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Rudolf Diels, Head of the Prussian Political Police, on the Reichstag Fire of February 27, 1933 (Retrospective Account, 1949)

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I reported on the results of the first interrogations of Marinus van der Lubbe–that in my opinion he was a maniac. But with this opinion I had come to the wrong man; Hitler ridiculed my childish view: 'That is something really cunning, prepared a long time ago. The criminals have thought all this out beautifully; but they've miscalculated, haven't they, Comrades! These gangsters have no idea to what extent the people are on our side. They don't hear the rejoicing of the crowds in their rat holes, from which they now want to emerge', and so it went on.

I pulled Göring aside; but he did not let me start. 'Police on an emergency footing; shoot to kill; and any other emergency regulations which might be appropriate in such a case.' I said again that a police radio message would be sent to all police stations in his name, putting the police in a state of alert and ordering the arrest of those Communist officials whose imprisonment had been intended for some time in the event of a ban on the Party. Göring was not listening: 'No Communist and no Social Democrat traitor must be allowed to escape us' were his last words. When I met Schneider again I tried to collect my thoughts:

'This is a mad-house, Schneider, but apart from that the time has come: all Communist and Social Democrat officials are to be arrested, big raids, a state of alert and all that goes with it!'

Schneider forgot the Social Democrats when he passed on Göring's order as a radio message. When I returned to the 'Alex' after midnight it was buzzing like a beehive. The alerted operational battalions of the police stood lined up in long rows in the entrance drives with steel helmets and rifles. While squad vans arrived and whole troops of detectives with registers prepared many years before jumped on the ramps, joined by uniformed officers, the first cars were arriving back at the entrance of the building with dazed prisoners who had been woken up from their sleep. [ . . . ]

Source of English translation: Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham, eds., Nazism 1919-1945, Vol. 1, The Rise to Power 1919-1934. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1998, pp. 139-141.

Source of original German text: Rudolf Diels, Lucifer ante portas: ... es spricht der erste Chef der Gestapo. Zurich, 1949, pp. 142-44.

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