At the age of 12 he became a compositor in the printing industry and four years later helped form the Printers Union. Dimitrov joined the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party and soon became one of its leading left-wing members. In 1913 he was elected to the Bulgarian Parliament as a socialist. (2)
Dimitrov campaigned against the country's involvement in the First World War. This led to him being imprisoned for sedition and he was held in captivity without trial for over two years. (3)
In 1919 Dimitrov helped form the Bulgarian Communist Party. However, after the general election in October, 1919, Aleksandar Stamboliyski, the leader of the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union, became prime minister. His election was unpopular with the ruling class and was murdered during a military coup on 9th June, 1923. Stamboliyski was replaced by Aleksandar Tsankov, who attempted to crush left-wing political groups. In 1924 Dimitrov managed to escape to the Soviet Union and received a death sentence in absentia.
After the Russian Revolution leading members of the Communist Party founded the Communist International (later known as Comintern). The aim of the organization was to fight "by all available means, including armed force, for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and for the creation of an international Soviet republic as a transition stage to the complete abolition of the State". Lenin believed that to create the "foundations of the international Communist movement" was more important "than to conquer just Russia for the Revolution". (4)
Gregory Zinoviev, was elected chairman of the Comintern and one of his recruits was Georgi Dimitrov. Over the next few years he used various pseudonyms to travel around Europe helping to promote communist revolution. This included Vienna and in 1929 Dimitrov moved to Berlin. (5) His main task was to support the German Communist Party (KPD). According to Roy A. Medvedev, this involved undermining other left-wing, non-revolutionary groups, such as the Social Democratic Party (SDP). (6)
In the General Election of November 1932, the KPD won 100 seats in the Reichstag. The SDP did slightly better with 121 seats but it was the Nazi Party with 196, that had the greatest success. However, when Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor, in January 1933, the Nazis only had a third of the seats in Parliament.
On 27th February, 1933, the Reichstag building caught fire. It was reported at ten o'clock when a Berlin resident telephoned the police and said: "The dome of the Reichstag building is burning in brilliant flames." The Berlin Fire Department arrived minutes later and although the main structure was fireproof, the wood-paneled halls and rooms were already burning. (7)
Hermann Göring, who had been at work in the nearby Prussian Ministry of the Interior, was quickly on the scene. Hitler and Joseph Goebbels arrived soon after. So also did Rudolf Diels, who was later to become the head of the Gestapo: "Shortly after my arrival in the burning Reichstag, the National Socialist elite had arrived. On a balcony jutting out of the chamber, Hitler and his trusty followers were assembled." Göring told him: "This is the beginning of the Communist Revolt, they will start their attack now! Not a moment must be lost. There will be no mercy now. Anyone who stands in our way will be cut down. The German people will not tolerate leniency. Every communist official will be shot where he is found. Everybody in league with the Communists must be arrested. There will also no longer be leniency for social democrats." (8)
Hitler gave orders that all leaders of the German Communist Party (KPD) should "be hanged that very night." Paul von Hindenburg vetoed this decision but did agree that Hitler should take "dictatorial powers". Orders were given for all KPD members of the Reichstag to be arrested. This included Ernst Torgler, the chairman of the KPD. Göring commented that "the record of Communist crimes was already so long and their offence so atrocious that I was in any case resolved to use all the powers at my disposal in order ruthlessly to wipe out this plague". (9)
Marinus van der Lubbe had been arrested in the building. He was a 24 year-old vagrant. He was born in Leiden, on 13th January, 1909. His father was a heavy drinker who left the family when he was seven years old. His mother died five years later. He was then raised by an older sister and was brought up in extreme poverty. After leaving school Lubbe worked as a bricklayer but after an industrial accident in 1925 he spent five months in hospital. He never fully recovered from his injuries and was now unable to work and had to live on a small invalidity pension. He joined the Communist Party of the Netherlands and in 1933 moved to Germany. (10)
Van der Lubbe denied that he was part of a Communist conspiracy and had no connections with the SDP or the KPD. He insisted that he acted alone and the burning of the Reichstag was his own idea. He went on to claim, "I do nothing for other people, all for myself. No one was for setting the fire." However, he hoped that his act of arson would lead the revolution. "The workers should rebel against the state order. The workers should think that it is a symbol for a common uprising against the state order." (11) Hermann Göring, who was in control of the investigation, ignored what van der Lubbe had said and on 28th February, he made a statement stating that he had prevented a communist uprising. (12)
On 3rd March, Lubbe made a full confession: "I myself am a Leftist, and was a member of the Communist Party until 1929. I had heard that a Communist demonstration was disbanded by the leaders on the approach of the police. In my opinion something absolutely had to be done in protest against this system. Since the workers would do nothing, I had to do something myself. I considered arson a suitable method. I did not wish to harm private people but something belonging to the system itself. I decided on the Reichstag. As to the question of whether I acted alone, I declare emphatically that this was the case." (13)
Göring refused to believe this story and urged Detective-Inspector Walter Zirpins, who was leading the investigation, to find evidence that the Reichstag Fire was the result of a communist conspiracy. After the government promised a 20,000 marks to anyone who provided information that led to a conviction in the case, Zirpins received a call from a waiter, Johannes Helmer, who worked at the Bayernhof Restaurant. Helmer claimed that he had seen Van der Lubbe with three foreigners in the restaurant. (14)
The other eight waiters at the restaurant disagreed with Helmer but he continued to insist he was right: "In my opinion this man (Marinus van der Lubbe) is certainly one of the guests who repeatedly came into the cafe with the Russians. All of them struck me as suspicious characters, because they spoke in a foreign language, and because they all dropped their voices whenever anyone went past their table." (15)
Helmer was told to contact the police the next time the three men returned to the restaurant. This happened on 9th March and the three men, Georgi Dimitrov, Blagoi Popov and Vassili Tanev, were arrested. A journalist, Ernst Fischer, was also in the restaurant at the time: "Round the table sat a big, broad-shouldered man with a dark, lion's mane, and two younger men, slighter in build and less striking in appearance. The detective asked them to come along. The big, broad-shouldered man produced his papers." (16)
The men were carrying false papers but the police soon discovered that the documents had been produced at a shop linked to the KPD. When they went to their lodgings they found communist leaflets. After further questioning the men admitted that they were Bulgarians rather than Russians. However, the police still not realise that Dimitrov was the head of the Central European section of Comintern and one of the most important figures in the "international Communist movement". (17)
Georgi Dimitrov, Marinus van der Lubbe, Ernst Torgler, Blagoi Popov and Vassili Tanev were indicted on charges of setting the Reichstag on fire. The trial began on 21st September, 1933. The presiding judge was Judge Dr. Wilhelm Bürger of the Supreme Court. The accused were charged with arson and with attempting to overthrow the government. (18)
Douglas Reed, a journalist working for The Times, described the defendants in court. "A being (Marinus van der Lubbe) of almost imbecile appearance, with a shock of tousled hair hanging far over his eyes, clad in the hideous dungarees of the convicted criminal, with chains around his waist and wrists, shambling with sunken head between his custodians - the incendiary taken in the act. Four men in decent civilian clothes, with intelligence written on every line of their features, who gazed somberly but levelly at their fellow men across the wooden railing which symbolized the great gulf fixed between captivity and freedom.... Torgler, last seen by many of those present railing at the Nazis from the tribune of the Reichstag, bore the marks of great suffering on his fine and sensitive face. Dimitrov, whose quality the Court had yet to learn, took his place as a free man among free men; there was nothing downcast in his bold and even defiant air. Little Tanev had not long since attempted suicide, and his appearance still showed what he had been through, Popov, as ever, was quiet and introspective." (19)
Georgi Dimitrov constantly passed comments on proceedings. Fritz Tobias has commented: "The great pomp with which the trial was conducted did not impress Dimitrov for a single moment. His intelligence was razor-sharp and, unlike his two compatriots, he had a good command of the German language, and was therefore able to expose the prosecution's case for the sham it was." (20)
Dimitrov was first expelled for the first time on 6th October 1933. According to foreign press, he was ejected for "quite inexplicable reasons" or "on a ridiculous pretext". He was actually removed for accusing the Gestapo for adding a cross over the Reichstag on a map he had purchased. The judge ruled that he had been taken from the court "for disobeying repeated admonitions to desist from insulting police officers". (21)
Dimitrov persistently refused to allow his Government-nominated counsel, Dr Teichert, to act on his behalf. On 12th October he was expelled from the court once again. In a letter to Judge Dr. Wilhelm Bürger he pointed out that the German Supreme Court had rejected every one of the eight lawyers he had selected. Therefore, he argued: "I had no option but to defend myself as best I could. As a result I have been compelled to appear in Court in a double capacity: first as Dimitrov, the accused, and second as the defender of the accused Dimitrov." (22)
At this time, the German government, had not taken full control of the court system. Judge Bürger held conservative views and was a member of the right-wing, German National People's Party (DNVP), "for all his political prejudices, was a lawyer of the old school, and stuck to the rules." Bürger was so impressed with Dimitrov's letter he gave permission for him to represent himself in court. Something he did with "ingenuity and skill". (23)
Dimitrov became the "hero" of the trial. "Dimitrov... was always polite and courteous, but the attacks on the Nazis and his comments on the judges and the manner in which they were conducting the trial were sharp, bitter and ironic. On one occasion he would declare that the verdict of the trial was already fixed, and not by the court. On another occasion, he accused the Nazis themselves of setting the Reichstag on fire." (24)
The indictment against Dimitrov read: "Although Dimitrov was not caught red-handed at the scene of the crime, he nevertheless tock part in the preparations for the burning of the Reichstag. He went to Munich in order to supply himself with an alibi. The Communist pamphlets found in Dimitrov's possession prove that he took part in the Communist movement in Germany...The charge rests on the basis that this criminal outrage was to be a signal, a beacon for the enemies of the State who were then to launch their attack on the German Reich, to destroy it and to set up in its place a dictatorship of the proletariat, a Soviet State, at the orders of the Third International."
Professor Emile Josse, lecturer on thermodynamics at the Berlin Technical College, argued in court that van der Lubbe could not have set fire to the Reichstag on his own. Dimitrov, commented: "I am glad that the experts too are of the opinion that van der Lubbe could not have acted all by himself. This is the only point in the indictment with which I am in complete accord... I wish once more and for the last time to ask van der Lubbe. As was already said, he was not alone. His conduct, his silence makes it possible for innocent people to be accused along with him. I would not ask van der Lubbe about his accomplices, had his act been revolutionary, but it is counter-revolutionary." Van der Lubbe refused to answer. (25)
Van der Lubbe admitted that he had made three failed attempts at arson on 25th February in different buildings in Berlin. Dimitrov asked van der Lubbe: "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?... The Communist International demands full clarity on the question of the Reichstag fire. Millions are waiting for an answer!" (26)
Dimitrov was also allowed to cross-examine Hermann Göring in court. Göring kept his expectant audience waiting and arrived over an hour late: "Göring entered the room in the brown uniform, leather belt and top boots of an S.A. leader. Everyone jumped up as if electrified, and all Germans, including the judges, raised their arms to give the Hitler salute." (27)
Dimitrov's first question concerned an interview on 28th February, 1933, where he claimed that when van der Lubbe was arrested, he had a German Communist Party membership card in his pocket. He asked Göring how he knew this? He replied: "I do not run about or search the pockets of people. If this should still be unknown to you, let me tell you: the police examines all great criminals and informs me of its findings". Dimitrov then shocked the court by claiming: "The three officials of the criminal police who arrested and first interrogated van der Lubbe unanimously declared that no membership card was found on Lubbe. From where has the information about the card come then, I should like to know?"
Dimitrov then went on to ask Göring why he immediately announced that it was Communists who had set the Reichstag on fire: "After you, as Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, had declared that the incendiaries were Communists, that the German Communist Party had committed the crime with the aid of van der Lubbe as a foreign Communist, did this declaration on your part not serve to direct the police inquiry and afterwards - the Court investigations in a certain direction, excluding the possibility of looking for other ways and means of finding the true incendiaries of the Reichstag?"
Göring replied: "The criminal police will investigate all traces, be sure of it. I had only to establish: was this a crime beyond the political sphere or was it political in character. For me it was a political crime and I was also convinced that the criminals had to be looked for in your Party". He then shook his fists at Dimitrov and shouted. "Your Party is a Party of criminals, which must be destroyed! And if the hearing of the Court has been influenced in this sense, it has set out on the right track.... the German people know that here you are behaving insolently, that you have come here to set fire to the Reichstag. But I am not here to allow you to question me like a judge and to reprimand me! In my eyes you are a scoundrel who should be hanged." Dimitrov's questioning of Göring was considered so successful that he was expelled from the court for three days. (28)
Georgi Dimitrov returned on the 8th October and was now allowed to cross-examine Joseph Goebbels. He obviously agreed to this as he was confident that he was clever enough to deal with Dimitrov. He was asked: "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 replied: "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 then asked the killer question: "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?" Dimitrov's purpose in asking the question was quite clear. If Goebbels now admitted he had been wrong about the Social Democrats, might he not have been equally wrong about the Communists?
Goebbels replied: "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 then suggested that the Nazi Party agreed with violence if it was used against left-wing activists. He mentioned the deaths of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht: "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 replied that: "The National Socialist Government could not leave in prisons people who, risking their lives and health, had fought against the Communist peril." (29)
On 16th December, 1933, Georgi Dimitrov was allowed to make his final speech to the court. "I am defending myself, an accused Communist. I am defending my political honour, my honour as a revolutionary. I am defending my Communist ideology, my ideals. I am defending the content and significance of my whole life. For these reasons every ward which I say in this Court is a part of me, each phrase is the expression of my deep indignation against the unjust accusation, against the putting of this anti-Communist crime, the burning of the Reichstag, to the account of the Communists." (30)
Dimitrov talked about previous attempts to use forged documents to accuse left-wing activists of attempting to cause revolutions. This included the case of the Zinoviev Letter. In September 1924 MI5 intercepted a letter signed by Grigory Zinoviev, chairman of the Comintern in the Soviet Union, and Arthur McManus, the British representative on the committee. In the letter British communists were urged to promote revolution through acts of sedition. The publication of the letter in the Daily Mail helped to bring down Ramsay MacDonald, and the Labour government. (31)
Dimitrov explained: "I should like also for a moment to refer to the question of forged documents. Numbers of such forgeries have been made use of against the working class. Their name is legion. There was, for example, the notorious Zinoviev letter, a letter which never emanated from Zinoviev, and which was a deliberate forgery. The British Conservative Party made effective use of the forgery against the working class."
Another aspect of his speech dealt with the funding of the Nazi Party. He claimed that industrialists such as Alfried Krupp and Fritz Thyssen, had provided money to Adolf Hitler in order to produce legislation that was hostile to trade unions. "This struggle taking place in the camp of the National Front was connected with the behind-the-scenes struggle in Germany's leading economic circles. On the one hand was the Krupp-Thyssen circle (the war industry), which for many years past has supported the National Socialists; on the other hand, being gradually pushed into the background, were their opponents. Thyssen and Krupp wished to establish the principle of absolutism, a political dictatorship under their own personal direction and to substantially depress the living standards of the working class; it was to this end that the crushing of the revolutionary working class was necessary."
Dimitrov also attacked his fellow defendant, Marinus van der Lubbe: "What is van der Lubbe? A Communist? Inconceivable. An Anarchist? No. He is a declassed worker, a rebellious member of the scum of society. He is a misused creature who has been played off against the working class. No, he is neither a Communist nor an Anarchist. No Communist, no Anarchist anywhere in the world would conduct himself in Court as van der Lubbe has done. Genuine Anarchists often do senseless things, but invariably when they are haled into Court they stand up like men and explain their aims. If a Communist had done anything of this sort, he would not remain silent knowing that four innocent men stood in the dock alongside him. No, van der Lubbe is no Communist. He is no Anarchist; he is the misused tool of fascism." (32)
On 23rd December, 1933, Judge Wilhelm Bürger announced that Marinus van der Lubbe was guilty of "arson and with attempting to overthrow the government". Bürger concluded that the German Communist Party (KPD) had indeed planned the fire in order to start a revolution, but the evidence against Georgi Dimitrov, Ernst Torgler, Blagoi Popov and Vassili Tanev, was insufficient to justify a conviction. (33)
After his release Georgi Dimitrov moved to Paris where he joined up with Willi Münzenberg, a leading figure in the KPD. Münzenberg had established the World Committee Against War and Fascism. The group, that included people such as Heinrich Mann, Charlotte Despard, Sylvia Pankhurst, Ellen Wilkinson, Vera Brittain, Storm Jameson, Ella Reeve Bloor, John Strachey, Norman Angell and Sherwood Anderson, established an investigation into the Reichstag Fire.
Münzenberg arranged for the publication of the book, The Brown Book of the Hitler Terror and the Burning of the Reichstag. With a cover designed by John Heartfield, the book argued that Hermann Göring was responsible for the Reichstag Fire. The historian A. J. P. Taylor, has pointed out: "Münzenberg and his collaborators were a jump ahead of the Nazis. Not only had they the evidence of the experts, demonstrating that van der Lubbe could not have done it alone and therefore implicating the Nazis; they also produced a mass of evidence to show how the Nazis had done it. The vital point here was an underground passage from Göring’s house to the Reichstag, which carried electric and telephone cables and pipes for central heating. Through this passage some S.A. men (Brown Shirts) were supposed to have entered the Reichstag." (34)
Münzenberg became the key figure in propaganda campaign that attempted to show that Adolf Hitler was behind the burning of the Reichstag. "He (Münzenberg) organized the Reichstag Counter-Trial - the public hearings in Paris and London in 1933, which first called the attention of the world to the monstrous happenings in the Third Reich. Then came the series of Brown Books, a flood of pamphlets and newspapers which he financed and directed, though his name nowhere appeared." (35)
The name of Otto Katz appeared on the cover of The Brown Book of the Hitler Terror and the Burning of the Reichstag. However, it was the work of a small group of communist journalists. Alfred Kantorowicz was one of those involved in producing the booklet: "The world at large learned of the history of this fire and of the true incendiaries from the Brown Book of the Hitler Terror and the Burning of the Reichstag, which contained a complete and irrefutable body of evidence." (36)
The book included a document that became known as the Oberfohren Memorandum. Published in April 1933, it was claimed to have been written by Ernst Oberfohren, the Parliamentary leader of the German National People's Party (DNVP). The document stated that Hermann Göring and Edmund Heines, had organized the Reichstag fire. "The agents of Herr Göring, led by the Silesian S.A. leader, Reichstag-deputy Heines, entering the Reichstag through the heating-pipe passage leading from the palace of the President of the Reichstag, Göring. Every S.A. and S.S. leader was carefully selected and had a special station assigned to him. As soon as the outposts in the Reichstag signalled that the Communist deputies Torgler and Koenen had left the building, the S.A. troop set to work." (37) Oberfohren was unable to confirm the authenticity of the document as he had committed suicide on 7th May, 1933.
Another document published in the book was a letter signed by Karl Ernst, a leading figure in the Sturmabteilung (SA). He confessed that on the orders of Göring and Wolf von Helldorf, he along with Edmund Heines, had helped to set fire to the Reichstag. "Helldorf told me that the idea was to find ways and means of smashing the Marxists once and for all". "We spent hours settling all the details. Heines, Helldorf and I would start the fire on the 25th February, eight days before the election. Göring promised to supply incendiary material of a kind that would be extremely effective yet take up very little space."
Ernst went on to point out: "A few days before the fixed date, Helldorf told us that a young fellow had turned up in Berlin of whom we should be able to make good use. This fellow was the Dutch Communist van der Lubbe. I did not meet him before the action. Helldorf and I fixed all the details. The Dutchman would climb into the Reichstag and blunder about conspicuously in the corridor. Meanwhile I and my men would set fire to the Session Chamber and part of the lobby. The Dutchman was supposed to start at 9 o'clock - half an hour later than we did.... Van der Lubbe was to be left in the belief that he was working by himself." (38)
Karl Ernst said that he had signed this document on 3rd June, 1934, because he feared for his life. "I am doing so on the advice of friends who have told me that Göring and Goebbels are planning to betray me. If I am arrested, Göring and Goebbels must be told at once that this document has been sent abroad. The document itself may only be published on the orders of myself or of the two friends who are named in the enclosure, or if I die a violent death." Ernst was in fact executed on 30th June, 1934, as part of the Night of the Long Knives. (39)
Georgi Dimitrov returned to the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin, who had been very impressed with his performance at the Reichstag Fire, appointed him as head of the Comintern. In 1935, at the 7th Comintern Congress, Dimitrov spoke for Stalin when he advocated the Popular Front strategy. Up until then socialist and liberal parties were denounced as "social fascists". Now they were "proclaimed to be desirable allies, to be wooed and joined in common struggle against the fascist danger, against the threatening alliance of Germany, Japan, and Italy." (40)
In his speech Dimitrov argued that with the rise of Adolf Hitler the "formation of a joint People's Front providing for joint action with social democratic parties is a necessity". He added that it was vital that "we endeavour to unite the communist, social democratic, Catholic and other workers". He compared the Popular Front movement with the ancient tale of the capture of Troy: "The attacking army was unable to achieve victory until, with the aid of the Trojan Horse, it penetrated to the very heart of the enemy camp. We, revolutionary workers, should not be shy of using the same tactics." (41)
This strategy was employed during the Spanish Civil War. Dimitrov was in favour of the formation of International Brigades. These were volunteer international legions that would fight on the side of the Republican Army. One of these legions was named the Dimitrov Battalion. It was composed of Czech, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Rumanian and Yugo-Slavian troops". (42) The battalion took part in several battles including the offensive at Jarama in February 1937. One of its commanders was Josip Tito, who later became ruler of Yugoslavia. (43)
Stalin began to grow concerned about the supporters of Leon Trotsky fighting in the war against fascism in Spain. Alexander Orlov and his NKVD agents had the unofficial task of eliminating the Trotskyites fighting for the Republican Army and the International Brigades. This included the arrest and execution of leaders of the Worker's Party (POUM), National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT) and the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI). Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996) has pointed out: "Stalin had a secret and extremely important aim in Spain: to eliminate the supporters of Trotsky who had gathered from all over the world to fight for the Spanish revolution. NKVD men, and Comintern agents loyal to Stalin, accused the Trotskyists of espionage and ruthlessly executed them." (44)
Georgi Dimitrov, who for a long time had been an advocate of world revolution, was also investigated. The NKVD put together a special file against Dimitrov but he was never arrested. Stalin told him that "all of you in the Comintern are hand in glove with the enemy". (45) However, many of his friends were put on trial during the Great Purge. "Scores of functionaries in its Executive Committee as well as its various departments were executed." (46)
Dimitrov's two comrades, Blagoi Popov and Vassili Tanev, who had been charged with the Reichstag Fire, were also arrested (47) When he appealed on behalf of the two men, Stalin shrugged: "What can I do for them, Georgi? All my own relatives are in prison too." (48)
In January, 1937, Yuri Piatakov, Karl Radek, Grigori Sokolnikov, and several other leading members of the Communist Party were put on trial. They were accused of working with Trotsky in an attempt to overthrow the Soviet government with the objective of restoring capitalism. Lion Feuchtwanger, the German writer, went to see Georgi Dimitrov and informed him "that people took a very hostile view of this trial, and that nobody would believe that fifteen high-principled revolutionaries, who had so often risked their lives by participating in conspiracies." It was said that "Dimitrov was very agitated when talking about this" but was unable to "convince him" that these men were guilty. (49)
After the occupation of Bulgaria by the Red Army in September 1944, Georgi Dimitrov returned to his home land and took over the leadership of the Bulgarian Communist Party. A one-party state was established and Dimitrov was made Premier of Bulgaria on 6th November, 1946. (50)
Dimitrov started negotiating with Josip Tito, the communist leader of Yugoslavia, about the creation of a Federation of the Southern Slavs. The idea eventually resulted in the Bled Accord, signed by Dimitrov and Tito on 1st August 1947. The agreement called for abandoning frontier travel barriers and arranging for a future customs union. (51)
Joseph Stalin did not like the idea of the two communist leaders exerting their independence. It is believed that Stalin sent out agents to kill the two men. Tito sent a note to Stalin that said: "Stalin: stop sending people to kill me. We've already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle... If you don't stop sending killers, I'll send one to Moscow, and I won't have to send a second." (52)
Georgi Dimitrov died after a short illness on 2nd July, 1949, in a sanatorium near Moscow. Some historians have raised the issue that Dimitrov was poisoned. Simon Sebag Montefiore has pointed out that Stalin arranged for several of his opponents to die while being treated for different medical conditions. (53)
Milovan Djilas has argued: Dimitrov.... belonged to that class of Bulgarians - the best of their race - in whom rebellion and self-confidence fuse in an indestructible essence. He must at least have suspected that the Soviet attack on Yugoslavia would entail the subjugation of Bulgaria, and that the realization of his youthful dream of unification with Serbia would be projected into the misty future, thereby reopening the yawning gulf of Balkan conflicts, and unleashing a tumultuous flood of Balkan claims. Today, after so many years, I still think that even though Dimitrov was ailing and diabetic, he did not die a natural death in the Borvilo clinic outside Moscow. Stalin was wary of self-confident personalities, especially if they were revolutionaries, and he was far more interested in Balkan hatreds than in Balkan reconciliations." (54)
Born on June 18, 1882, at Radomir, near Sofia.
Left school in the 6th grade, worked as a compositor up to 1904.
Son of the Bulgarian working class.
Born and brought up in the ranks of the revolutionary workers' movement (I have been active in this movement from the age of 15).
For thirty, years member of the Bulgarian Communist Party.
For twenty-three years member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Bulgaria.
From 1904 to 1923 secretary of the Trade Union Federation.
From 1913 to 1923 Party national representative for Sofia in the Bulgarian Parliament - also representative of the Party in the municipal Council of Sofia and in the Regional Council of Sofia.
At the same time I was active as a Party speaker and writer.
June 9, 1923 - Military coup d'etat - overthrow) of Stamboliiski's Government - by officers and Macedonian terrorists under the patronage of the Tsar himself, aided by, Social-Democrats and from abroad.
Thousands upon thousands of peasants, workers, intellectuals murdered. Stamboliiski murdered.
Largest parties - Agrarian Union and Communist Party - dissolved.
All rights and liberties of the mass of the people abolished.
Introduction of a military-fascist regime.
Boundless indignation - mass uprising inevitable.
September 23 - Workers' and peasants' uprising under the leadership of the Communist Party against the oppressors of the people and the usurpers of power, for a worker-peasant government.
In this uprising I was delegated by my Party to take an active and leading part.
After a week of armed struggle the uprising was defeated. Fighting every step of the way, with about a thousand of my comrades-in-arms I crossed over into Yugoslav territory.
There we were treated at first as political prisoners and later as political refugees.
From that time onwards - exactly ten years - I have been living abroad as a political refugee and a political writer - unregistered and under a false name, because while abroad I was again threatened with death by my enemies.
Several months after the September uprising I was sentenced to death by default - as the press announced at the time. I never had the opportunity of hearing the sentence pronounced against me.
I am proud of the heroic uprising.
I only regret that I and my Party were not yet real Bolsheviks at that time. That is why we were unable successfully to organize and lead this historic people's uprising, headed by the proletariat.
Our insufficiently Bolshevik organization, policy and tactics, the lack of revolutionary experience, and especially our opportunist and so-called neutral attitude towards the military-fascist coup on June 9, did much to help the murderers and executioners of the Bulgarian people, the usurpers of state power, to suppress the uprising of the masses.
But the Party has learned and appreciated the bloody lessons of this experience, and the struggle for the emancipation of the Bulgarian workers and peasants, under the leadership of the Communist Party, enlightened by the great experience of the September Uprising, is going unfalteringly forward to the final victory.
In order to root out Communism, immediately after the uprising and in the two following years the government's fascist gangs murdered more that 20,000 workers, peasants and intellectuals. My brother, too, was murdered in the police prison. But, notwithstanding this, Communism has incomparably deeper and stronger roots in Bulgaria now than in 1923 - undoubtedly a useful warning for all the eager extirpators of Communism in other countries - for all the many varieties of modern Don Quixotes.
October 1, 1923, I left for Vienna.
Support for my suffering fellow-fighters in Yugoslavia. Campaign for the defence of persecuted and bestially slaughtered class comrades in Bulgaria.
Here, for three months, I edited and published the Party organ, Rabotnicheski Vestnik.
Published two pamphlets against the bloody White Terror in Bulgaria, in Bulgarian, German and English.
In the spring of 1924 went to Moscow as a political refugee and political writer and stayed until the end of 1926.
In 1927 I was again in Vienna, in connexion with the projected amnesty, up to the autumn of 1929. I was not amnestied.
Publication of the Party paper, Komunistichesko Znamé, contacts with certain Party papers.
From the autumn of 1929 I was settled in Berlin - far fewer Bulgarian refugees were there, and therefore safer incognito.
Two fairly long interruptions - from November 1929 to May 1930, and from December 1931 to June 1932, in the Soviet Union.
I returned specially to Berlin in the summer of 1932 in connexion with the last draft Amnesty Law, in order personally to organize the amnesty campaign.
Journeys to Vienna, Amsterdam, Paris.
I have never taken part in German politics - have no contacts with the Communist Party of Germany. This was not necessary for my work.
But I openly state that if I had needed these contacts for my work I certainly should have been associated with the Communist Party of Germany.
I was ill touch with International Press Correspondence only because of my articles.
It is true that I am a Bolshevik, a proletarian revolutionary. I must emphasize prolelarian revolutionary because this is a period of confusion in which even the German Crown Prince is accustomed to proclaim himself a revolutionary, and in which there are also such crazy revolutionaries as, for instance, van der Lubbe.
It is also true that as a member of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist international, I am a responsible and a leading Communist.
And I am ready to accept full responsibility for all the decisions, documents and actions of my Bulgarian Party and of the Communist International. But precisely for this reason I am not a terrorist adventurer, a conspirator or an incendiary.
Further, it is perfectly true that I am in favour of the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. I am firmly convinced that this is the only way out of, the only salvation from the economic crisis and the catastrophe of war under capitalism.
And the fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat and for the victory of Communism is, without any doubt, the whole substance of my life. I should like to live at least another twenty years for Communism and then quietly die. But precisely for this reason I am a convinced opponent of the methods of individual terror and conspiracies.
And this is not from any sentimental or humanitarian considerations. In agreement with our Leninist theory, and with the decisions and discipline of the Communist International, which for me and for every true Communist are the supreme law, I am opposed to individual terror and to putschist activities from the standpoint of revolutionary expediency, in the interests of the proletarian revolution and of Communism itself.
I am, in fact, an enthusiastic follower and admirer of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, because this Party rules the largest country in the world - a sixth part of the earth - and is building up socialism with such heroism and with such success,
But I have never been an emissary in Germany of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, as the indictment tries to indicate.
The only breach of the law which I have committed in Germany consists in the fact that I have lived there unregistered and under a false name.
But unfortunately it was impossible for me to live in any other way.
With the burning of the Reichstag I had absolutely nothing to do, whether directly or indirectly. The Reichstag incendiary, van der Lubbe, I now see for the first time in this hall. When, early in the morning of February 28, in the train from Munich to Berlin, I read in the papers about the burning of the Reichstag, I immediately took the view that the instigators of this action were either despicable provocateurs or mentally and politically demented people, and in any case enemies of the German working class and of Communism.
I am now more inclined to assume that the burning of the Reichstag - this anti-Communist undertaking - must have taken place as a result of a double alliance between political provocation and political madness.
It would hardly be possible to make a graver attack upon my revolutionary, political and personal honour than to cast upon me the suspicion arid the accusation that I had a share in this crime against the people and against Communism.
My consolation was, and is to this day, that my Bulgarian comrades-in-arms, the class comrades abroad, the revolutionary proletarians in Germany, and all who are acquainted with me in some degree, cannot doubt for a single instant that I am innocent. I wish most forcefully to stress that I have had just as much to do with the burning of the Reichstag as, for instance, any foreign correspondent in this hall or the judges themselves could have had.
At the same time I wish to state most emphatically that I have had absolutely no connexion, not even a chance connexion or the most remote connexion, with this crime.
During the preliminary examination I submitted two written statements - on March 20 and May 30 - where practically everything essential in my defence has already been said.
On the other hand, I did not sign the depositions at the preliminary examinations because they were incomplete and tendentious.
My whole preliminary examination was based on the express intention of turning me into an incendiary of the Reichstag for the benefit of the Supreme Court - at any price, and in spite of the facts which disproved this; and even after the preliminary investigation, which had lasted for months, had still failed - as I now see clearly - to discover the real criminals.
A being of almost imbecile appearance, with a shock of tousled hair hanging far over his eyes, clad in the hideous dungarees of the convicted criminal, with chains around his waist and wrists, shambling with sunken head between his custodians - the incendiary taken in the act. Four men in decent civilian clothes, with intelligence written on every line of their features, who gazed sombrely but levelly at their fellow men across the wooden railing which symbolized the great gulf fixed between captivity and freedom.... Torgler, last seen by many of those present railing at the Nazis from the tribune of the Reichstag, bore the marks of great suffering on his fine and sensitive face. Dimitrov, whose quality the Court had yet to learn, took his place as a free man among free men; there was nothing downcast in his bold and even defiant air. Little Tanev had not long since attempted suicide, and his appearance still showed what he had been through, Popov, as ever, was quiet and introspective.
Dimitrov: I am glad that the experts too are of the opinion that van der Lubbe could not have acted all by himself. This is the only point in the indictment with which I am in complete accord. But I go farther. According to me, at this trial van der Lubbe is, as it were, the Faustus of the Reichstag fire. This miserable Faustus has been brought before the Court, but the Mephistopheles of the fire is not here..
President: Now is not the time for pleading...
Dimitrov: Was it at all possible for van der Lubbe to cover the distance from the place of the fire and set fire to the hall?
Josse: At his arrest van der Lubbe was panting for breath and was all in sweat. Taking into consideration his agility, which was known to those who had known him before, in the course of this time he could all by himself have kindled the fire prepared beforehand.
Dimitrov: If I have correctly understood his words, the expert presumes the presence of at least two incendiaries?
Josse: Yes. (Van der Lubbe comes forward, and the interpreter translates for him in brief the depositions of Prof. Josse).
President: Raise your head, van der Lubbe! Do You understand what has been said? The expert who is a learned professor says that you could not have set fire to the Reichstag all by yourself. Who prepared the fire? Answer! (Van der Lubbe persists in his silence).
Dimitrov (Addressing van der Lubbe as the latter is being led past him to take his seat): This miserable Faustus must tell us the name of his Mephistopheles! Mr. President ...
President: Dimitrov, you cannot go on talking all the time. I can allow you to put just one question.
Dimitrov: I wish once more and for the last time to ask van der Lubbe. As was already said, he was not alone. His conduct, his silence makes it possible for innocent people to be accused along with him. I would not ask van der Lubbe about his accomplices, had his act been revolutionary, but it is counter-revolutionary.
President: That is enough. Ask just one question.
Dimitrov: Is it true that while setting the fire van der Lubbe passed along the course as indicated or not?
President: He has said that a hundred times already.
Dimitrov: Has van der Lubbe set fire to the hall all by himself?
President: He has already answered this question. This is the last question which I authorize.
Dimitrov: He said here that he ran through the hall with a piece of burning material in his hand - was that so? (The President asks the interpreter to translate the question to van der Lubbe).
Van der Lubbe: I cannot say this, exactly.
Dimitrov: On February 28 Prime Minister Goering gave an interview on the Reichstag fire, in which it was said: at the arrest of the 'Dutch Communist' van der Lubbe, besides his passport, his Party membership card was seized. How did the Prime Minister Goering know then that van der Lubbe had a Party membership card on him?
Goering: I must say that so far I have not been so much interested in the present trial, i.e. I did not read all the reports. I only heard from time to time that you (to Dimitrov) were a particularly clever man. That is why I supposed that the question which you asked has long been clear to you, namely that I never occupied myself with the investigation of this matter. I do not run about or search the pockets of people. If this (to Dimitrov) should still be unknown to you, let me tell you: the police examines all great criminals and informs me of its findings.
Dimitrov: The three officials of the criminal police who arrested and first interrogated van der Lubbe unanimously declared that no membership card was found on Lubbe. From where has the information about the card come then, I should like to know?
Goering: I can tell you that with absolute exactitude. This report was officially made to me. If on that first night they reported things which perhaps could not be checked so quickly, if before an official, perhaps on the basis of the depositions, it was mentioned that Lubbe had a membership card on him and if that could not be checked, they probably assumed it to be a fact and, of course, let me know it. I gave this information on the following day before noon when they had not yet definitely concluded the examination. This is of no significance in itself, because here, at the trial, it seems to have been established that van der Lubbe had no mrmbership card.
Dimitrov: the witness is Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior and President of the Reichstag, so does the Minister bear responsibility for his police?
Dimitrov: I ask: What did the Minister of the Interior do on February 28 and 29 or during the following days in order to establish through a police investigation van der Lubbe's moves frorn Berlin to Hennigsdorf, his stay at the Hermigslorf asylum, his getting acquainted there with two other persons, so as to discover in this way his real accomplices? What did your police do?
Goering: As Minister I, of course, did not go after the traces like a detective, for I have my police for this job.
Dimitrov: After you, as Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, had declared that the incendiaries were Communists, that the German Communist Party had committed the crime with the aid of van der Lubbe as a foreign Communist, did this declaration on your part not serve to direct the police inquiry and afterwards - the Court investigations in a certain direction, excluding the possibility of looking for other ways and means of finding the true incendiaries of the Reichstag?
Goering: First of all, the law prescribes to the criminal police to make its investigations in all criminal cases along all lines, regardless of where they may lead to, and wherever there are traces. However, I personally am not an official of the criminal police but a responsible Minister, and that is why it was not so important for me to find the particular petty criminal, but the Party, the outlook on life which was responsible for it all. The criminal police will investigate all traces, be sure of it. I had only to establish: was this a crime beyond the political sphere or was it political in character. For me it was a political crime and I was also convinced that the criminals had to be looked for in your (to Dimitrov) Party (Shakes his fists at Dimitrov and shouts). Your Party is a Party of criminals, which must be destroyed! And if the hearing of the Court has been influenced in this sense, it has set out on the right track.
Dimitrov: Is it known to the Prime Minister that the Party, which 'has to be destroyed,' rules over one sixth of the globe, namely in the Soviet Union, and that this Soviet Union maintains diplomatic, political and economic relations with Germany and that hundreds of thousands of German workers benefit from its economic orders?
President (to Dimitrov): I forbid you to make Communist propaganda here.
Dimitrov: Mr. Goering is making National Socialist propaganda here! (After that he turns to Goering). This Communist outlook on life prevails in the Soviet Union, the largest and best country in the world, and here, in Germany, it has millions of followers among the best sons of the German people. Is this known...
Goering (yelling loudly): I shall tell you what is known to the German people. the German people know that here you are behaving insolently, that you have come here to set fire to the Reichstag. But I am not here to allow you to question me like a judge and to reprimand me! In my eyes you are a scoundrel who should be hanged.
President: Dimitrov, I have already told you not to make here Communist propaganda. That is why you should not be surprised if the witness is so agitated! I most strictly forbid this propaganda! You can only ask questions referring to the trial.
Dimitrov: I am highly pleased with the reply of the Prime Minister.
President: Whether you are pleased or not is quite immaterial. Now I deprive you of the right to speak.
Dimitrov: I wish to put one more question pertaining to the trial.
President (still more abruptly): Now I deprive you of the right to speak.
Goering (yelling): Go out, scoundrel!
President (to the policemen): Take him out!
Dimitrov (whom the policemen have already seized): You are probably afraid of my questions, Mr. Prime Minister?
Goering (shouting after Dimitrov): Be careful, look out, I shall teach you how to behave, only come out of the courtroom! Scoundrel!
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!
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.
I am defending myself, an accused Communist. I am defending my political honour, my honour as a revolutionary. I am defending my Communist ideology, my ideals. I am defending the content and significance of my whole life.
For these reasons every ward which I say in this Court is a part of me, each phrase is the expression of my deep indignation against the unjust accusation, against the putting of this anti-Communist crime, the burning of the Reichstag, to the account of the Communists...
I must deny absolutely the suggestion that I have pursued propagandist aims. It may be that my defence before this Court has had a certain propagandist effect. It is also possible that my conduct before this Court may serve as an example for other accused Communists. But those were not the aims of my defence. My aims were these: to refute the indictment and to refute the accusation that Dimitrov, Torgler, Popov, and Tanev, that the German Communist Party and the Communist International had anything to do with the fire...
The character of this trial has been determined by the theory that the burning of the Reichstag was an act of the German Communist Party, even of world Communism. This anti-Communist deed, the Reichstag fire, was actually blamed upon the Communists and declared to be the signal for an armed Communist insurrection, a beacon fire for the overthrow of the present German Constitution. An anti-communist character has been given to the whole proceedings by the use of this theory...
The Communists were accused of having been responsible for a whole series of fires which turned out to have been committed by the owners of the buildings themselves "in order to make employment." I should like also for a moment to refer to the question of forged documents. Numbers of such forgeries have been made use of against the working class. Their name is legion. There was, for example, the notorious Zinoviev letter, a letter which never emanated from Zinoviev, and which was a deliberate forgery. The British Conservative Party made effective use of the forgery against the working class. I would like to remind you also of a series of forgeries which have played a part in German politics....
The legend that the Reichstag fire was a Communist act has been completely shattered. Unlike some counsels here, I shall not quote much of the evidence. To any person of normal intelligence at least this point is now made completely clear, that the Reichstag fire had nothing whatever to do with any activity of the Communist Party, not only nothing to do with an insurrection, but even nothing to do with a strike, a demonstration or anything of that nature. The legal investigations have proved this up to the hill. The Reichstag fire was not regarded by anyone - I exclude criminals and the mentally deranged - as a signal for insurrection. No one observed any deed, act or attempt at insurrection in connexion with the Reichstag fire. No one had heard then anything of the kind. The very stories of such things expressly appertain to a much later date. At that moment the working class was in a position of defence against the attack of fascism. The German Communist Party was seeking to organize the opposition of the masses in their own defence. But it was proved that the Reichstag fire furnished the occasion and the signal for unleashing the most terrific campaign of suppression against the German working class and its vangguard, the German Communist Party...
To this point the Government's emergency decree of February 28, 1933, provides further proof. It was issued on the morning after the fire. Read the decree - what does it say? It announces the suspension of various articles of the constitution, particularly those guaranteeing the freedom of organization and the press, the inviolability of the person, the immunity of domicile and so forth. That is the essence of the emergency decree, its second paragraph it is an assault on the working class.... I should like to point out that under this emergency decree not only Communists, but also Social Democratic and Christian workmen were arrested and their organizations suppressed. I would like to stress the fact that although this decree was directed chiefly against the Communist Party, it was not directed solely against it. This law, which was necessary for the proclamation of the state of emergency, was directed against all the other political parties and groups as well. It stands in direct organic connexion with the Reichstag fire...
This struggle taking place in the camp of the National Front was connected with the behind-the-scenes struggle in Germany's leading economic circles. On the one hand was the Krupp-Thyssen circle (the war industry), which for many years past has supported the National Socialists; on the other hand, being gradually pushed into the background, were their opponents.
Thyssen and Krupp wished to establish the principle of absolutism, a political dictatorship under their own personal direction and to substantially depress the living standards of the working class; it was to this end that the crushing of the revolutionary working class was necessary. At the same time the Communist Party was striving to establish a united working class front and to consolidate all forces in resistance to the National Socialist attempts to destroy the working class movement. Part of the Social Democratic workers felt the need of a united front of the working class. They understood it. Many thousands of Social Democratic workers joined the ranks of the German Communist Party. but in February and March, the establishment of a united front meant the mobilization of the working class against the predatory drive of the capitalists and the violence of the National Socialists; it certainly did not mean insurrection or preparations for insurrection...
The political situation at that time was governed by two chief factors: the first was the effort of the National Socialists to attain power, the second, the counter-factor, was the efforts of the German Communist Party to build up a united working class front. In my view, the accuracy of this has been made abundantly clear during these proceedings.
The National Socialists needed something which would both divert the attention of the people from the difficulties within the National Front and, at the same time, break up the united front of the working class. The 'National Government' needed a plausible excuse for its emergency decree of February 28, which abolished the freedom of the press, and of the inviolability of the individual and introduced a system of police persecution, concentration camps and other measures against the Communists...
What is van der Lubbe? A Communist? Inconceivable. An Anarchist? No. He is a declassed worker, a rebellious member of the scum of society. He is a misused creature who has been played off against the working class. No, he is neither a Communist nor an Anarchist. No Communist, no Anarchist anywhere in the world would conduct himself in Court as van der Lubbe has done. Genuine Anarchists often do senseless things, but invariably when they are haled into Court they stand up like men and explain their aims. If a Communist had done anything of this sort, he would not remain silent knowing that four innocent men stood in the dock alongside him. No, van der Lubbe is no Communist. He is no Anarchist; he is the misused tool of fascism.
The Chairman of the Communist Parliamentary Group and we Bulgarians accused alongside him have nothing in common, nor any connexion with this creature, this poor misused scapegoat, who has been misused to the detriment of Communism. Permit me to remind the Court that on the morning of February 28 Goering issued a statement on the fire, declaring that Torgler and Koenen had together fled from the Reichstag at 10 o'clock the previous evening
This statement was broadcast all over Germany. In the same statement. Goering declared that the Communists had set the Reichstag on fire. Yet no attempt has been made to investigate van der Lubbe's movements in Hennigsdorf. No search is made for the man with whom van der Lubbe passed the night there...
The truth is that this trial has proved absolutely conclusively that we had nothing whatsoever to do with the Reichstag fire and that there is not the slightest ground to entertain further suspicions against us. We Bulgarians, and Torgler too, must all be acquitted, not for lack of proof, but because we, as Communists, neither have nor could have anything to do with an anti-Communist deed.
I therefore propose the following verdict:
1. That Torgler, Popov, Tanev and myself should be pronounced innocent by the Supreme Court and that the indictment be quashed as ill-founded;
2. That van der Lubbe should be declared to be the misused tool of the enemies of the working class;
3.That those responsible for the false charges against us should be made criminally liable for them;
4. That we should be compensated for the losses which we have sustained through this trial, for our wasted time, our impaired health and for the sufferings which we have undergone.