On the night of February 27, 1933, an architectural monstrosity which some have called a symbol of German democratic government suffered extensive damage by fire; a young Dutch former communist named Marinus van der Lubbe was caught in the act of setting that fire, and nearly a year later he was beheaded for that act. This much, and little else, is clear about the incident, which is usually considered a transparent Nazi plot to incriminate the left-wing parties and seize dictator powers for itself. Fritz Tobias' tremendously detailed account of the fire and the ensuing farce of a trial created considerable consternation when it first appeared in Europe. His conclusion is that, while both the Nazis and the Communist Party used the fire in every possible way to further their own causes and to blacken each other's faces, the actual ""plot"" really involved no one other than van der Lubbe himself, as he insisted all along. This theory, of course, will please nobody but the dedicated seeker of objective truth, and the author's initial reluctance to publish the results of his many years of independent investigation is understandable: it was so neat and tempting to blame everything on the Nazis. It is a masterful job of analysis and painstaking detection, utterly convincing, continually fascinating.