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Man executed for Reichstag fire cleared

Jan. 11, 2008 at 2:40 PM

BERLIN, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The conviction of the only man found guilty of the 1933 Reichstag fire in Berlin has been reversed, 74 years after he was executed.

Adolf Hitler used the fire to ease his path to dictatorship, convincing German President Paul von Hindenburg to issue a decree that allowed the state to suppress left-wing groups.

The Federal Court of Justice, under a 1998 law allowing the reversal of legal injustices perpetrated by the Nazi regime, cleared Marinus van der Lubbe Thursday, Deutsche Welle reported. The verdict had been overturned in 1980 but that decision was reversed by the Federal Court.

Van der Lubbe, a young Communist from the Netherlands with a troubled history, confessed to the fire. Four other men were acquitted, including the Bulgarian Communist Georgi Dmitrov, whose defense gave him an international reputation.

Many historians believe that Nazis set the fire to justify abridging civil liberties. Van der Lubbe was guillotined three days before his 25th birthday.

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