Marinus van der Lubbe

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Marinus van der Lubbe (1933)

Marinus van der Lubbe (* 13. January 1909 in Leiden , The Netherlands ; † 10. January 1934 in Leipzig ) was a politically left- oriented Dutch worker who February 27, 1933 in the burning Reichstag arrested in Berlin and in March the main defendant in the Reichstag fire trial was , where he made a controversial admission in research that he alone was the arsonist. On December 23, 1933, van der Lubbe was charged with " high treason in unity " on the basis of an unlawful lawwith intentional arson ” sentenced to death by the Imperial Court in Leipzig; the sentence was carried out just under three weeks later. From 1967 to 1983 the judgment was toned down several times by German courts, declared invalid or confirmed again in a modified form. In December 2007, it was finally repealed on the basis of the 1998 Law to Repeal Unjust Judgments in the Criminal Justice System.

Van der Lubbe's guilt was first questioned shortly after the fire. The National Socialists used the Reichstag fire as a pretext to take action against their opponents, the German Communists. Four other people were also charged in the Reichstag fire trial, but acquitted for lack of evidence.

Youth and political activity

Marinus van der Lubbe was born on January 13, 1909 in Leiden and grew up with two brothers in a very poor family. The father Franciscus Cornelis van der Lubbe was a traveling merchant, left the family after a few years and thereupon lost custody. The mother Petronella van Handel died in 1921 when van der Lubbe was twelve years old. He then lived for six years with his older half-sister's family in Oegstgeest . In 1927 he completed training as a bricklayer in Leiden. Because of his physical strength, he was called "Dempsey" by friends . In 1925 van der Lubbe suffered a serious accident at work, and while he was working, he got unquenched lime in his eyes. Despite the operation, his eyesight was severely impaired. He was almost blind and then permanently unable to work. Van der Lubbe was receiving an invalidity pension of 7.44 guilders per week. Because that was too little to live on, he had to earn something with odd jobs. Among other things, he helped out growing bulbs, worked as an errand boy and in the Leiden train station restaurant.

In 1925/1926 van der Lubbe became a member of the youth organization of the Communist Party of Holland (CPH). Van der Lubbe organized lectures and meetings for the party youth. During this time there were disputes between van der Lubbe and the various authorities. In 1930 he threw the panes into the social welfare office and was arrested for two weeks. He began to criticize the work of the CPH, which was not radical enough for him.

In 1931 he and a friend planned a trip through Europe, which he then went on alone. In April 1931 he stayed in Berlin for a few weeks and is said to have applied for an entry visa for the Soviet Union here without success . Van der Lubbe returned to Holland on foot, and in Gronau he was serving a two-week prison sentence for “illegal peddling”. In the autumn of the same year he made a trip to Budapest , in the spring of 1932 another one, which first took him back to Budapest, then to Czechoslovakia and finally to Poland , where he allegedly tried to cross the border to the Soviet Union. On June 12, 1932, van der Lubbe was arrested in Utrecht . He had been sentenced to three months' imprisonment by a court while he was absent for breaking a window in a welfare office. In the autumn of 1932 van der Lubbe's eye disease worsened; He therefore stayed several times - the last time until January 28, 1933 - in the University Clinic in Leiden. His eyesight in January 1933 was 15 percent in the left eye and 20 percent in the right.

After the break with the CPH, van der Lubbe joined the Council Communist- oriented group of International Communists (GIC), a product of the decay of the Dutch KAPD spin-off KAPN, which entered into in 1926 . His former roommate and friend, the student and GIC ideologist Piet van Albada, later stated that van der Lubbe had now "fought" the CPH. Van der Lubbe began to agitate among the unemployed in Leiden and campaigned for their self-organization. This resulted in further prison sentences for van der Lubbe.

Reichstag fire, trial and execution

In February 1933 van der Lubbe was invited to Berlin by “German friends”. According to his landlady, he was visited by a German on February 12; his brother Jan found a postcard signed “Fritz” with relevant content. To a member of the GIC, said Jan van der Lubbe, Marinus van der Lubbe justified his intention to go to Berlin by saying that “important things were happening there”. He also said "that his comrades were waiting in Berlin and needed him for urgent illegal work".

On February 18, 1933, van der Lubbe arrived in Berlin, where he was staying in a men's home on Alexandrinenstrasse. His activities during the following nine days could only be reconstructed very poorly. It seems certain that van der Lubbe went to known persons or contact addresses that had been given to him by a GIC member. These connections van der Lubbes were later deliberately kept out of the proceedings by the investigators. There is a recording of van der Lubbe's appearance in Berlin by KAU activist Alfred Weiland from 1967:

“I asked my friends to come back on the same day [23. February] to meet with van der Lubbe to find out what he wanted. (…) Van der Lubbe suggested starting a revolutionary action as a beacon, as he had already found several groups to support it. (…) I told my friends that van der Lubbe was probably incited by someone. I knew that at that time the communists had urged all members to be extremely quiet. So were our directives. We were all preparing for illegality. In order to find out more precisely what van der Lubbe was planning, and since we were of the unanimous opinion that something was wrong with the whole thing, I should speak to the man personally with the best possible security (...) Van der Lubbe appeared excitedly [on February 25 at around 9 p.m. on Berliner Strasse in Neukölln ] and immediately began to suggest direct action . (...) Since I knew that Hitler had been waiting for this kind of action to carry out his threats against the labor movement, I could not hold back and said to van der Lubbe literally: 'You have been exposed to provocateurs'. I left immediately. "

It is relatively well documented that van der Lubbe repeatedly moved in the Neukölln unemployed environment. He had proven contact with people, which are known by now that they as spies or agents provocateurs of the political police acted - as a Willi Hintze, on 24 February, the guest of a KPD - Traffic premises violent riots against officials Neukölln welfare office and for this purpose also offered weapons. According to his own account, van der Lubbe committed three smaller arson attacks on the evening of February 25: at the Neukölln welfare office (around 6:30 p.m.), at the Berlin City Hall (around 7:15 p.m.) and at the Berlin Palace (around 8 p.m.). On February 26th, van der Lubbe left the men's home on Alexandrinenstrasse and went to Spandau . He spent the night of February 27 in the Hennigsdorf police asylum , a small room with four beds in the local police station. Another person was there that night, whose identity and role were later questioned several times.

According to his own statements, van der Lubbe walked from Hennigsdorf to Berlin city center on February 27. There is no reliable information about his activities on that day. In his interrogation, Van der Lubbe stated that after dark he climbed onto a small balcony to the right of the large flight of stairs of the Reichstag building, had kicked the double doors to the restaurant and had set several fires in the building with the help of four packs of charcoal lighters. Between 9:20 p.m. and 9:25 p.m. he was arrested without resistance in the Bismarck Hall. Van der Lubbe was accused of arson , which he admitted in the interrogations that followed. To clear up the Reichstag fire, Hermann Göring set up a special commission headed by Rudolf Braschwitz . In addition to Reinhold Heller , the four-person commission also included the detective Helmut Heisig , who was the first to interrogate van der Lubbe a few hours after the fire. On March 9, charges were brought against van der Lubbe and the then chairman of the Reichstag faction of the KPD, Ernst Torgler, as well as the three Bulgarian communists Georgi Dimitrov , Blagoi Popow and Wassil Tanew .

The trial before the 4th Criminal Senate of the Reichsgericht in Leipzig began on September 21, 1933. Numerous journalistic and legal process observers have testified that van der Lubbe - the his interrogators in the spring of 1933 had described his interrogators as lively, very talkative and "fixed boy" - appeared completely apathetic in the courtroom from the start. Basically he spoke very softly, usually only responding to questions put to him with a brief yes or no. During the trial, van der Lubbe's mental and physical decline accelerated. He usually sat or stood bent over, stared at the floor and even seemed unable to blow his nose. He was pale, and sometimes his "complexion turned slightly green". Most recently, his previously noticeably emaciated face suddenly appeared very bloated, while he fell asleep during the closing arguments and the verdict. The cause of van der Lubbe's development is unclear. It was suspected, among other things, that he could have been poisoned with bromine , hypnotized or drugged . Only twice - on the 37th and 42nd day of the negotiation - van der Lubbe briefly "woke up" from his twilight state, whereupon Senate President Wilhelm Bünger interrupted the negotiation or ended it prematurely. The names of the doctors responsible for the care of van der Lubbe, to whose work the assistant to the psychiatric expert Karl Bonhoeffer referred in 1966, are still unknown today.

Despite his poor physical and mental health, van der Lubbe was sentenced to death on December 23, 1933 for “ high treason in unity with willful arson ” . The co-defendants were acquitted for lack of evidence , but initially sent to a concentration camp for “ protective custody ” . The death sentence against van der Lubbe was carried out on January 10, 1934 in Leipzig by the executioner Alwin Engelhardt with the guillotine . He renounced both priestly assistance and the possibility of writing a farewell letter. Van der Lubbe was buried anonymously in Leipzig's southern cemetery.

The proceedings against van der Lubbe in the case law after 1945

Memorial stone for Marinus van der Lubbe on the Leipzig South Cemetery

34 years after the Reichstag fire, the judgment in 1967 was partially amended by the Berlin Regional Court and the death penalty was subsequently reduced to a prison sentence of eight years. Both the Attorney General and the brother Jan van der Lubbe appealed against a complaint with the Supreme Court a Berlin. Both complaints were rejected by the 1st Criminal Senate of the Berlin Court of Appeal on May 17, 1968. According to the Court of Appeal, “there is no suspicion based on the fact that the actual findings in the judgment of the Reich Court of December 23, 1933 were made for political reasons in violation of the rule of law”.

Another retrial application from van der Lubbe's brother Jan, represented by Robert Kempner , the former co-prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials , was successful. In 1980 the Reich court ruling was completely overturned by decision of the Berlin Regional Court and van der Lubbe was acquitted. In response to a complaint from the public prosecutor's office, the Chamber Court overturned this decision of the Berlin Regional Court, so that the partial annulment of 1967 remained. The case concerned the Federal Court of Justice several times , which decided in 1983 that a further reopening of the proceedings was inadmissible and that the decision from 1967 at that time was valid.

On December 6, 2007, the Federal Prosecutor's Office finally established "that the judgment against Marinus van der Lubbe, who was convicted in the 'Reichstag fire trial', has been overturned". The basis for the determination was the National Socialist Law on the Repeal of Unjust Judgments from 1998, according to which judgments from the period between 1933 and 1945 are to be officially overturned if they are based on specific National Socialist injustices.

Reichsgesetzblatt March 31, 1933: Law on the imposition and execution of the death penalty

Question of guilt

Shortly after van der Lubbe's arrest, there were doubts about his real guilt. His mentally confused demeanor during the trial raised doubts as to whether he was really able to set fire to the parliament building on his own and whether his confession could therefore be credible. In addition, his guilty responsibility was also questioned. It was widely suspected that he was deliberately drugged at the trial.

Another criticism was that the basis for the death sentence was the Reichstag Fire Ordinance , which came into force after the act, and the so-called Lex van der Lubbe . The death penalty for cases of severe arson introduced by the Reichstag Fire Ordinance was not threatened with death in the German Reich at the time of the crime. The subsequent assertion of the law on the imposition and execution of the death penalty of March 29, 1933 called "Lex Lubbe" also contradicted the Weimar Constitution. Because the legislature - the Reich government under the leadership of Adolf Hitler - and the court violated the prohibition of retroactive laws ( nulla poena sine lege ), which had been an integral part of the constitutional state in Germany since the 19th century .

The National Socialists took van der Lubbe's presence in the burning Reichstag as an occasion for brutal persecution of their opponents. Shortly after the fire, a wave of arrests began, affecting around 1,500 people - especially communists. The KPD was blamed for the act with a great deal of propaganda . With the Reichstag Fire Ordinance, Hitler took the opportunity to override those constitutional articles that guaranteed civil liberties. Until 1945, this ordinance formally provided the legal basis for many measures against persons and associations which the National Socialist regime assessed as opponents.

Political and historical debates

Immediately after the fact, a dispute about the motives and political motivation of van der Lubbe began. Van der Lubbe himself said in his controversial admission that he had undertaken the act all by himself in order to "call on the German workers to resist capitalist rule and the fascist seizure of power".

The National Socialists saw in van der Lubbe above all the Communist, who was almost only by chance Dutch. They used the Reichstag fire as an excuse to take action against the German communists.

For their part, the German communists distanced themselves from van der Lubbe. Two months after the Reichstag fire, leading members of the KPD published the “ Brown Book ”, which was translated into 17 languages. It deals with the atrocities committed by the Nazis, but also contained a defamatory campaign against the Dutch council communists. It was alleged, untruthfully, that van der Lubbe had acted on behalf of or at least in consultation with the Nazis, and he was also accused of being a " lust boy " and an anti-Semite . It was also denied that van der Lubbe had pursued political goals with his act. In terms of content, the communists mainly criticized the fact that the act had not been well thought out and could not possibly lead to a mobilization of the masses. On the contrary, it reduced the possibility of political resistance to zero.

As a reaction to the “Brown Book”, the “Roodboek” (Red Book) was also published in Amsterdam in 1933. It was published by the International van der Lubbe Committee , an organization of Dutch council communists and anarchists. They accused the SPD and KPD of having committed “betrayal of the working class” because of their inability to use the Reichstag fire constructively and their distancing from van der Lubbe. At the same time, the political background of the crime should be made clear with letters and diary entries.

In 1959 Fritz Tobias published in a series of articles in the Spiegel the thesis that Marinus van der Lubbe had set fire to the Reichstag alone and without accomplices. The "sole perpetrator thesis", which Tobias affirmed in 1962 in the form of an extensive book, was, however , contested in 1966 by the Swiss history professor Walther Hofer and the so-called Luxembourg committee. Since then, a controversy (at times very bitter) about the authorship of the Reichstag arson foundation has been simmering in historical studies. A majority of historians follow the “sole perpetrator thesis” with different weighting of the role of the National Socialists, a minority - including Alexander Bahar and Wilfried Kugel  - deny this and assume that the Nazi regime is primarily responsible. The historian Hermann Graml, on the other hand, has considerable doubts about both the sole perpetrator thesis and the opinion that the National Socialists were the perpetrators. The debate is not over yet.

In 2019, a document was discovered that substantiated doubts about the sole perpetrator thesis: The former SA member Hans-Martin Lennings made an affidavit in 1955 in which he declared that he had driven van der Lubbe to the Reichstag. Upon arrival, he and a colleague noticed the smell of burning and clouds of smoke. Therefore, Lennings, according to his own statement, protested with others against the arrest of van der Lubbe. The Hanover District Court confirmed the authenticity of the minutes.

Remembrance and remembrance

Unveiling of the Van der Lubbe farm in the Dutch city of Leiden (March 1984)

In the Netherlands in particular, Marinus van der Lubbe is remembered in various places. So at Morspoort in Leiden . There is a monument to Marinus van der Lubbe here. Between the Middelstegracht and the Uiterstegracht a new building complex has been named after him: the Van-Der-Lubbe-Hof. He is a stone's throw from the address where he lived himself for a short time. On February 27, 2008, exactly 75 years after the Reichstag fire, his hometown Leiden unveiled a life-size photo of him printed on an enameled plate in the Van-der-Lubbe-Hof . The monument was realized by an initiative in collaboration with the city of Leiden and unveiled in the presence of Elisabeth van der Lubbe , a niece of Marinus van der Lubbe.

Literary adaptations

In 1934 the Dutch writer Willem Elsschot wrote a poem called Van der Lubbe . In 1941, Bertolt Brecht described in his allegorical play Der Aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui a company in which a defendant by the name of Van Fish appears - an allusion to van der Lubbe and the Reichstag fire trial . In the underground comix series The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers by Gilbert Shelton occasionally occurs Marinus Van Der Lubbe international firebombing society ( "International Marinus van der Lubbe-arsonist Society") on a parody of the radical left-wing militancy of the 1970s Years. The song Feurio! von den Einstürzende Neubauten deals with the Reichstag fire and Marinus van der Lubbe.


  • Horst Karasek : The arsonist. Apprenticeship and traveling years of the journeyman mason Marinus van der Lubbe, who set out in 1933 to set fire to the Reichstag Wagenbach, Berlin 1980, ISBN 3-8031-2073-X . (This book is the first to publish parts of the 1933 Roodboek - Van der Lubbe en de Rijkdagsbrand in German.)
  • Martin Schouten: Marinus van der Lubbe - A biography. From the Dutch Helga Marx, Rosie Wiegmann. New Critique Publishing House, Frankfurt 1999, ISBN 9783801503321 . Reference to the review by Marlis Jost in Der Zeit December 9, 1999 according to the culture magazine [1]
    • Dutch original edition: Rinus van der Lubbe, 1909-1934 . Bezige Bij publishing house, Amsterdam 1986.
  • Josh van Soer (ed.): Marinus van der Lubbe and the Reichstag fire. Edition Nautilus, Hamburg 1983, ISBN 3-921523-68-0 . First German edition of the Red Book published in 1933: Roodboek - Van der Lubbe en de Rijkdagsbrand. Ed. Internationaal van der Lubbe Comité. Amsterdam. (Review on of July 1, 2013 by Galin Hristeva under the title Demonization and Heroization - Josh van Soer has published “Political Reflections” on Marinus van der Lubbe and the Reichstag fire .)
New edition under the title: Marinus von der Lubbe and the Reichstag fire - the red book. Nautilus, Hamburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-89401-776-7 .
  • Anson Rabinbach : Van der Lubbe - Röhm's boyfriend? The political dramaturgy of the exile campaign for the Reichstag fire . In: Susanne zur Nieden (Ed.): Homosexuality and Staatsräson. Masculinity, homophobia and politics in Germany 1900–1945 . Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2005, ISBN 3-593-37749-7 , pp. 193-213.

Fiction approximations

  • Jef Last : Kruisgang the Jeugd. , Rotterdam 1939. New edition as Linus van der Lubbe. Doodstraf voor een provo. Introduction Igor Cornelissen, Dinxperlo 1967. (political novel, created together with Harry Schulze-Wilde based on material that Theodor Plivier had collected about Lubbe)

Web links

Commons : Marinus van der Lubbe  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. judgment of the Supreme Court of 12.23.1933 - XII H 42/33 , in: OpinioIuris - The free law library .
  3. See Bahar, Alexander, Kugel, Wilfried, Der Reichstagbrand. How history is made, Berlin 2001, p. 425ff.
  4. Benjamin Carter Hett : The Reichstag fire. Retrial. Translated from the English by Karin Hielscher. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2016, ISBN 978-3-498-03029-2 , p. 144.
  5. ^ Bahar, Kugel, Reichstagbrand, p. 437.
  6. Josh van Soer (ed.): Marinus van der Lubbe and the Reichstag fire. Edition Nautilus, Hamburg 1983, ISBN 3-921523-68-0 , pp. 7-10.
  7. Quoted from Bahar, Kugel, Reichstagbrand, p. 441.
  8. See Kubina, Michael, From Utopia, Resistance and Cold War. The untimely life of the Berlin councilor communist Alfred Weiland, Münster-Hamburg-Berlin-London 2001, p. 118. See also Bahar, Kugel, Reichstagbrand, p. 461.
  9. Quoted from Bahar, Kugel, Reichstagbrand, pp. 444f.
  10. See Bahar, Kugel, Reichstagbrand, pp. 447ff.
  11. ↑ Based on a manuscript by Fritz Tobias: "Stand up, van der Lubbe!" The Reichstag fire in 1933 - the story of a legend . In: Der Spiegel . No. 44 , 1959 ( online ).
  12. See Bahar, Kugel, Reichstagbrand, p. 90.
  13. Quoted from Bahar, Kugel, Reichstagbrand, p. 464.
  14. Quoted from Bahar, Kugel, Reichstagbrand, p. 475.
  15. See Bahar, Kugel, Reichstagbrand, pp. 480, 482, 485.
  16. See Bahar, Kugel, Reichstagbrand, p. 495.
  17. Berlin Regional Court, decision of December 15, 1980, 510 - 17/80, StV 1981, 140.
  18. Kammergericht, decision of April 21, 1981, 4 Ws 53/81, NStZ 1981, 273.
  19. Federal Court of Justice, decision of May 2, 1983, 3 ARs 4/83 - StB 15/83, BGHSt 31, 365.
  20. Federal Prosecutor's Office: The judgment against Marinus van der Lubbe is overturned
  21. ^ Michael Stolleis: History of Public Law: Weimar Republic and National Socialism. Munich 2002, ISBN 978-3-406-48960-0 , p. 43.
  22. ^ Anson Rabinbach : Van der Lubbe - a pleasure boy Röhm? The political dramaturgy of the exile campaign for the Reichstag fire. In: Susanne zur Nieden (Ed.): Homosexuality and Staatsräson. Masculinity, homophobia and politics in Germany 1900–1945. Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2005, ISBN 3-593-37749-7 , pp. 193-213.
  23. ^ Hermann Graml: On the debate about the Reichstag fire . In: Dieter Deiseroth (ed.): The Reichstag fire and the trial before the Reichsgericht . Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-922654-65-7 , pp. 27-34.
  24. ^ Statement by SA man shakes single perpetrator thesis on the Reichstag fire., July 26, 2019 .;