The Oberfohren Memorandum was written and circulated by Dr Ernst Oberfohren. The memorandum accused the Nazi Party of starting the Reichstag Fire. Ernst Oberfohren held a degree in political science and taught in Kiel but abandoned his teaching when he was forty-three to devote his life to politics.


In 1928, Alfred Hugenberg, head of the German Nationalist People’s Party, appointed Oberfohren as the party’s parliamentary leader. Following the burning down of the Reichstag, it was claimed that Oberfohren wrote a memorandum about what he knew about the circumstances of the fire. This he circulated to his friends. It was first made public when it was printed in the April 27th, 1933 edition of the ‘Manchester Guardian’.


It was later reported that Oberfohren committed suicide on May 7th, 1933 in Kiel.


The Oberfohren Memorandum claimed that Joseph Goebbels thought up the idea of burning down the Reichstag and that Hermann Goering supervised the actual burning of the building assisted by Wolf Heinrich Graf von Helldorf, a Nazi official in Berlin, and a Lieutenant Schultz.


Oberfohren’s memorandum also claimed that Marius van der Lubbe was led into the building by Nazis via an underground passage and left there to be found and captured.


In September 1933, an International Commission of Inquiry based in London came to the conclusion that van der Lubbe was not responsible for the Reichstag Fire and that he had no connection with the Communists. The commission concluded that the Reichstag building had been set on fire by Nazi Party officials or by party sympathisers. Many believed that “the international commission of technical experts” was correct and substantiated what Oberfohren had written.


This view was widely held until 1960 when an article by Dr Fritz Tobias in ‘Der Spiegel’ concluded that van der Lubbe had been solely responsible for the fire and that the senior Nazis mentioned in the Oberfohren Memorandum had not been involved.


April 2012