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Article posted Jan 14 2008, 2:09 AM Category: History Source: The Daily Mail Print

Germany overturns conviction of Dutch communist executed over 1933 Reichstag fire

German prosecutors said they have formally overturned the conviction of a Dutch communist who was executed after the Nazis accused him of torching the Reichstag parliament building in 1933.

Marinus van der Lubbe, a bricklayer, was convicted of arson and high treason in December 1933 and executed on Jan. 10, 1934.

The federal prosecutor's office said in a statement that it formally "declared that the verdict ... is overturned" on Dec. 6.

It said that it made the move after being alerted to the case by a Berlin lawyer, who it did not identify, and that the conviction was overturned automatically under a 1998 law allowing for the rehabilitation of people convicted of crimes under the Nazis.

Historians still debate whether van der Lubbe, a communist, actually set the Feb. 27, 1933 fire, which came just a month after Adolf Hitler's rise to power and was followed by the suspension of civil liberties.

Some believe the Nazis set it themselves to give Hitler an excuse for his crackdown against what he termed a "communist conspiracy."

Van der Lubbe was the only defendant convicted of arson at the subsequent trial. Four other communists charged with him were acquitted by a Leipzig court.

Federal prosecutors said his conviction was overturned because the death sentence resulted from measures introduced under the Nazis "that were created to implement the National Socialist regime and enabled breaches of basic conceptions of justice."

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