Dimitrov vs. Göbbels


From the Verbatim Report of the Court November 8, 1933

Questions to Goebbels


Dimitrov: Mr. President!

President: And so, Dimitrov, you must address all your questions to me! Do you understand?

Dimitrov: Answering the question of the Chief Prosecutor, the witness said that the setting on fire of the Reichstag, according to the opinion of the whole Cabinet was to serve as a signal for an armed insurrection on the part of the German Communist Party. I would like to know whether on the 26th of February, on'the 27th of February or on any other day following the Reichstag fire the Cabinet had taken a decision to make use of all armed forces in Prussia and Germany against the expected armed uprising of the German proletariat and of the German Communist Party. Is there any such decision, any authentic document, or isn't there?

President: Dimitrov! Ask your questions calmly and only to the point if you want to be allowed to put questions. Nothing else!

Dimitrov: Isn't this to the point?

President: Mr. Reichsminister, could you give any information on this question?

Goebbels: I must explain that it is not at all a task of the Cabinet to deal with the Communist peril. That was up to the Police Minister. It is not the fashion in a National Socialist Cabinet for a Minister of a given jurisdiction to hide behind the Cabinet majority. The Police Minister has the task to safely avert any serious danger and disturbance of Public tranquillity. If there is any need to act, the Police Minister puts into action his police force, The details are of no interest to the Cabinet, but the Police Minister is obliged to inform the Cabinet of the measures he has taken.

President: You have heard the answer.

Dimitrov: Does the witness, Mr. Minister Goebbels, know that at that time in the Police Ministry in Berlin, in the Direction of the Police and in the War Ministry orders had been given that the armed forces should be ready to act against the expected armed insurrection?

Goebbels: It seems that Mr. Dimitrov gets me mixed up with the War Minister and the Minister of Police. I am the Propaganda Minister, however, and have nothing to do with all this. I presume that the Police Minister had taken the respective measures to crush the peril at any given moment, but by no means the War Minister because, first, there is no War Minister, but only a Minister of Defence and, second, it is not among the duties of the Minister of Defence to ward off the Communist peril. It seems that Mr. Dimitrov considers the Communist peril much greater and more dangerous than it is, if he assumes that military force should be used against it. It was quite enough to use the SA arid the SS and the police in order to have it destroyed in a flash.

President: You have heard this answer too. We must agree with the witness that he is not at all obliged to give information on questions of other jurisdictions.

Dimitrov: In this connexion, Mr. President, I shall later on submit a proposal regarding the evidence. Does the witness, both as head of the National Socialist Party propaganda and as Propaganda Reichsminister, know whether it is true that the setting on fire of the Reichstag was immediately used by the Government and the Propaganda Ministry as a pretext to stifle the electoral campaign of the Communist Party, the Socialist and other opposition parties?

Goebbels: I did not understand this question well, Mr. President.

Dimitrov: Whether the setting on fire of the Reichstag was immediately used for propaganda purposes against the Communist Party, against Social Democracv and against the other opposition parties!

Goebbels: I must explain the following: the necessary measures were taken by the police. We did not need to use any propaganda, because the Reichstag fire was actually only a confirmation of our struggle against the Communist Party and we could merely add the burning of the Reichstag to the collection of adequate proofs against the Communist Party as a new evidence, there being no need to launch a special propaganda campaign.

Dimitrov: Did not he himself deliver a speech broadcast over the radio, branding the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party as authors of the Reichstag fire? Not only against the Communist Party but also against the Social Democratic Party?

President: Have you delivered a speech in this sense, Mr. Minister?

Goebbels: At that time I did not deliver any speeches over the radio but only prepared introductory reports for the meetings of the Führer. But it is quite possible that I have said this because it was my firm conviction - and my firm conviction now is - that the Communist Party is the author of the Reichstag fire.

Dimitrov: Was it not said in these speeches and circular letters of the Propaganda Ministry, as well as in the statements of Goering and the other Ministers, that not only the Communist Party , but also the Social Democratic Party had something to do with the Reichstag fire?

President: But tell me at last what connexion does that have with the question, who set the Reichstag on fire.

Dimitrov: There is a connexion, Mr. President, a close connexion.

Goebbels: Mr. President, I shall be only too glad to answer this question. A preliminary note. I have the impression that the defendant Dimitrov wants to make propaganda before the Court in favour of the Communist Party, respectively of the Social Democratic Party. I can give him an answer to that: I know what propaganda is and he need not try to overtax my patience with such questions; this is quite impossible.

When we accused the Communist Party of being the instigator of the Reichstag fire, the continuous line from the Communist Party to the Social Democratic Party was immediately apparent; because we do not share the bourgeois viewpoint that there is a fundamental difference between the Social Democratic and the Communist Party - something which is confirmed by the German politics of fourteen years. For us there was a difference between these two organizations only in tactics, only in the pace, but not in the principles, nor in the basic positions. When, therefore, we accused Marxism in general and its most acute form - Communism, of intellectual instigation, and maybe even of practical implementation of the Reichstag fire, then this attitude by itself meant that our national task was to destroy, to wipe off the face of the earth the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.

Dimitrov: In the autumn of 1932, during the chancellorship of von Papen and later of Schleicher 1) a series of assaults and bomb attempts took place in Germany. There were trials and capital sentences against some National Socialists. I ask, were not these acts of terrorism in 1932 the work of the National Socialists?

The Chief Prosecutor Dr. Werner: This, however, has nothing to do with this case.

Goebbels: I am ready to answer this question.

President: You are ready?

Goebbels: Of course! My answer to this question is: it is possible that agent provocateurs alien to the NSDAP circle 2) had been sent to it in order to carry out such assaults.

President: Have you any more questions to ask?

Dimitrov: Mr. President, I have not yet finished my questions. In my last question I did not speak about provocative elements, but about such National Socialists, who killed one of their enemies and were on this account sentenced to death. For political purposes, they were solemnly and demonstratively congratulated by the present Reichskanzler, Adolf Hitler.

President: Speak only facts! What else have you to ask?

Dimitrov: I ask, is this true?

President: The defendant Dimitrov asks whether formerly sentenced National Socialists were solemnly congratulated by the Führer for political purposes.

Goebbels: The Führer thought that those men, who were subjectively convinced that they were acting justly and faced the scaffold, should not be left without support, and that is why he sent them a congratulatory telegram.

Dimitrov: Is it true that the National Socialist Government has granted a pardon to all terrorist acts carried out to further the aims of the National Socialist movement?

Goebbels: The National Socialist Government could not leave in prisons people who, risking their lives and health, had fought against the Communist peril.

President: Did you hear, Dimitrov?

Dimitrov: I did hear very well! So far as I know, Mr. President, four or five political murders are well known in Germany. The Communist leaders Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were murdered...

President: That's enough! (Dimitrov: After that...) The question goes very far. We have to clarify who set the Reichstag on fire. We cannot go back here to the distant past.

Goebbels: It might perhaps be more expedient if we started from Adam and Eve. At the time of these murders the National Socialist movement did not vet exist.

Dimitrov: Does the witness know that the murderers of the German statesmen Erzberger 3) and Rathenau 4) belong to the right wing and are not from amongst the Communists?

President (interrupting): I want to leave off this question at once, unless Mr. Minister wants to answer it.

Goebbels: I do not want to dodge this question. The murder of Erzberger and Rathenau was not perpetrated by National Socialist circles. This movement was still a very small group then...

President: Dimitrov, this is the second question which I should have rejected. You will probably remember the former cases. 5) I draw your attention to them.

Dimitrov: Are not the circles that committed such political murders in Germany now allies of the National Socialists?

Goebbels: I did not get the sense of the question.

President: He asks whether those, in whose circlcs the murders had then been committed, are now allies of the National Socialist Party.

Goebbels: I do not know in detail who the murderers were. Some fled abroad, others were shot by the Prussian police, while some committed suicide. The greater part of these people exists no more, and I am not interested in them.

Chief Prosecutor Dr. Werner: It is a good thing that Mr. Minister answered all these questions. (President: Yes, precisely). But I think that it would have been even more correct not to have answered those questions at all, because they are asked only for the sake of making propaganda here with a definite purpose. I think that if you answer all questions, the defendant Dimitrov will always have an occasion to ask new questions which will serve his propaganda.

Goebbels: I answer the questions in order not to give any possibility to Dimitrov, to those who stand behind him, and to the world press to maintain that I avoid or decline to answer his questions. I have managed to cope with a great many other people, so I need not be afraid of the questions of his smalltime Communist propagandist.

Dimitrov: May I remark, Mr. President, that my questions are in connexion with the indictment? All these questions are connected with a political charge against me as a defendant. That is precisely why I ask these questions. I am accused by the Prosecutor, among other things, of having intended to bring about a forceful change in the German Constitution by organizing the Reichstag fire. I ask, which constitution was, as a matter of fact, in force on January 30 and on February 27 in Germany?

Goebbels: The constitution which was approved by the Weimar Parliament was in force. Whether this constitution was good or bad - this is of no importance. But it was legal and we recognized it. We did not want to give the Communist Party the opportunity of changing it, but retained that right for ourselves. I think that the constitutional amendments made so far are insufficient.

Dimitrov: This proves that you do not respect the German Constitution.

President: Leave aside (turning to Dimitrov) those legal conclusions.

Dimitrov: Mr. President, I further ask the witness as head of the state propaganda: does he know that the periodical International Press Correspondence appears in Germany in German, in France - in French, in Spain - in Spanish, in England - in English and in Czechoslovakia - in Czech?

Goebbels: I can answer to this long question with just one word: No!

Dimitrov: Does the witness know that the periodical was legal up to the end of February?

President: The witness just said: 'No!' He does not know of this periodical, This answers the question. Have you any further question?

Dimitrov: Yes, Mr. President!

President: Hurry up then!

Dimitrov: Does the witness know that his partisans in Austria and Czechoslovakia, the local National Socialists, nowadays must also work illegally, carry on an illegal propaganda. and sometimes use false passports and that sometimes they have to resort to false addresses and cipher correspondence in their political struggle?

Goebbels: It seems that you are out to insult the National Socialist movement. I answer to you in Schopenhauer's 6) words: Every man deserves to be looked at but not to be talked to.

President: This is the third question which I find inadmissible.

Dimitrov: Inadmissible? I make a demand that evidence be admitted in connexion with this. I make this demand in connexion with the indictment that the Reichstag fire should be considered as a signal for an armed Communist insurrection, as well as in connexion with the statement, made by the Prussian Minister of the Interior and Prime Minister Goering and by the Reichsminister of Propaganda, Dr. Goebbels.

President: Enough! Submit your demand in evidence in writing!

Dimitrov: Mr. President...

President: Shut tip! Submit your demand in writing!

Dimitrov: Mr. President, according to the Penal Code of Procedure, I must make it orally!

President: No!

Dimitrov: Yes! Yes! This is necessary according to the Penal Procedure Code. This demand for evidence is in connexion with the statement that the Reichstag fire was to be the signal for an armed Communist insurrection.

President: You have already said that!

Dimitrov: I would like...

President: Enough! I forbid you to speak about the contents of the demand for admittance of evidence. The Court will take a decision on your written proposal.


1) Schleicher, Kurt von - German general and statesman, Minister of Defence in the von Papen Government in 1932, then shortlived Reichskansler.

2) NSDAP - National Socialist German Worker's Party - the Party of Hitler.

3) Erzeberger, Mathias (1875-1921) - German statesman, leader of the left wing of the Centre Party.

4) Rathenau, Walter (1867-1922) - outstanding German democratic politician, favoured a compromise with the Entente and a reapproachement with the USSR, signed the Rapallo Treaty with the Soviet Union at the Genoa Conference (1922), murdered by the fascists, in June, 1922.

5) The President has in mind Dimitrov's expulsion from the court-room when lie asked questions exposing the fascist incendiaries of the Reichstag.

6) Schopenhauer, Arthur (1788-1860) - reactionary German idealist philosopher, ideologist of the German Junkers, whose hatred of mankind is one of the sources of the predatory 'ideology' of German nazism.