Marinus (Rinus) van der Lubbe
(13 January 1909 – 10 January 1934
He was born with learning difficulties,. 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 Group of International Communists.
In 1933, Van der Lubbe fled to Germany to take action in the local communist underground.
He had a criminal record for arson.
Van der Lubbe said that he set the Reichstag building on fire as a cry to rally the German workers against fascist rule. He was brought to trial along with the head of the German Communist Party and three Bulgarian members of the Comintern. 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.
Historians disagree as to whether Van der Lubbe acted alone, as he said, to protest the condition of the German working class. The Nazis blamed a communist conspiracy. 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. William Shirer writing in
"The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" surmises that van der Lubbe was goaded into setting a fire at the Reichstag, but the Nazis set their own, more elaborate fire at the same time. The case is still actively discussed.
Never-the-less- Hitler used this event to gain 100% control of the German government. We know what the outcome was.