Fritz Tobias (born October 3, 1912 in Charlottenburg, † January 1, 2011 in Hannover) was a German author, government official and member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. He was most recently Ministerialrat in the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior, where he belonged to the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution of Lower Saxony.[1]

In the 1960s, he became known by his statements to the Reichstag fire. As "amateur historian" Fritz Tobias had taken the trouble to explore the history of the events in Berlin on February 27, 1933. According to Tobias controversial findings the Nazis were not guilty and the historically significant arson would have been the action of Marinus van der Lubbe as a single perpetrator.

Life and careerEdit

Tobias grew up in Berlin as the son of a social democratic porcelain painter. In 1926 he moved to Hannover. In April 1940 Tobias was drafted for military service. He then took part in World War II until 1945, in which he claims to have suffered several injuries, most recently in April 1945 in northern Italy. After the war Tobias was being accused of having belonged to the Geheime Feldpolizei during the war, which he dismissed as "fictitious".

In 1946 Tobias entered the civil service. In the early post-war years he was involved in, among other things, the denazification in Lower Saxony.

In 1951 Tobias was accepted as a speaker in the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior. After working in various departments, he became in 1959 involved in the temporary constitutional protection of Lower Saxony. In the administrative service, he was eventually promoted to ministerial council. According to the journalist and former editor of Spiegel Peter-Ferdinand Koch, the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) had already recommended Tobias to the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior at the end of 1945, as he had interrogated high-ranking SS officers on behalf of the British military police and war crimes investigators.

Reichstag Fire investigation and publicationsEdit

Tobias was publicly known as the author of the eleven-part series "Get up, van der Lubbe!", Which appeared in Der Spiegel in 1959/60.[2][3]

In these articles and in his 1962 book on the Reichstag fire, Tobias advocated the controversial thesis that Marinus van der Lubbe was the sole perpetrator of the Reichstag arson on February 27, 1933 which led to the issuance of the Reichstag Fire Decree.

The series of articles published in Der Spiegel later turned into the book Der Reichstagsbrand. Legende und Wirklichkeit (1962), English translation The Reichstag Fire: Legend and Truth (1964). After making an extensive study of The Brown Book of the Reichstag Fire and Hitler Terror he argued that it was based on forged documents. Arthur Koestler, who had been part of the team working on the book, admitted that it had been based on several forged documents.

Posthumously, the German journalist Anton Maegerle criticized Tobias, who allegedly had maintained "contacts with right-wing circles", for example, with the Holocaust denier David Irving.


After the death of Tobias, Polit-Kriminalfall Reichstags-Brand. Legende und Wirklichkeit was published in 2011, with co-author Fred Duswald. Tobias' private archive was first managed by his partner. After she died in 2013, Tobias' son agreed, as became known in July 2013, to submit the archive to the German authorities.

From 2015 to autumn 2017, the Federal Archives ordered and systematized the estate of Tobias. After sorting out a chronological collection of 723 file units was formed from around 3,000 folders, which has been on the Federal Archives since 2018 as historical collection.

1955 Testimony of SA-member Hans-Martin LenningsEdit

In July 2019 Germany's Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung and the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland published a 1955 affidavit uncovered in his legacy, in which Hans-Martin Lennings (1904-1962), a former member of the Nazis' paramilitary SA unit, stated on the night of the Reichstag arson that he and his SA group drove Marinus van der Lubbe from an infirmary to the Reichstag, where they noticed "a strange smell of burning and there were clouds of smoke billowing through the rooms." The statement suggests the fire had already started by the time they arrived and that the SA played a role in the arson.

The uncovering of Lennings' affidavit led to the speculation that Tobias had ignored it in order not to jeopardize his personal single perpetrator theory on the arson as well as to protect the post war career of former Nazis,[4] but also fed more sober speculations on which other still unknown or forgotten documents might be hidden in German archives which could turn out to be valuable and spectacular historical sources, especially on the Nazi-period.[5]


  • Alexander Bahar, Wilfried Kugel: „Wer ist Fritz Tobias?“ In: "Der Reichstagsbrand. Wie Geschichte gemacht wird". Berlin 2001, pages 778–785.
  • Klaus Wallbaum: "Der alte Mann und das große Feuer. Am Mittwoch wird Fritz Tobias 95 Jahre alt – einer, der die Historikerschaft in zwei Lager teilt". In: Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, 2 October 2007.
  • Heinrich Zankl: Politisches Feuer. Historikerstreit um Reichstagsbrand. In: "Kampfhähne der Wissenschaft. Kontroversen und Feindschaften", Weinheim 2012, ISBN 978-3-527-32865-9, pages 257–265.
  • Benjamin Carter Hett "Burning the Reichstag: An Investigation into the Third Reich's Enduring Mystery" New York 2014. ISBN 978-0199322329.


  1. ^ Der Streitbare Reichstagsbrand-Forscher - Zum Tod von Fritz Tobias
  3. ^ „Stehen Sie auf, van der Lubbe!“ Der Reichstagsbrand 1933 – Geschichte einer Legende. In: Der Spiegel 43, 21 October 1959, page 45–60, followed in the issues 44 (1959), 45 (1959), 46 (1959), 47 (1959), 48 (1959), 49 (1959), 50 (1959), 51 (1959), 52 (1959) and 1 (1960)]
  4. ^ Reichstagsbrand -Erklärung von SA-Mann legt NS-Beteiligung nahe
  5. ^ Wie konnte die Akte zum Reichstagsbrand vergessen werden?