Lubbe, Marianus van den (1909-1934)
Luube was found in the Reichstag building on the night of the Reichstag fire and was executed by beheading for this the following year. Originally trained as a mason he was an itinerant construction worker. At one point had joined the Dutch communist Party but disliked the discipline and authoritarian codes therefore left to join an small anarcho-syndicalist group. He had his eyesight severely damaged by an accident at work and was almost unemployable. From February 1931 he had begun a trek towards Russia. Getting only as far as Poland he returned to Germany going to
Berlin. Lubbe was a believer in ‘direct action’ which he thought would arouse the working classes from their apathy and passivity in the face of the growth of Nazism. He had practised ‘direct action’ in Holland which had caused his break with the Communist Party. He started a campaign of arson in
Berlin beginning with an attempt on the 23rd of February to burn down a welfare office a symbol of the oppression of the working class through unemployment. He followed this up with arson attempts on the town hall and the former royal palace. These attempts had been frustrated by early discovery and had barely mentioned in the press. Lubbe then proceeded to attack the Reichstag itself. Although half blind he was able to gain easy access to the building and proceeded to start a series of fires. He was eventually found and overcome by Reichstag officials. Subsequent evidence confirms that Lubbe had been acting alone. Rudolf Diels the non-Nazi head of the Prussian police considered that Lubbe was a madman however Hitler ranted that it was a communist plot and that Communists and social democrats would be repressed mercilessly. Orders were issued for the arrest of over 4,000 Communists. Diels ignored the demand that they be instantaneously shot. There is huge debate about whether Lubbe was set up to do this work by Nazi agents. Certainly it is the case that the excuse for the repression of the communists only a few days before the last election of the Weimar period which saw Hitler being finally swept into power on a popular vote was an excellent pretext to use great physical violence to disrupt and fragment the Communist party and Social Democratic Party campaigns. The timing of this event and upping of the ante in terms of violence against left of centre opposition to Nazism legitimised through state institutions which led to the ability to pass the ‘enabling act’ provides strong circumstantial evidence pointing to a case of agent provocateurism. (For a useful recent account see Evans: 2003: pp 328-338).
This entry is linked to a posting on Visconti's representation of Nazism in The Damned
. This posting supplements that article.