months and almost blinded him. The injury forced him to quit his work, so he was unemployed with a pension of only 7.44 guilders a week. Not being able to live off this, he was forced to take occasional jobs. After a few conflicts with his sister, van der Lubbe moved to Leiden in 1927. There he learned to speak some German and founded the Lenin house, where he organized political meetings. While working for the Tielmann factory a strike broke out. Van der Lubbe claimed to the management to be one of the ringleaders and offered to accept any punishment as long as no one else was victimised, even though he was clearly too inexperienced to have been seriously involved. During the trial, he tried to claim sole responsibility and was purportedly hostile to the idea of getting off free.
Afterwards, van der Lubbe planned to emigrate to the Soviet Union, but he lacked the funds to do so. He was politically active among the unemployed workers' movement until 1931, when he fell into disagreement with the CPN and instead approached the Internationalist Communist Group (IKG). In 1933, van der Lubbe fled to Germany to take action in the local communist underground. He had a criminal record for arson.
According to the Berlin police, van der Lubbe claimed to have set the Reichstag building on fire as a cry to rally the German workers against fascist rule. Under torture, he confessed again and was brought to trial along with the leaders of the opposition Communist Party. At his trial van der Lubbe was convicted and sentenced to death for the Reichstag fire. The other four defendants (Ernst Torgler, Georgi Dimitrov, Blagoi Popov, and Vasil Tanev) at the trial were acquitted. He was guillotined in a Leipzig prison yard on 10 January 1934, three days before his 25th birthday. He was buried in an unmarked grave on the Südfriedhof (South Cemetery) in Leipzig.
After World War II, moves by Marinus van der Lubbe's brother, Jan van der Lubbe were made in an attempt to overturn the verdict against his brother. In 1967 his sentence was changed by a judge from death to eight years in prison. In 1980, after more lengthy complaints, a West German court overturned the verdict entirely, but this was protested by the state prosecutor. The case was re-examined by the Federal Court of Justice of Germany for three years, until in 1983 the court made a final decision over the matter, overturning the result of the earlier 1980 trial on grounds that there was no basis for it, making it therefore illegal. However, on December 6, 2007, the Attorney General of Germany nullified (quashed) the entire verdict and post-humously pardoned van der Lubbe based on a 1998 German law that makes it possible to overturn certain cases of Nazi injustice. The determination of the court was based on the premise that the National Socialist regime was by definition unjust, and since the death sentence in this case was politically motivated, it was likely to have contained an extension of that injustice; the finding was independent of the factual question of whether or not it was van der Lubbe who actually set the fire.
Responsibility for the Reichstag fire 1933
Historians disagree as to whether Van der Lubbe acted alone, as he said, to protest the condition of the German working class or whether the arson was planned and ordered by the Nazis, then dominant in the government themselves, as a false flag operation. The responsibility for the Reichstag fire remains an ongoing topic of debate and research. According to Ian Kershaw, writing in 1998, the consensus of nearly all historians is that Van der Lubbe did, in fact, set the Reichstag fire. Although Van der Lubbe was certainly an arsonist, and clearly played a role, there has been considerable popular and scientific debate over whether he acted alone. The case is still actively discussed.
In July 1933, Marinus van der Lubbe, Ernst Torgler, Georgi Dimitrov, Blagoi Popov, and Vasil Tanev were indicted on charges of setting the Reichstag on fire. From September 21 to December 23, 1933, the Leipzig Trial took place and was presided over by judges from the old German Imperial High Court, the Reichsgericht, Germany's highest court. The presiding judge was Judge Dr. Wilhelm Bürger of the Fourth Criminal Court of the Fourth Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court. The accused were charged with arson and with attempting to overthrow the government. At the end of the trial, however, only Van der Lubbe was convicted, while his fellow defendants were found not guilty.
In popular culture
- The Einstürzende Neubauten song Feurio contains a reference to van der Lubbe: "Marinus du warst es nicht" (Marinus, you did not do it).
- Dutch folk-rock band Janse bagge Bend refers to van der Lubbe in their song Kommer en Kwel.
- Announcement of the Attorney General of Germany (in German)
- "Marinus van der Lubbe gerehabiliteerd (Dutch)". Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- Kate Connolly (January 12, 2008). "75 years on, executed Reichstag arsonist finally wins pardon". The Guardian.
- "The Reichstag Fire". Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
- DW Staff (27 February 2008). "75 Years Ago, Reichstag Fire Sped Hitler's Power Grab". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
- Kershaw, Ian Hitler Hubris pages 456–458 & 731–732
- Snyder, Louis, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976, p. 288
- Bahar, Alexander and Kugel, Wilfried, Der Reichstagbrand, edition q (2001) German language only.
- Hersch Fischler: Zum Zeitablauf der Reichstagsbrandstiftung. Korrekturen der Untersuchung Alfred Berndts, in: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 55 (2005), S. 617–632.(with English summary)
- English translation of The Reichstag Fire (1963) by Fritz Tobias, with introduction by A. J. P. Taylor
- Biography Marinus van der Lubbe on libcom.org history
- Dutch Council Communism and Van der Lubbe Burning the Reichstag - The question of "exemplary acts" - the political repercussions of his act on his comrades
- Zuidenwind Filmproductions at www.zuidenwind.nl Documentary about Marinus van der Lubbe
- Marinus van der Lubbe rehabilitated (English)