Adolf Rall, was the eldest of five children, was born in Berlin on 7th June 1905. After leaving school he became a locksmith. In the late 1920s he joined the Sturmabteilung (SA).
On 30th April, 1932, Rall was arrested for stealing cars in Dresden. He was found guilty and sent to prison. Soon after his release he was arrested again for car theft and was returned to prison. In April 1933, he was sentenced for stealing a Daimler sedan in Stuttgart. (1)
According to a German anti-Nazi newspaper, Pariser Tageblatt, published in Paris, Rall had information about the Reichstag Fire. (2) It was claimed that "a former stormtrooper working in the jail where Rall was serving a sentence", discovered that he knew what had happened. (3)
It was stated that Karl Ernst and Hermann Göring were involved in planning the act of arson. Rall suggested that before the Reichstag fire broke out, he had been in "the subterranean passageway that connects the Reichstag assembly building to the building in which the government apartment of the Reich President Hermann Göring is located. Rall said that he had personally witnessed various members of his SA unit bringing the explosive liquids into the building". Apparently, Ernst told Rall "that an excuse was needed to begin attacking Communists". (4)
Adolf Rall died in his cell on 2nd November, 1933. It was reported in The Daily Telegraph that the leaders of the SA "arranged for the statements to be destroyed by accomplices in the prosecutors' office and for him to be murdered." (5)
Rudolf Diels and Hans Gisevius also provided information to support this story. However, Benjamin Carter Hett, who investigated this case for his book, Burning the Reichstag: An Investigation into the Third Reich's Enduring Mystery (2014), dismissed the idea that Rall had given the authorities information on the fire. (6)
(1) Tony Paterson, The Daily Telegraph (15th April, 2001)
The first documentary evidence has emerged to support the view that the Nazis started the 1933 Reichstag fire that Hitler used as a pretext to establish a dictatorship.
While historians have agreed that there is no substance to Nazi claims that German Communists were to blame for the blaze, there has also been a lack of evidence to back the widely held belief that Hitler's supporters burnt down the parliament building in Berlin.
After poring over 50,000 pages of hitherto unexamined documents from former East German and Soviet archives, four leading German historians have now concluded that the fire was a Nazi plot. Marinus van der Lubbe, 24, a pro-Communist Dutch labourer, was beheaded by the Nazis after admitting that he started the blaze alone to encourage a workers' uprising.
The news magazine Der Spiegel backed this version of events in the 1960s after a wide-ranging investigation. Now, however, the four historians argue that Der Spiegel's coverage was part of a cover-up by Nazi sympathisers to protect the culprits from prosecution. Their findings put them at odds with other leading academics.
They base their case on remarks by Adolf Rall, a thief and Nazi stormtrooper, whose body was found in woods near Berlin in November 1933. Rall is said to have told prosecutors of a meeting of the SA stormtroopers during which the SA leader, Karl Ernst, ordered them to enter the Reichstag through a tunnel and sprinkle flammable liquid inside.
Ernst is said to have told his men that an excuse was needed to begin attacking Communists. Hitler used the fire to justify the arrest and torture of 25,000 Left-wing activists and to pass an emergency decree establishing absolute Nazi authority.
According to the historians, a former stormtrooper working in the jail where Rall was serving a sentence, heard of his statement and tipped off the SA. Its leaders are then said to have arranged for the statements to be destroyed by accomplices in the prosecutors' office and for him to be murdered.
His remarks however are said to have been referred to in other papers found in the archives. The four historians - Hersch Fischler, Jurgen Schmaedeke, Alexander Bahar and Wilfred Kugel - say Nazi complicity in the blaze was kept secret by ex-Nazi journalists after the war.
(2) World Socialist Website (5th July, 2001)
The authors expose the Nazis as the only feasible culprits. Among the documentary evidence the authors base this verdict on is the testimony of SA member Adolf Rall (who was later murdered by the SA and the Gestapo). The emigré newspaper Pariser Tageblatt reported on December 24, 1933: "he (Rall) stated he was a member of the SA’s "Sturm 17" unit. Before the Reichstag fire broke out, he had been in the subterranean passageway that connects the Reichstag assembly building to the building in which the government apartment of the Reich President [Hermann Göring] is located. Rall said that he had personally witnessed various members of his SA unit bringing the explosive liquids into the building.
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