On the night of February 27, 1933, an unemployed Dutch construction worker named Marinus van der Lubbe set fire to the Reichstag (German parliament) building, causing serious damage. The Nazis blamed the Communists for the fire and claimed emergency powers to crush all opposition. Bolstering Nazi claims, the police also arrested three Bulgarian members of the Communist International, who were in Germany at the time, and a leading German Communist. Despite Nazi claims, however, responsibility for the fire is unclear. The German Supreme Court found only van der Lubbe guilty. The Court acquitted the other defendants because there was insufficient evidence of their involvement. This footage shows scenes during the trial and some of the damage to the Reichstag building in Berlin.
Inside the German Supreme Court, five men are on trial for a crime that helped sweep Adolf Hitler and his party into power. The first being led in, hands manacled after eight days before the court, is Marinus van der Lubbe, 24-year-old Hollander, who has confessed. The others are German and Bulgarian Communists. Charged with setting fire to the burning Reichstag builidng, they have been in jail seven months. The case has stirred up controversy all over the world. Here is the Reichstag building, now being rebuilt. Flames started in four places, ruining the giant, guilded cupola. The blaze caused more than a million dollars damage. Hundreds of rags, rugs, and shavings had been soaked in gasoline to start the fire. Police saw men leaving the building and fired on them. Van der Lubbe was seen. These pictures, the first ever made within the German Supreme Court, show the Reichstag case in progress. Heavily guarded, Vasil Konstantinov Tanev, Bulgarian Communist. Ernst Torgler, center, a leader of the German Communist party, another defendant. And van der Lubbe, Communist or Nazi agent? The world awaits the answer.