Reichstag Fire

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Jeffk 1970
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Reichstag Fire

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Mon Jul 02, 2018 4:40 pm

In “Death of Democracy,” Benjamin Hett discusses the Reichstag Fire and certain points he believes make Nazi involvement plausible.

Van der Lubbe, the alleged arsonist, claimed that he alone set the fires. He broke into the Reichstag at about 9:00 PM through a second floor window with matches and balls of napthathalene covered balls sawdust called “fire lighters” (used to light stoves). Van der Lubbe ran around setting fires, most of which died out. He failed to light sustaining fires due to the heavy oak furniture and paneling. The police arrested him at around 9:30. He used his shirt as kindling so he was naked to the waste and was sweating profusely.

Van der Lubbe maintained throughout his trial that he set the fires by himself. However, there were some problems with his account. As a result of an injury he was 80 percent blind and the Reichstag was pitch black at that time. Van der Lubbe was also unfamiliar with the Reichstag’s layout. A police investigation found physical evidence inconsistent with his account, soot found inside air vents indicated burning gasoline or kerosene (something he lacked) and a torch. Van der Lubbe couldn’t say how he set the fires, he thought the chamber spontaneously exploded into flame as he ran through with a burning cloth.

I’ll have more later.
A joke going around Moscow during The Great Terror:

The NKVD knocks on a door.
The inhabitants ask who it is.
“NKVD.”
“You’ve got the wrong apartment. The Communists are upstairs.”


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Re: Reichstag Fire

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Mon Jul 02, 2018 6:54 pm

Thanks for the links, I remembered your posting and wanted to bring this up for discussion.

I’ll give the rest of Hett’s points here in a bit.
A joke going around Moscow during The Great Terror:

The NKVD knocks on a door.
The inhabitants ask who it is.
“NKVD.”
“You’ve got the wrong apartment. The Communists are upstairs.”

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Re: Reichstag Fire

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:55 pm

Contrary to Evans, my biggest disappointment with Hett's book concerned his not exploring how the Nazis used the Reichstag fire to consolidate their hold on power and expand it. Like the Night of the Long Knives, the fire and resulting actions were seminal moments. Maybe he takes up these developments in Death of Democracy? (On a tangent, I can't find a book-length, recent study of the Rohm purge - nor similar for the night & fog operation).
"It was still at the stage of clubs and fists, hurrah, tala"

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Re: Reichstag Fire

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Tue Jul 03, 2018 2:18 pm

Statistical Mechanic wrote:Contrary to Evans, my biggest disappointment with Hett's book concerned his not exploring how the Nazis used the Reichstag fire to consolidate their hold on power and expand it. Like the Night of the Long Knives, the fire and resulting actions were seminal moments. Maybe he takes up these developments in Death of Democracy? (On a tangent, I can't find a book-length, recent study of the Rohm purge - nor similar for the night & fog operation).



I’m going to add more to this tonight and tomorrow. I’m inclined to believe Hett on this. I may need to look at a few other sources.
A joke going around Moscow during The Great Terror:

The NKVD knocks on a door.
The inhabitants ask who it is.
“NKVD.”
“You’ve got the wrong apartment. The Communists are upstairs.”

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Re: Reichstag Fire

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Wed Jul 04, 2018 5:55 pm

Hett relates how at the Nuremberg Trials Rudolph Diels and Hans Bernd Gisevius identified an SA man named Hans Georg Gewehr as the main culprit in the fire. Gewehr denied this but according to Hett Gewehr was known as the SA incendiary expert. My issue with this is that Hett did not footnote this but if true it is telling. Gewehr gave inconsistent accounts of his whereabouts on the night and on another occasion boasted of his involvement.

Hett mentions that the Reichstag Fire was consistent with the SA MO in which they committed acts of violence and then attempted to shift the blame to the Communists.

What is indisputable is that after the fire SA violence increased exponentially.
A joke going around Moscow during The Great Terror:

The NKVD knocks on a door.
The inhabitants ask who it is.
“NKVD.”
“You’ve got the wrong apartment. The Communists are upstairs.”

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Re: Reichstag Fire

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Wed Jul 04, 2018 7:10 pm

from Hett's Burning the Reichstag:

Gewehr was identified as active as a leader of the Nazi rioters in the Kurfürstendamm attacks, 1931, with Gewehr writing in 1960 that the rioters acted on orders from Helldorf and Karl Ernst (Ernst was a childhood friend of Gewehr), who had mobilized the SA for the action - pp 52-57 (I won't list the notes here but there are about 15, for Gewehr in 1960 the reference is Gewehr to Zacharias, March 27, 1960, IfZ ID 103-60; Zacharias was Tobias' Spiegel collaborator).

According to Hett, Gewehr always ("steadfastly") denied involvement in the fire; Hett says that nonetheless Gewehr, an engineer, recalled in 1960 that his "technical training" had included using phosphorus as an incendiary and that the SA Unit for Special Missions had used a phosphorus solution during the years of struggle to torch KPD posters. The method was kept among SA officers at colonel level. In court during the 1960s Gewehr had testified that he himself bad demonstrated the use of the solution to Hellsdorf and others at Ernst's behest. - p 84 (citing again Gewehr to Zacharias, March 27, 1960, IfZ ID 103-60 for Gewehr's 1960 recollections, also for courtroom statements Gewehr Testimony, June 7, 1963, ETH NL Gisevius 17.1)

Hett cites expert testimony from Schatz about the fire suggesting that it was started with rags soaked in a phosphorous solution and Schatz's speculation that "A scientist, a worker in some kinds of factors, a pharmacist, chemist, or student of chemistry" should have known how to do this. - p 115 (Schatz Gutachten Bl. 41)

Hett cites stenographer Reineking who took down interrogation of Rall in October 1933; according to Gisevius, Reineking gave a scenario for the fire that involved accomplices, use of a phosphorous solution, orders from Ernst to "pull a caper" against the KPD, and SA leader Gewehr. - pp 187-188 (citing Gisevius' Bitter End, pp 67-72)

Hett includes a short bio sketch of Gewehr explaining his history with Ernst and some of his SA activity as well as how he was arrested and put into a KL at the time of the Rohm purge and later, after his release, went into police work (Schupo); he says that Gewehr made "contradictory" statements about where he'd been the night of the Reichstag fire; in 1960 "he told a journalist . . . that he first learned of the Reichstag fire from the rumors that were spreading in Berlin" and on hearing them went to the scene. During the late 1930s, it was said, "Gewehr dropped 'darkly mysterious' hints about the Reichstag fire." Hellsdorf, under whose command Gewehr worked in the Schupo, reported that Gewehr had carried out executions of prisoners during the early occupation of Poland; Gewehr was admitted to the SS in 1940 and in 1943 was part of Bach-Zelewksi's anti-partisan operations. Thought dead, Gewehr resurfaced in 1946, alarming Göring who told his attorney that if the SA had set the Reichstag fire, Göring hadn't known about it. - pp 196-201 (I can photograph the dozen or so footnotes, man with multiple citations, for this section if you want them)

Gewehr gave an interview to Krausnick and Hermann Graml in 1960 in which he again denied involvement in or special knowledge of the fire. Krausnick told Mommsen, who subscribed to Tobias' theory of the case, that Gewehr had expected to be executed when he was seized in the Rohm purge and hinted that his caution concerning the fire during the 1930s stemmed from this fear (he was asked about the fire by Himmler in 1937). Krausnick and Graml took all this to mean that Gewehr's possible involvement in the fire was not to be "chalked up to the nonsense of Gisevius or to his carelessness, but rather existed first in the most important party circles." Including Diels. But, notes Hett, all the evidence concerning Gewehr was hearsay, and thus Gewehr was not prosecuted. - pp 302-308 (ditto for dozen or so footnotes for this section)
"It was still at the stage of clubs and fists, hurrah, tala"

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Re: Reichstag Fire

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Wed Jul 04, 2018 7:31 pm

Thanks for the above, I’ll try and pick up Hett’s book ok the Reichstag Fire.
A joke going around Moscow during The Great Terror:

The NKVD knocks on a door.
The inhabitants ask who it is.
“NKVD.”
“You’ve got the wrong apartment. The Communists are upstairs.”

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Re: Reichstag Fire

Postby Balmoral95 » Wed Jul 04, 2018 11:01 pm

Given that arson, now as then, is one of the most difficult crimes to prosecute, the probability of solving a case that old is about nil.

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Re: Reichstag Fire

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:03 am

Balmoral95 wrote:Given that arson, now as then, is one of the most difficult crimes to prosecute, the probability of solving a case that old is about nil.



Ah, well. It gives me something to think about while I wait for the orange manatee to {!#%@} things up worse than they already are.
A joke going around Moscow during The Great Terror:

The NKVD knocks on a door.
The inhabitants ask who it is.
“NKVD.”
“You’ve got the wrong apartment. The Communists are upstairs.”

Balmoral95
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Posts: 2109
Joined: Sun Jun 04, 2017 4:14 am
Location: The Free Nambia Healthcare Nirvana

Re: Reichstag Fire

Postby Balmoral95 » Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:18 am

Jeffk 1970 wrote:
Balmoral95 wrote:Given that arson, now as then, is one of the most difficult crimes to prosecute, the probability of solving a case that old is about nil.



Ah, well. It gives me something to think about while I wait for the orange manatee to {!#%@} things up worse than they already are.


All I'm saying is fingering a culprit is a non-stater... and irrelevant.... Everyone at the time had an ax to grind with parliamentary democracy in that era... herds of probable suspects.... the only thing really matters is who gained the most, at what cost and why everyone else rolled over and let it ride...

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Re: Reichstag Fire

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:24 am

Balmoral95 wrote:
Jeffk 1970 wrote:
Balmoral95 wrote:Given that arson, now as then, is one of the most difficult crimes to prosecute, the probability of solving a case that old is about nil.



Ah, well. It gives me something to think about while I wait for the orange manatee to {!#%@} things up worse than they already are.


All I'm saying is fingering a culprit is a non-stater... and irrelevant.... Everyone at the time had an ax to grind with parliamentary democracy in that era... herds of probable suspects.... the only thing really matters is who gained the most, at what cost and why everyone else rolled over and let it ride...


I agree that there’s no way to determine who actually did it. I posted this so that if anyone had questions or wanted to know about I had information I wanted to share. It was something interesting to me that I thought might interest others.
A joke going around Moscow during The Great Terror:

The NKVD knocks on a door.
The inhabitants ask who it is.
“NKVD.”
“You’ve got the wrong apartment. The Communists are upstairs.”

Balmoral95
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Posts: 2109
Joined: Sun Jun 04, 2017 4:14 am
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Re: Reichstag Fire

Postby Balmoral95 » Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:37 am

Right... and it IS interesting and particularly as to how the destruction of a symbol central to constitutional democracy can, given certain political conditions, work to political advantage.


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