Dimitrov vs. Göbbels


From the Verbatim Report of the Court September 26, 1933

From the interrogation of expert Josse1)



Dimitrov: I wish to protest against the falsified version of my words in the fascist press.

President: Shut up! I have not given you permission to speak. I am the one who decides when statements can be made.

Dimitrov: I should like to state on Saturday...

President: I do not permit you to make any statements now.

Dimitrov: I note that I am deprived of the possibility...

President: Keep quiet! You can note nothing here! Turn to your defence counsel!

Dimitrov: I am defending myself!

President (to van der Lubbe, after reminding him of the minutes of the inquest where the presumed course of the three minor fires is mentioned, but obtains either no reply or exceedingly short replies): Why did you perform these three acts of arson?

Van der Lubbe (after a long silence, through the interpreter): I was prompted by reasons of my own.

President: What did you want to prove thereby?

Van der Lubbe: At that time I did not know it myself2).

President: Was it not meant to be a public protest against capitalism (van der Lubbe keeps silent)?

Dimitrov: It is quite inexplicable that earlier van der Lubbe made such detailed depositions before the examining magistrate, while here, at the public hearing, he keeps quiet and makes no reply whatever. If he is normal indeed, as the professorial experts claim, there remains only one hypothesis.

Chief Prosecutor and President (interrupting): You cannot put forward any hypotheses here, but can ask questions only in connexion with the fires which are being examined at this moment.

Dimitrov: I shall do that at once. At any rate, I must state my viewpoint at least for once. Van der Lubbe was a simple, quite good boy, He was a mason, wandered, travelled, and then committed this crime. There can be only one hypothesis here. Either van der Lubbe is mentally unbalanced, or else he is normal. If he is normal and keeps quiet, he is keeping quiet on account of his monstrous crime against the proletariat. I wish to put to van der Lubbe the following question: Has he ever in his life heard my name?

President: Question overruled. It is inexpedient here.

Dimitrov (addressing van der Lubbe in a loud voice): He must tell the truth!

President: You have no right to ask questions. It is I who ask them (van der Lubbe keeps quiet).

Dimitrov: I put one more question to van der Lubbe.

President: What is it?

Dimitrov: Why does he behave here in this way? Why does he say once 'yes', the second time 'no', the third time 'yes' and 'no' and the fourth time does not answer at all? Does he understand this or not? It is indeed wonderful! Ridiculous!

President: Listen, you have no right to interfere in the deliberations. You speak as though you were taking a direct part in the deliberations. Your question is overruled.

Dimitrov: The third question: Has van der Lubbe talked with anyone about these fires?

President: Why this question?

Dimitrov: Has he had an agreement with anyone on this matter?

President: Question overruled.

Dimitrov: A final question: Why did he commit this monstrous crime against the German working class and with whom did he commit it?

President: Well, your questions are overruled. We have already heard everything. He has acted alone, and has told us part of his reasons without telling us the other part. Enough with those questions (The court hastily withdraws for deliberation).

President: The accused Dimitrov is not allowed to ask further questions, because he has abused his right of asking questions and asks them only for the purpose of making Communist propaganda (In spite of this Dimitrov insists on speaking. The policemen force him to sit down).

President: That is enough now, Dimitrov!

Dimitrov: I protest against this!3)

Dimitrov: Why were you unable to set fire to the small charity institution, yet managed to set fire to the large stone building of the Reichstag, and in just a quarter of an hour at that?

Dr. Sack: See, see! Dimitrov now wants to interrogate the accused van der Lubbe as an expert?

President: It is quite clear that such a question should be asked! How can you answer this, van der Lubbe? (Van der Lubbe keeps quiet).

Dimitrov: The Communist International demands full clarity on the question of the Reichstag fire. Millions are waiting for an answer!

President: Who is president here? Shut up immediately!.

Dimitrov: Millions are waiting for a clear answer!

President: I can no longer brook this! You must keep quiet when I order you to do so, otherwise I shall order you to be taken out of the courtroom.


1) The court trial was taken down in shorthand and recorded on gramophone discs. The shorthand minutes compromise several thousand pages.

The shorthand records of the sittings were placed at the disposals of the members of the court, the public prosecutor and the lawyers. The defendants did not get any copies of these records. After a stubborn struggle, Georgi Dimitrov managed to obtain these shorthand records of a few sittings. He took excerpts from these shorthand records in his notebook.

Some sittings were taken down in shorthand by the correspondents present at court and published at the time in the international progressive press.

The shorthand records published in this volume are excerpts from the court records. Still, they give a vivid picture of the court sittings, convey the general set-up and reveal Dimitrov's fight at the trial.

2) The inquest minutes, however, read: 'Van der Lubbe said that he wanted to incite thereby the workers to carry out a revolution while it was not too late, that he was glad he would be able to make an ardent speech before the court' etc.

3) A few days later, on October 4 during the interrogation of Torgler, Dimitrov again put several questions to van der Lubbe.