Burning the Reichstag: An Investigation Into the Third Reich's Enduring Mystery


Product Details

$29.95  $27.55
Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
6.5 X 1.4 X 9.3 inches | 1.55 pounds
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About the Author

Benjamin Carter Hett, a former trial lawyer and professor of history at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, is the author of Death in the Tiergarten and Crossing Hitler, winner of the Fraenkel Prize.


"Impressive piece of work that presents fresh evidence."--Richard J. Evans, London Review of Books

"A fascinating and well-argued investigation of the events surrounding the Reichstag fire, including the use of newly available material." -- Mark Rowley, News Weekly

"Historian Hett (Crossing Hitler) applies his dual expertise as a scholar and former trial lawyer to reopen discussion of an aspect of Nazi Germany widely considered settled: who set the Reichstag on fire in 1933? Hett, using fresh sources and archives, presents a nuanced and complex perspective. Hett's major contribution is his analysis of the trial as a case study in "a particular constellation of political pressure and the state of knowledge of Nazi crimes" in West Germany during the 1950s and 60s." --Publishers Weekly

"Hett carefully sifts the record, examining the many contradictory accounts. This painstaking new examination of evidence surrounding the Reichstag fire lays blame squarely with the ascendant Nazis and underscores deeper notions about nationalism, complicity and guilt." --Kirkus

"The extensive empirical investigations contained in BURNING THE REICHSTAG are an example of the historian�s craft in the very best sense, and have certainly shaken my confidence in the standard interpretation of the event. It is difficult after reading Hett�s remarkable book to see van der Lubbe as the sole responsible figure, and equally difficult not to conclude that the Nazis may well have been involved in the arson. Hett�s discussion of the development of post-1945 opinions about the Reichstag fire is particularly compelling, and provides a second, major reinterpretation of German history." --Jonathan Sperber, Curators' Professor of History, University of Missouri, and author of Karl Marx, A Nineteenth-Century Life

"The definitive account of one of the most mysterious events in the history of the Third Reich. Persuasive and highly readable." --Philip Kerr, author of the Bernie Gunther novels

"Fifty years ago, historians endorsed new tightly argued findings that contrary to the widely believed earlier version, a single mentally deficient Dutch perpetrator and not a cabal of Nazis had set the Reichstag ablaze in February 1933-the infamous fire that allowed the recently installed National Socialist leaders to suspend constitutional rights and rapidly consolidate their dictatorship. Now in a profound reexamination of the original evidence, investigation of the witnesses, and exploration of postwar West German tendencies to blur responsibilities, Benjamin Hett, a historian of spectacular German trials and a trained lawyer, argues that in fact Nazi activists had to have staged the arson. Burning the Reichstag will be controversial but it certainly commands our serious reading and respect." --Charles S. Maier, Harvard University

"Based on amazing historical detective work, Hett's book skillfully interweaves three narratives: the story of what happened on the night of the Reichstag fire; the story of the Nazi-era investigations, trial, and cover-ups; and the story of how the 'single culprit' thesis became the dominant interpretation after the war. His elegantly argued analysis not only makes a compelling case that the Reichstag fire was set by the Nazis but provides new insight into the forces that shaped how the history of the Third Reich was written in postwar West Germany." --Richard F. Wetzell, German Historical Institute, Washington DC

"Thought provoking."-German Studies Review