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William L. Shirer

William L. Shirer

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William Shirer, the son of a lawyer, was born in Chicago in 1904. When he was a child his father died and the family moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He had to deliver newspapers and sell eggs to help the family finances. After leaving school he worked on the local newspaper.

In 1925 Shirer toured Europe and while in Paris found work with the Chicago Tribune. He started on the copy desk but after learning French, German, Italian and Spanish became a foreign correspondent. In 1933 Shirer married a Viennese photographer and the following year moved to Berlin to work for Universal Service.

The historian, Sally J. Taylor, has pointed out: "On the surface, he seemed a mild-mannered, ineffectual type who wore thick spectacles and puffed away blandly on his pipe, giving an appearance completely at odds with his complicated temperament and awesome intelligence. By the time he was thirty, he had worked his way up to the position of chief of the Central European bureau of the Chicago Tribune. In the following few years, he would report from practically every major capital on the Continent, as well as locations as far flung as India and Afghanistan. Quite simply, Bill Shirer knew everybody in the newspaper business in Europe."

Edward Murrow recruited Shirer to work for Columbia Broadcasting Service in 1937. As its Berlin representative, Shirer provided a regular commentary of the developments in Nazi Germany. However, the authorities kept a close watch on Shirer and most of his broadcasts were censored. It eventually became impossible for Shirer to report accurately on the situation in Germany and he left the country in December, 1940.

Shirer's book, Berlin Diary: 1933-41, was published in 1941. Other books by Shirer on Nazi Germany include End of a Berlin Diary (1947), The Rise and Fall of Nazi Germany (1959) and This Is Berlin: Reporting from Nazi Germany (1999).

William Shirer died in Berkshire Hills, Massachusetts, in 1993.

At eighteen, several thousand of the girls in the Bund Deutscher Mädel (they remained in it until 21) did a year's service on the farms - their so-called 'Land Jahr', which was equivalent to the Labour Service of the young men. Their task was to help both in the house and in the fields. The girls lived sometimes in the farmhouses and often in small camps in rural districts from which they were taken by truck early each morning to the farms.

Moral problems soon arose. Actually, the more sincere Nazis did not consider them moral problems at all. On more than one occasion I listened to women leaders of the Bund Deutscher Mädel lecture their young charges on the moral and patriotic duty of bearing children for Hitler's Reich - within wedlock if possible, but without it if necessary.

Despite his harassed life, the businessman made good profits. The businessman was also cheered by the way the workers had been put in their place under Hitler. There were no more unreasonable wage demands. Actually, wages were reduced a little despite a 25 per cent rise in the cost of living. And above all, there were no costly strikes. In fact, there were no strikes at all. The Law Regulating National Labour of January 20, 1934, known as the Charter of Labour, had put the worker in his place and raised the employer to his old position of absolute master - subject, of course, to interference by the all-powerful State.

Well, at least on this fateful evening for Europe, we know where we stand.

Most of you, I take it, heard Chancellor Adolf Hitler's speech five hours ago at the Berlin Sport Palace.

If you did, you heard him say in a tone, and in words which left no doubt whatever, that he will not budge an inch from his position and that President Benes must hand over to him Sudetenland by Saturday night, or take the consequences.

Those consequences - in this critical hour you almost hesitate to use the word - are war.

It's true Herr Hitler did not use the word himself. At least amidst the fanatical yelling and cheering in the Sport Palace I did not hear it, and I sat but fifty or sixty feet from him.

But no one in that vast hall - or none of the millions upon millions of Germans who gathered tonight in every town and village of Germany to hear the speech broadcast through community loudspeakers, or who sat quietly in their homes listening - had any doubts, so far as one can find out.

This is what Herr Hitler said, as I jotted his words down as they were being spoken: "On the Sudeten problem, my patience is at an end. And on October 1, Herr Benes will hand us over this territory."

Those are the Chancellor's words, and they brought the house down with a burst of yelling and cheering the like of which I have never before heard at a Nazi meeting.

Just as Hitler promised and Mussolini, Chamberlain and French Premier Daladier agreed, the German army marched into Czechoslovakia at two o'clock yesterday afternoon. I went with it.

It was a very peaceful occupation. Not a shot was fired. Only once did we run into the slightest danger - of which more later. The whole thing went off like a parade, even to the military bands and regimental flags and Sudeten girls tossing bouquets of flowers at the troops and throwing kisses at them.

And yet this was the German army which forty-eight hours ago was girded for war. Today it functioned with that clock-like precision which has given the Reichswehr its reputation. And it was ready for all eventualities. Only none of them occurred.

It's not true that Germans marched in a minute after midnight Friday night and with tremendous force.

I stood on the Czech-German frontier at Sarau, thirty-five miles east of Passau, general headquarters of the army occupying district number one on the south-west tip of Czechoslovakia, and from where we set out at noon. At exactly 2 p.m., by synchronized watches, the march began. And though the roads from Passau to the frontier were lined with troops, artillery and supply trains, only a handful took part in the occupation today.

It was truly a symbolic occupation. The Czech forces had withdrawn during the night, taking their arms and military supplies with them, but nothing else, and observing the conditions of withdrawal perfectly. There was no contact in my sector on the extreme right wing of the German army throughout the day. Even with field glasses we saw no Czech troops.

There is one reason which would seem to rule out the possibility of an alignment between German and Soviet Russia. It's this: Hitler's goal is the occupation and annexation of a vast part of Russia. How are you going to play ball with a man who covets your house and intends to settle in it if he can, even if he has to hit you over the head with his bat? And moreover says so.

Because he does in Mein Kampf, that Nazi bible which we all have to go to to divine what the Fuhrer may have in his mind next. Hitler in Mem Kampf says very plainly that Germany will only be a great nation when it acquires a much larger territory in Europe. From where is that territory to come? Hitler very obligingly gives us the answer. It is: From Russia.

A second reason is that if Hitler were to make a deal with Russia, the Japanese alliance, or whatever you call their present understanding, falls through automatically. Now the strange tie-up between Japan and Germany is not so strange as it seems, if we look into it for a moment. It's - valuable to Germany first as a part of a general threat to Britain and France - and to a lesser extent, the U.S. - in the East. Secondly, if and when Russia is to be conquered, it confronts Russia with a war on two greatly distant fronts, thus making Germany's job of conquering European Russia much easier. This second point is also the reason for Tokyo's friendship with Berlin - that is, if Japan is to get the Russian maritime provinces as well as Mongolia and a big slice of Siberia, Germany's military effort on the Western Front is absolutely necessary. Unless Japan ruins itself as a Great Power in China, and thus can no longer threaten the three Democracies in the Far East, there is little evidence that Hitler will ditch Tokyo. Along the path that he has apparently chosen, it is too valuable an ally.

The Zyklon-B crystals that killed the victims in the first place were furnished by two German firms which had acquired the patent from I. G. Farben. These were Tesch and Stabenow of Hamburg, and Degesch of Dessau, the former supplying two tons of the cyanide crystals a month and the latter three quarters of a ton. The bills of lading for the deliveries showed up at Nuremberg.

The directors of both concerns contended that they had sold their product merely for fumigation purposes and were unaware that lethal use had been made/of it, but this defence did not hold up. Letters were found from Tesch and Stabenow offering not only to supply the gas crystals but also the ventilating and heating equipment for extermination chambers. Besides, the inimitable Hoess, who once he started 'to confess went the limit, testified that the directors of the Tesch company could not have helped knowing how their product was being used since they furnished enough to exterminate a couple of million people. A British military court was convinced of this at the trial of the two partners, Bruno Tesch and Karl Weinbacher, who were sentenced to death in 1946 and hanged. The director of the second firm, Dr Gerhard Peters of Degesch of Dessau, got off more lightly. A German court sentenced him to five years' imprisonment.

Before the postwar trials in Germany it had been generally believed that the mass killings were exclusively the work of a relatively few fanatical S.S. leaders. But the records of the courts leave no doubt of the complicity of a number of German businessmen, not only the Krupps and the directors of the I. Farben chemical trust but smaller entrepreneurs who outwardly must have seemed to be the most prosaic and decent of men, pillars - like good business men everywhere - of their communities.

How many hapless innocent people - mostly Jews but including a fairly large number of others, especially Russian prisoners of war - were slaughtered at the one camp of Auschwitz? The exact number will never be known. Hoess himself in his affidavit gave an estimate of 2,500,000 victims executed and exterminated by gassing and burning, and at least another half million who succumbed to starvation and disease, making a total of about 3,000,000. Later at his own trial in Warsaw he reduced the figure to 1,135,000. The Soviet government, which investigated the camp after it was overrun by the Red Army in January 1945, put the figure at four million.

William Shirer, born in Chicago, raised in Cedar Rapids, streetwise and country-boy shrewd, was one of a new breed who had turned up in Paris in the mid-1920s to take their chances. On the surface, he seemed a mild-mannered, ineffectual type who wore thick spectacles and puffed away blandly on his pipe, giving an appearance completely at odds with his complicated temperament and awesome intelligence. Quite simply, Bill Shirer knew everybody in the newspaper business in Europe.

On the same day his wire service gave him notice that his position had been cut back, Shirer received a telegram from Edward R. Murrow of Columbia Broadcasting suggesting the two of them have a talk over dinner. Until then, radio had been viewed mainly in terms of its entertainment potential, with an emphasis on oompah concerts and "You-Are-There" travelogues. Now, Murrow told Shirer, the medium was about to change its role dramatically. He and a handful of other men were trying to put together a series of linkages between the major capitals of Europe in a hurry; in time, they hoped, to cover a war that was rapidly approaching. With the built-in prejudices of any hard-boiled newspaper man, Shirer might not even have taken the trouble to listen to Murrow's spiel if he hadn't been out of a job.

That was in August 1937. By December, Shirer had become an old hand at arranging broadcasts out of Berlin, and sometimes Vienna.

Shirer had known Walter Duranty for years, an acquaintanceship that grew into friendship through their mutual regard for John Gunther. Shirer was also close to John and Irena Wiley, Duranty's frequent companions and traveling partners. Then too there was the Knickerbocker connection. As a wire-service man stationed in Berlin, Shirer had worked side by side with Knick, bumping into Duranty frequently at bars and restaurants.

Now deeply involved in what would become a legendary team of war-time broadcasters, Shirer was shuttling between cities, learning everything he could about transmitters, time zones, and telephone lines, taking on stringers, and generally familiarizing himself with the bumpy ride of transatlantic broadcasting.

Christmas of 1937 found him in Vienna, at the Wileys' house for the traditional feast. John Wiley was serving a term there as the U. S. Charge d'Affaires, and Duranty, "as always," was also present. Many years later Shirer seemed to have the hazy recollection, maybe it was only something overheard, of a lengthy discussion regarding Walter Duranty's Russian son. Duranty was apparently trying to get his boy out of Russia, and the Wileys had agreed to help, maybe even to adopt Michael, to try to facilitate the matter. But there had been resistance from unexpected quarters, Shirer remembered. The boy's mother didn't want to leave the Soviet Union, and she was resisting letting her son go without her. Michael was turning out to be extraordinarily bright, and maybe that was why Duranty had begun to think about his future. The boy, not quite four years old, had already begun reading in Russian, and had picked up some English along the way. Otherwise, after dinner, Shirer and Duranty holed up for a time to discuss the political situation in Moscow.

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William L. Shirer

One of the most influential journalists of our time, William Shirer began his reporting career in the Coe College Cosmos. A well-liked and involved student on the campus (his senior yearbook lists him in four honorary societies, as well as the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity), Shirer worked on the Cosmos for three years and served as the editor-in-chief his senior year.

Shirer demonstrated his dedication in his weekly editorials, many of which took on traditional ideas at the college. For example, his article “Chapel: A Good Place to Snooze,” challenged the established program of the required daily chapel services, and his March 26, 1925, editorial “Thousands for Athletics Why Not a Few Shekels for Literature?” argued for support of a student literary publication. However, not all of Shirer’s work was so serious. In addition to his editorials, Shirer produced the ‘Patter’ column, a space for Shirer and others to share silly poetry, campus gossip, and imaginary faculty interviews.

During his time at Coe, Shirer developed close relationships with several important figures in Coe’s history. In his autobiography, A 20 th Century Journey, Shirer discusses conversations he had with Dr. Edward R. Burkhalter, who happened to be a neighbor: “Over the back fence which separated his garden from ours, we talked for hours over the years…to widen my reading, he did succeed at least in making me take note of some of the subjects of his scholarly pursuits. To my untutored mind they were formidable. Like all great scholars, he carried his learning easily, and he was tolerant of my intellectual limitations.” In regards to one particular discussion, Shirer notes, “It was the first time, I think, that I had heard anyone in Cedar Rapids excited about a poet. Or about Augustine. Or about dozens of other old authors. Or about history.” This shared love of knowledge, as well as Burkhalter’s stories about living and studying in Europe would influence Shirer for the rest of his life. Another important acquaintance Shirer made was with Harry Morehouse Gage, president of the college throughout Shirer’s undergraduate studies. The two became rather close, Gage always supporting Shirer’s strongly worded editorials. According to Shirer, Gage once told him, “You’re critical, but you base your criticism on facts and intelligence. Keep it up. But don’t quote me.” After Shirer’s graduation, Gage loaned Shirer 100 dollars to help finance his trip to Europe.

It was on this trip, in the summer of 1925, that Shirer began his professional career in Paris as a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. During the next twelve years, he worked for the Tribune, the New York Herald Tribune, and the Universal News Service. Shirer also had the opportunity to travel throughout India and conduct a series of interviews with Mahatma Gandhi in fact, the journalist in the film Gandhi is based on him. In 1937, Shirer moved to radio news and while living in Berlin at the beginning of World War II he was a radio broadcaster for CBS news and the Mutual Broadcasting Network. Millions of Americans depended on Shirer for information on Hitler and Germany’s efforts to dominate Europe.

Using his first-hand knowledge of recent European history, Shirer wrote several books about the critical period he witnessed in Europe. His books include his autobiographical Berlin Diary, his narrative on the fall of France, The Collapse of the Third Republic, and his monumental best seller, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. The original manuscripts are housed in the Coe archives. His many honors include the George Peabody Award, the National Headliner’s Club Award, and the National Book Award.

In his autobiography, Shirer sums up his time at Coe best when he describes leaving the campus in 1925: “I took a last look at the little campus where I had spent the past four years. The buildings, sidewalks, and lawns were deserted and the loneliness of the place which for so long had been the bustling center of my life brought a tinge of sadness at the leaving. They had been pretty exciting years, I thought, as I looked back. For the first time, I had loved passionately, been rejected, suffered agony over it, and loved again. I had learned a little, or at least had learned the most important thing of all: that college was but a step in an education that I was determined to pursue all the rest of my life.”

Copyright 2006
Coe College
1220 1st Avenue NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402

William L. Shirer (Part Two)

In the course of his long career as a journalist, William L. Shirer was an eyewitness to the history of our times. His best-selling books, among them Berlin Diary, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and a trilogy of memoirs, have given readers a front-seat view of major events. In part two of Bill Moyers’ discussion with Shirer, the famed journalist discusses the evil of Nazi Germany and his post-WWII life. (Read part one of Bill’s conversation with William L. Shirer.)

BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] For most of his adult life, William L. Shirer has been an eyewitness to history. Fresh out of college, he arrived in Paris in 1925 to become a newspaper reporter. During the 󈧘s and 󈧢s, he covered stories throughout Europe and spent two years in India, reporting on Mahatma Gandhi. In 1937, Shirer was hired by Edward R. Murrow to open the European bureau of CBS News. As a pioneer in broadcast journalism, he was in Rome for the death of a pope, in Berlin for the rise of Hitler, on the front lines for the fall of France. When Nazi censorship made honest reporting impossible, Shirer returned to the United States, broadcasting a weekly news analysis on CBS and publishing his first best-seller, Berlin Diary.

His career in broadcasting ended in 1947, when CBS canceled his program. But Shirer created a new career as an author, drawing on his years in Nazi Germany. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich became one of the biggest sellers in publishing history. He has since written about his years with Gandhi and has published a trilogy of his memoirs, Twentieth Century Journey, The Nightmare Years and A Native’s Return.

Now at age 86, William L. Shirer is at work on yet another book, this one about the final years in the life of Tolstoy. We talked at his home in Lenox, Massachusetts.

[interviewing] You came face to face with many of Hitler’s top men, the men who were responsible for carrying out the evil he ordered. And yet you described them in your books as dimwitted, somewhat stupid, dull, tedious. And yet these were men who were about to take over the world.

William L. Shirer (Photo: Tony Dugal)

BILL MOYERS: You said most of the misfits around Hitler were so outlandish that it was almost impossible to believe they were playing key roles in running this great and powerful country.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Yeah. Himmler, who developed up the SS, he always looked to me like a chicken farmer, but behind those glasses of his and his mild manner was a terrible killer. Goebbels was a cynical guy. He was clever about the-intelligent about the Germans, but he knew his own poeple, but he was abysmally ignorant of the world beyond the German borders. He had no conception of British character. The British have a bulldog character, which I much admire. The French he didn’t understand. The Russians were beyond him. The Americans he thought were a bunch of people run by Jews and blacks, as he often put it.

They were a group of people, I’m talking about when they came up to power, Goering, a swashbuckling guy, you know, ignorant, who couldn’t have made it in any other country but in the Nazi party.


WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Absolute misfits in society. So many of them had, you know, many of them had criminal records. But they were misfits, that’s the word.

BILL MOYERS: When you looked at these men, were you aware that they were capable of such evil?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: To be honest, I don’t think I was, in 󈧦. I certainly didn’t think there would be genocide, and what happened after the war started. You had a bit of a taste of it the weekend that they eliminated the SR, the leadership of the SR, during which they also shot a few personal enemies of Hitler and Goering and Goebbels, including a general, the head of the Catholic social movement, a wonderful guy. The coldbloodedness. We don’t know exactly how many they killed, but they killed at least 700 or 800 in cold blood.

BILL MOYERS: But here, to me, is the key question. Do you think they thought that what they were doing was evil, or does the totalitarian mind obliterate the distinction between good and evil, right and wrong?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Obliterates it, certainly. There’s nothing at all in the documents which I read which include Hitler’s long talks to his cronies, there’s nothing in what they said to indicate that they considered what they were doing as evil. I mean, throwing these people into the gas chambers and so forth. We did not predict that. And I knew nothing about that for a time because I left Germany at the end of 1940. The Potsdam conference, I think, was a month or so after that, in January, in which the “final solution” was adopted.

BILL MOYERS: The program to exterminate the Jews?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Yeah. Terrible term in itself, the final solution. Awful. Makes my stomach off.

BILL MOYERS: When you first heard about it, when you first were told that a whole people were being systematically obliterated, did you believe it?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: I couldn’t believe it, no. And that information came very slowly. And I certainly missed the story myself. But I remember first hearing it in London in 󈧯.

BILL MOYERS: That late?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: That late, two years after it really started, or at least a good year. And I heard it from people in the British Foreign Office, and I remember one weekend I spent down with Eden, whom I’d known as a kid, practically, when he used to come to Geneva.

BILL MOYERS: Anthony Eden?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Anthony Eden, he was then foreign secretary. And I asked him about it, and he was somewhat, I think it’s fair to say, somewhat anti-Semitic. But anyway, he said it was-there was no truth in it, they were getting these reports, there was no truth in them. I checked when I came back into America, I think with Harry Hopkins, and he told me that Roosevelt had heard these things but Roosevelt, President Roosevelt, did not believe them.

During all that time, the Jews were trying to get the word out, and I believe they did. We know now that they did, and it’s a very bad record that. the British Foreign Office and the American State Department, lin which there were also some anti-Semites, I think they have a very bad record. I have a bad record, too. I did not get the story, really, until Nuremburg.

BILL MOYERS: After the war you sat there listening to this testimony, looking at these pictures.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: I sat there. One day when they had these terrible pictures, and when we’d had the testimony of a guy named Hoess who’d been the commander at Auschwitz, he was almost proud of it. I went home that night and I couldn’t eat dinner. I think that would be true of my colleagues, too. And for-I was in a daze for three or four days, I think. 1-one’s imagination could not grasp it. They suddenly threw it at us. But we should have learned about it in 󈧰, and I didn’t, and the government didn’t put it out.

BILL MOYERS: Somehow, there is, seems to me, a reluctance on the part of an optimistic people like Americans are to acknowledge the real presence of evil.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: I think so. There’s a wonderful quote, I can’t do it exactly, from [unintelligible], Reinhold Niebuhr. He said, “A people without a sense of tragedy have difficulty admitting the evils of the day.” I think that’s true.

BILL MOYERS: You said that not only the men immediately around Hitler, but so many of the German people easily believed everything he said, even the most foolish nonsense.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Well, you know, we are still-I suppose most of us correspondents covered dozens if not hundreds of Hitler’s speeches. We often sat pretty near the front, and as he was-he always started his speeches in the same way, “Fourteen years ago,” so under our breaths we’d repeat the words. But then later on, when we get into some of the terrible lies, it’d take your breath away. [Unintelligible] working on the German people, mouths open, their eyes popping out, the gospel truths. He had that wonderful sense of contact with his own people, communication with his own people.

I remember once at a Nuremburg party rally, in one of those wonderful churches in old Nuremburg, probably seated 2,000 people, he gave a talk on art. Art. Well, I can’t imagine President Reagan or even President Bush or even your President Johnson giving a lecture on art. Oh, it was terrible, what he said, but what fascinated me was he looked around and that audience was spellbound. For two hours, the most idiotic things about art-I’m not an artist, but I think I have a tiny appreciation for it, it was just awful, the distortions of it.

BILL MOYERS ” Someone wrote that Hitler’s strength was in the fact that he was incorrectly diagnosed by astute simpletons who forgot that history belonged to the realist. He was a realist in one sense, wasn’t he? He knew that power-

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: He was, but he was also ignorant of history, I think. And he was terribly ignorant, like Goebbels, perhaps even more so -Goebbels after all was a Ph.D., whatever that may mean -but at least he’d been educated in a German university. But Hitler had a great self-education. In his youth he had read a great deal. And he, too, had no idea, particularly of the English. As a matter of fact, it was his miscalculation of the English that plunged them into war. I mean, the main thing was Stalin and his pact with them which released them in the east. But he misjudged the British, and he completely misjudged us.

BILL MOYERS: But he didn’t misjudge the French, because he knew when he went in in 󈧪 into the Rhineland, or was it 󈧨

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Thirty-six.

BILL MOYERS: -󈧨, that France was not going to retaliate, although the records now show that if the French had stood up to Hitler when his armies marched across into the Rhineland, he would have collapsed, the armies would have retreated.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: They could have crushed him in a moment, I think. They had a great army. The Germans had very little by that time, and the German military people knew that they couldn’t take on the French. It was a bluff on Hitler’s part that he got by with. He knew the French better than almost anybody.

BILL MOYERS: You’re writing a book now about Tolstoy, and it reminds me that Tolstoy had this notion of the law of predetermination. His thesis was that so many factors go into any event that one can only conclude it had to be inevitable. You believe that? Was Hitler inevitable?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: No. Hitler was not inevitable. If the Germans had worked the Weimar Republic honestly, we never would have had a Hitler.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean, if they had worked it honestly?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Well, if they’d worked democracy. Do you realize that the constitution of the Weimar Republic was probably the most liberal in the world? And I must say, when I first went up to Germany, I was a youngster working in Paris, and I used to get an assignment up there occasionally. 1-and I sort of grew up in the Sorbonne quarter, I had a lot of student friends and young teachers at the Sorbonne, the university. But I went up to Germany, I found I was more akin as a young American not long out of college with the Germans under Weimar. They were interested in the arts, they were interested in peace, they were interested in social matters. A lot of them were socialists, some were Communists, some were middle-of-the-road and so on.

BILL MOYERS: Idealists, all of them?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Very idealistic. But in the end they didn’t work it. And one of the most disillusioning experiences of my life was when I went back to work in Germany, say, only seven or eight years later, and looked up some of those people. Most of them were high-bigwigs in the Nazi party, or in the German Foreign Office, where you had to be-by that time, you had to be a Nazi, and so forth. It was-it made you think.

BILL MOYERS: What did you think?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Well, I thought, “How the deuce could it have happened?” And I did see a few of these people, and I was full of myself at that time, I guess, and I would say, “How in the deuce can you-I mean, you know, we’re old acquaintances, at least, how can you believe in all this nonsense, you know?” Well, I’m naive, but I’m not that naive, and I could go on with-they said: “Listen, we have a career to make, just like you have in America. And these people are the future, they’ve taken over the country.” But worse than that, they began to believe in it, and that was the worst thing.

BILL MOYERS: One of these days, the last living witness to what happened in Germany, what happened in this century, will be dead. What do we do about the memory? Do you think enough people will read books like these?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: I don’t think so. I think-of course, now a lot of them did read it, you know, when the Third Reich book came out, the publishers said nobody will read it, and for some reason that they don’t know, a lot of people read it.

BILL MOYERS: I recall that when you were dismissed from CBS in 1947 -fired, to be blunt about it -AJ. Liebling wrote, “If Shirer will work at it carefully, if he will plan this book,” that you were writing about Nazi Germany, “if he will go over every paragraph twice,” he said, “then all of us may be in debt to the man who fired him.


BILL MOYERS: Well, we are.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Well, thank you for saying so.

BILL MOYERS: You wouldn’t have written these books if you’d stayed on the air, probably.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Oh, it was a lucky break, you know. I felt very sorry for myself, as one does when you’re fired and you have a family to support. The greatest thing that ever happened to me. A reporter-well, you know, you’ve been in the business, all reporters want to write books, they want to write novels, and they keep putting it off because the easy money’s coming in. And the only reason that I did it was not because I had a lot of courage, because I was thrown out, I had nothing else to do.

BILL MOYERS: Luck has played -good luck and bad luck -have played significant roles in your life, have they not?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Oh, I’m a great believer in luck. And we all have our portion of bad and the good, and we sort of resent the bad, but it’s a necessary part of life on this Earth. I had a reporter from the Times up here the other day who complained about that theory. I told him I’ve had a lot of luck in my life, luck to be sent to India when Gandhi was there, luck in a sense to have covered Nazi Germany. It was luck. And many stories that I had, they were luck. I was coming back through Mesopotamia once and I saw a little sign, Ur Junction, where the train would stop. And my Presbyterian background came up, and I thought, Ur Junction, that must be a terrible British way of saying Ur of the Chaldes, Ur of Abraham. So I toss out my bedding and so forth, and went to a little rest house. And there was a Turkish guy, spoke a little German, and he said, “I know why you’ve come, great excitement in the Teg over there. And we looked through the window and about five miles over the desert there was obviously an excavation. So after breakfast, he got me a mule and we drove over to the place. And I stumbled upon Leonard Woolsey, who had just discovered two great things: the physical evidence of the biblical flood, which many scholars had thought was a myth and second, even more important, probably, he discovered a new civilization nobody had heard of before, that of Sumer-

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: -Sumerian civilization. Well

BILL MOYERS: There you were, just at that moment.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: -it was luck. It was luck.

BILL MOYERS: Curiosity plays a very big role. A lot of people were on that train who didn’t get off.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: That’s right, yeah. Yes. Well, I’m crazy that way.

BILL MOYERS: You said you learned a lot from the people you read and have been around. What did you learn from Gandhi and what prompted you to write this memoir about him, because you said that your admiration of Gandhi bordered on adoration?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: It did indeed. I thought then and I still think so he probably was the greatest man of our time. He was a great political leader and he was a great spiritual leader. And with all the baggage that I came out there, of western civilization, what little I had acquired. He showed me there was another world, completely different world, a world where force didn’t always prevail, where nonviolence, if properly directed, could overcome bayonets and that sort of thing. And maybe, above all, he talked a great deal about love, spiritual love. And as a matter of fact, he used to lecture me by saying, “Love is God.” He would say, “That’s the only God that I really recognize, is love equates God.”

Well, that was difficult for me to get. So I got from him-I got a different kind of religion. I never could go back, after two years in India, to my Presbyterian church as a member, as a worshiper. He taught me something that’s been wonderful in my life, what he called comparative religion. He said-he was a devout Hindu, but the Hindu religion is very tolerant, you know, much more tolerant than any of our religions or Islam. And he said, “I take the best of all religions.” And we would talk, and he said, ”Well, I find you terribly ignorant. You’ve never read the Koran, you’ve never read the Baghavad Gita, you’ve never read the Vedas.” And he prescribed me some reading, and I spent quite a bit of time in those two years reading, the Vedas, particularly the Baghavad Gita, which I think is one of the great religious works of the world, and was the basis of Gandhi’s Hindu faith.

He knew a great deal about Christianity. He hated, by the way, the Old Testament. And I would say, well-he didn’t like the vengeance in it, the eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But he missed the poetry. I mean, the poetry is there in the Old Testament. But he loved the New Testament, he could quote it backward and forward, and particularly the Sermon on the Mount. So I could never believe, as I was brought up to believe, and as many faiths in America teach, that Christianity was the only salvation. I couldn’t believe that 400 million Hindus, or 300 million, or several hundred million Buddhists wouldn’t go to heaven, or would go to Hell because they weren’t

Christians. You couldn’t believe that anymore. You absolutely couldn’t.

BILL MOYERS: Do you share any affinity with the idea that God died in this century, at Auschwitz and Buchenwald and in those trenches of Flanders?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: I ask myself, if there is a God, how could-and most people who believe in God, in a god -well, the Hindus have many gods -but if there is a God, how-say if there’s a Christian God, how could he permit Christians to slaughter 10 or 15 million people? If there is a Jewish God, how could he permit Christians to slaughter seven million Jews? And it’s a question which bothers me, and I can’t answer. It bothered me terribly.

BILL MOYERS: Is Tolstoy any help?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Yes, he’s been helpful to me, in a sense, because he went to Christianity -he learned Greek so he could understand the exact words of the New Testament -and he found a great deal of solace. Like Gandhi, he used to repeat the, you know, Sermon on the Mount, he knew it by heart. And he had some inner

[unintelligible]-he was a rather crotchety old man, too. And some of the things you can’t follow. But he did-he hoped, actually, to form a new form of Christianity, but that was beyond him and probably beyond any man. I know religion is a great solace. I’ve-it’s something that’s denied me at the present moment.

BILL MOYERS: Are you still looking?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Absolutely. Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] From his home in Lenox, Massachusetts, this has been the conclusion of a conversation with William L. Shirer. I’m Bill Moyers.

Review: A Complex Fate: William L. Shirer and the American Century

William L. Shirer had a tumultuous but celebrated career—first as a newspaper foreign correspondent, then as a pioneering radio broadcaster and, finally, as an authority on Europe. He spent seven years reporting from Berlin, 1934 to 1941, getting a virtually unmatched look at the rise of Nazi Germany.

As author Ken Cuthbertson explains in his richly detailed biography A Complex Fate: William L. Shirer and the American Century, Shirer was a competitive and astute journalist who suffered his share of career knocks, most notably when he lost his high-profile position as a CBS news commentator and later got unfairly labeled a communist sympathizer. He went 12 years without a job before reviving his fortunes, spectacularly, in 1960 when he produced his magnum opus, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It became a huge bestseller, cemented Shirer’s legacy—and enabled him to keep writing until his death, at age 89, in 1993.

Born in Chicago in 1904, Shirer attended Coe College, where he was editor in chief of the school newspaper. After graduation in 1925, he and a friend worked their way to Europe aboard a cattle ship. In France Shirer wangled a job as a copyeditor with the English-language Paris edition of the Chicago Tribune and soon after was covering sporting events and celebrity doings on the continent. A front-page story on Charles Lindbergh’s landing at Le Bourget Airport got him a promotion, at age 23, to foreign correspondent for the Tribune’s Foreign News Service. Thus began a life of “gabardine trench coats and late-night trains.”

“Bespectacled, prematurely balding, and with his ever-present pipe clenched between his teeth, Shirer looked—and sometimes acted—more like an academic than a foreign correspondent,” writes Cuthbertson. He chased the news throughout Europe and beyond—even traveled to India to report on Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts to win independence for that country. The Tribune ran ads trumpeting Shirer’s scoops before the paper’s impetuous owner, Robert “Colonel” McCormick, sacked him for a couple of minor mistakes. In 1934 the Hearst-owned Universal News Service hired Shirer to run its Berlin bureau—the start of what he called his “nightmare years,” a phrase that became the title of a 1980 book.

In 1937 Edward R. Murrow hired Shirer to help him start the CBS News radio network in Europe. Shirer was the first of the so-called “Murrow boys”—though Murrow biographer A.M. Sperber has written that the two men had a “unique” bond. Among all the CBS colleagues with whom Murrow worked, Shirer, by dint of his distinguished newspaper career, was his “only true peer.” In live, shortwave broadcasts to American listeners, Murrow and Shirer analyzed the Nazi takeovers of Austria and Czechoslovakia, the invasion of Poland, the Munich crisis. They built the foundation of CBS News, and in covering the war became stars. When the French surrendered at Compiègne in 1940, Shirer was there, sitting in a field amid the generals, tapping out his broadcast report on his trusty Royal.

Shirer returned to New York in 1941, wrote the bestselling Berlin Diary and became a CBS commentator. He had a sizeable audience, but by then he and Murrow had drifted apart. When Shirer’s sponsor, a soap company, dropped his program in 1947, CBS chief William Paley fired Shirer Murrow, a company vice president, went along with the decision. Shirer never forgave Murrow for the betrayal. He struggled to earn a living for years before writing The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, followed by several other books, including a three-volume memoir. In a eulogy after the writer’s death, historian James MacGregor Burns noted that Shirer had “chronicled some of the most splendid and the most terrifying events of the [20th] century,” and “had shaped Americans’ views of Hitler, Gandhi and other important historical figures who had changed our world.” For a journalist, you can’t ask for more than that.

Originally published in the December 2015 issue of American History magazine. Subscribe here.

Восстание и падение Третьего рейха Уильяма Ширер (1960) в твердом переплете книги

Нью-йорк: Simon и Schuster, 1960. Первое издание, восьмая печать. Переплет. 8vo. Оливковая зеленая ткань связывания. 1245 стр. Иллюстративные карты на энд бумагах. Справедливое состояние. Потертости, смазывания по краям текстового блока и досок. Обесцвечивание, патчи наклейки пух на endpapers. Пыль куртка находится в хорошем состоянии с некоторыми поверхностные ссадины, сколы вдоль периферии и в верхней части позвоночника (см. фотографии). Восьмой был последним печати до Симон и Шустер начал публикацию этого названия в гораздо сжатым формате. «Восстание и падение Третьего рейха» Ширера не была первой историей нацистской империи и не самой тщательной, но на сегодняшний день остается самой популярной.

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William L. Shirer (Part One)

In the course of his long career as a journalist, William L. Shirer was an eyewitness to the history of our times. His best-selling books, among them Berlin Diary, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and a trilogy of memoirs, have given readers a front-seat view of major events. In this program with Bill Moyers, Shirer discusses his experiences as a journalist in Europe, his firsthand impressions of Hitler, and expresses his concerns about the reunified Germany.

BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] For most of his adult life, William L. Shirer has been an eyewitness to history. Fresh out of college, he arrived in Paris in 1925 to become a newspaper reporter. During the 󈧘s and 󈧢s, he covered stories throughout Europe and spent two years in India, reporting on Mahatma Gandhi. In 1937, Shirer was hired by Edward R. Murrow to open the European bureau of CBS News. As a pioneer in broadcast journalism, he was in Rome for the death of a pope, in Berlin for the rise of Hitler, on the front lines for the fall of France. When Nazi censorship made honest reporting impossible, Shirer returned to the United States, broadcasting a weekly news analysis on CBS and publishing his first best-seller, Berlin Diary.

His career in broadcasting ended in 1947, when CBS canceled his program. But Shirer created a new career as an author, drawing on his years in Nazi Germany. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich became one of the biggest sellers in publishing history. He has since written about his years with Gandhi and has published a trilogy of his memoirs, Twentieth Century Journey, The Nightmare Years and A Native’s Return.

Now at age 86, William L. Shirer is at work on yet another book, this one about the final years in the life of Tolstoy. We talked at his home in Lenox, Massachusetts.

[interviewing] If you were living in Europe today, would you fear a strong and reunited Germany?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: I’m sure I would. If I were a Frenchman, or a member of any of the nations which were victims of the Nazi Germans, I would fear it, yes. The question is, have the Germans changed since the end of the war? And I’ve come to the conclusion that we really don’t know. Nobody can answer that question. I’m a little bit skeptical, perhaps because of my experience in Nazi Germany.

BILL MOYERS: When you consider how many people have suffered at the hands of the Germans, you can understand why there’s no quick inclination to trust them.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Well, I think in this country, we don’t realize that. But when you go to the Soviet Union, for example, you’re struck by that, what Nazi Germans did to that country. I mean, the 20 million dead, the destruction of their cities and towns and museums. They even tried to burn down Tolstoy’s house at Geznaya Pogama. No conquering country probably behaves very well, we know that, but I think if you ask a Frenchman about the Occupation, he would say it was very tough. I was running across some figures the other day. I think something like 29,000 French civilians were shot as hostages, for example. I think the French remember that. But we’ve never been invaded. We never had that experience. And we forget it very quickly.

BILL MOYERS: Just in the papers this morning, there are stories of sporadic outbursts of anti-Semitism in eastern Germany. And I’m wondering how strongly you think those pro-Nazi roots are in that soil.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: I had hoped that anti-Semitism was dead in Germany. You know, it didn’t start with Hitler it’s been there a long time. But when I went back in 󈨙, during the Bitburg, the ill-fated Bitburg venture of President Reagan, one thing that did surprise me and depress me was the feeling of anti-Semitism, that was far from dead. The language which the papers used, and the radio and television used, to denounce, in particular, American Jews, for complaining that the president of the United States was coming to Bitburg cemetery, where something like 49 SS, Waffen SS men were buried. And you talk to the government, they said: ‘We don’t make any difference. A dead German soldier is a dead German soldier. If he was in the Waffen SS or the regular army it doesn’t make a difference.” To me, it does make a difference. The Waffen SS was the one which organized the slaughter not only of hundreds of thousands of Jews, but of hundreds of thousands of Russians and Poles. So it does make a difference.

BILL MOYERS: What did you think when President Reagan looked at those graves and said that these men, the Gestapo themselves, were the victims of the evil of one man?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Well, it was a horror. But you know, what he really said was that all the poor German soldiers there, buried at Bitburg, or the German soldiers anyplace who were killed in the war, were victims of the Nazis just as the Jews were. That’s a violation of history. The


WILLIAM L. SHIRER: I followed the German army, the famous sixth German army, through Holland, Belgium and France in 1940. I mention the name because that was the sixth army that was destroyed at Stalin grad. These German soldiers were-they loved it. I never met one -possibly one, an Austrian, one night when they were looking around during the campaign in France -who felt that they were done in by Hitler. To equate the Jews that were done to death in the extermination camps with four or five million German soldiers-all German soldiers were drafted, was a terrible abortion of history.

BILL MOYERS: But we forget how eagerly so many of the Germans greeted Hitler. I just was looking last night through The Nightmare Years, 1930-1940, at some of the pictures you have in here of Hitler arriving back in a number of German cities. Look at this, ‘Wildly enthusiastic crowds greet Hitler.” I mean, when you turn the pages and look at the faces-look at Hitler and the child, Hitler and the family.


BILL MOYERS: These arms outstretched. Look at the looks on the faces of these women as they are peering up at Hitler, greeting him, the crowd here. These two women-that’s his hand, those hands. That is an enthusiasm reserved for the most charismatic.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: I lived through that. One of the first shocks I think I got when I went up to cover Germany permanently in 1934 the year after Hitler took over, was the enthusiasm of the crowds. My first assignment was the Nuremburg party rally, and the hysterical applause of these Germans, as if they were looking at a messiah, I must say now wouldn’t surprise me, but deeply shocked me. And I think what was important and maybe terrible for an outside observer was that the vast majority of people supported Hitler with incredible enthusiasm.

Now, why was that? Well, for one thing, he was giving them what they wanted, and we forget that. He was giving them full employment, he was improving the economics of the place by borrowing a lot of money that he never paid back, he was building up an army, navy and air force. The Germans liked that, there’s a certain militarism, at least in our time, in their blood. And he was telling them we’re going to get back the territories we lost, and we’re going to take Austria, and we’re going to take Czechoslovakia, and so forth. Those were things that the Germans liked.

I remember going up to Hamburg or someplace to try and find out why German workers were supporting him, and they said-I said, “Don’t you miss the freedoms you had, of free trade unions, of free elections?” And they said, “Well, I’ll tell you, there’s one freedom that we don’t miss, and that’s the freedom to starve.” There was no real German resistance. I mean, there were lots of Germans, but they were a handful, really. There was no attempt at Hitler until the very end, and this was by a handful of military people. But the masses, the workers, the petit bourgeoisie and so forth, never revolted. There was never the kind of meetings we have seen in east Europe in recent months, where crowds got out into the streets and-they didn’t seem to care about their freedoms being taken away. And maybe this is true of a lot of countries. It might even be true of us sometime. They didn’t seem to care about loss of freedom as long as they had some prosperity.

BILL MOYERS: All these years later, do you still ask yourself the question why? I mean, you’ve written about the how in one book after another, but the question of why a nation that was a Christian nation, a nation that produced Beethoven and Bach and Immanuel Kant, a nation of great scientists, a nation that was an integral part of “western civilization,” how it could perpetrate such evil, be so blind?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: It’s a question which I posed when I got to Germany, and I’ve been asking myself ever since, and often, how it could have happened. You know, as you say, they were a Christian people, divided between the Catholics and Protestants. They were, I would say, people who went to church every Sunday. And as you say, there’s great culture, which was a part of western civilization. Why they went off, why they could slaughter six million Jews, for example, or seven million in the extermination camps, why they could-and this is something that’s not very well known, but Chancellor Kohl talked about it not long ago, that they let die over half of the six million Russian prisoners of war by not giving them shelter or food, in other words, killing them. But I cannot answer your question, and I wish somebody could, maybe some great philosopher would come around. It’s a stumbling block to my whole imagination.

BILL MOYERS: It’s still hard for me to comprehend, for example, that the mentality of those German businessmen who advertised their bids for the crematoria in the concentration camps. You quote one of the ads in one of your books: ”We guarantee the effectiveness of the cremation ovens, as well as their durability, the use of the best materials and our faultless workmanship.” Don’t tell me they didn’t know what they were going to be used for.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Of course they did. Remember, at Nuremburg, this company I think at first denied that they knew, and then the secret documents published, the correspondence like that. But do you ever think of the thousands, or tens of thousands of other nice Germans, shall we say, who went to church every Sunday, who looked after their families, played with the children and who, in their office hours, went over the gold teeth and the earrings and the finger rings of the Jews who had been slaughtered in the camps. It-this is beyond my imagination. I still-I mean, I heard it at Nuremburg when it first came out, and now, 50, 60 years later, I still can’t comprehend it. It’s a riddle. But I think we should remember it in all this talk about the new Germany.

BILL MOYERS: I read a book in college, 1952, 1953, about the Germany between the wars, between 1920 and 1940. It was called Unto Caesar. I can’t remember the author of it, but he said that so much of what happened when Hitler came to power had been prefigured, foreshadowed, in the art, the literature, the theater of Germany in that period. And he said that men, no less than children, will suit their action to fantasy. And that happened, didn’t it?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: It certainly did, yeah.

BILL MOYERS: What was the Nazi fantasy?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Well, there’s a myth about the whole thing, a myth about Hitler. But those are so intangible, it’s just-it’s very difficult to explain them. But of course, in a sense, the Germans knew what was coming if they had read Mein Kampf. It’s all there. And unfortunately, some Germans didn’t read it, and even more unfortunately, the British and the French and the Russians and Mr. Stalin and the rest didn’t read it. The blueprint was there.

There was a fantasy of a superman, the fantasy of the Germanic race, as they called it, having the mission in life to better the world, by which he really meant expanding so that Germans would be more prosperous at the expense of the Poles and the Russians and the French and the others. And I remember, at Nuremburg there was a postal card, I came across it the other day when I was trying to find something. And it was a postal card of Hitler. And he’s on a white horse with a spear and sort of medieval clothing. And there’s a saying which I’ve forgotten in German, but it does say “Frederick the Great started it, Bismarck continued it and Adolf Hitler’s going to finish it.”

BILL MOYERS: I do think character changes. Certainly, circumstances change, and so much of the drive for freedom in eastern Europe today, including eastern Germany, is coming from the churches, whose members, 60, 70 years ago, were often -not always, but often -supporting Hitler and the Nazis. That’s been a remarkable transformation.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: It is, I think. Of course, under Hitler they were under pressure to conform, and as always in institutions, even though the institutions will conform in order, probably they think, to save themselves, there’s always a band of individuals who have the guts and character and may be a little bit mad. And so you had that in the Catholic and Protestant churches. I think all of the correspondents, for example, had good contacts in the church. Maybe not with the cardinal or bishop, but with somebody right under him, or articularly with the Protestants. And one of the worst moments of my life was when a young Protestant Lutheran clergyman, who had been feeding me information about the persecution of the church, and we tried so hard, we met in toilets and the Platz der Bonhoef, and the Tieregarten, and so forth, they nabbed him. I was not the only correspondent who-foreign correspondent who knew him, some of my colleagues, too. And for days we went around thinking that any of us make a false step and expose this man-and when he was condemned to death, it-I just wanted to go out of the country. Later it was changed to life imprisonment, and I hope he got out somehow. I never could find him after the war. But that was what you had to remember.

BILL MOYERS: Did many of your sources wind up betrayed, and the Nazis close in on them?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: I think so, yeah. The Gestapo was so powerful and so good, I would say. I had-one other source was an editor of a leading morning paper. And he gave me daily the instructions from Goebbels on what his paper should print, what editorials they should write and what they should keep out, so I was able, almost daily, to find out what the dictatorship was telling the papers to write and so forth. Well, he got picked up, he was sentenced to death. And again, that terrible feeling of, did you make a slip sometime, did you ever just sort of mention in passing that he came to you and to some of my colleagues? Fortunately, he again was-the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and again, I never felt out when I got back after the war, I tried to look some of these people up, but I never found him, either. He worked under that pressure of responsibility, which was a little bit too much sometimes.

BILL MOYERS: What was your most difficult moment?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Well, I left Berlin for the last time, during the Nazi time, in December, 1940. I wanted very much to get out my diaries, and certain papers that I had acquired from here and there. And I picked my brains, which are not very good, and I couldn’t think of anything. And also, the danger, because any dispatches, you couldn’t write the truth about Nazi Germany. But in my diaries, almost every day I would write what I really thought. So I simply decided, I bought a couple of steel-big steel suitcases, small trunks, and put my diaries in the bottom. And on the top I put my dispatches, which were censored and had the stamp of [unintelligible], the high command of the German army. And those stamps always impressed a German. Turned them over to the Gestapo and told them that I wanted to take my dispatches out, and here they were. I also put a few general staff maps that I had, which I knew I couldn’t take out. You have to give them some excuse to take something out of your suitcase.

So they grabbed the maps, said you can’t take those out, and then I showed them the dispatches. At any rate, they finally sealed them, and that’s the way I got out my diaries.

BILL MOYERS: Well, you’re the most vivid example I’ve met of the value of keeping a daily journal, of keeping a diary.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Well, you wonder about it, but I thought-I had a feeling. I’ve always kept a diary, and it’s a terrible bother, but during the time in Germany, you come back from broadcasting, it’d be two or three in the morning. I knew if I left it till the next morning I wouldn’t do it. So I’d sit down and type out-of course, I was so angry all the-much of the time about the lies, that I would-but also, you got tips in the time. You’ve got to remember, even-I’ve been saying to you that the regime was backed by the majority of the Germans, as

I believe it was. There was always people who were not that kind, as a matter of fact, who opposed the regime, who fed the information. That was true during the war, when I think two or three of my best contacts were in the German general staff, so that into my diaries often went information I got from them, not giving the source, of course. But the diaries would have-they would have hanged me if I guess, if they’d caught them.

BILL MOYERS: Is it true that, when Hitler took over Austria, the Anschluss, you were trying to arrange a broadcast on CBS of that event, and a CBS executive in New York was chastising you for not following up on arranging the broadcast of a children’s choir? That he wanted the children’s choir, he didn’t really care about your broadcast of Hitler’s arrival in Vienna. Is that true?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Absolutely. You realize that when Ed Murrow and I first started this two-man job of corresponding from Europe for CBS, neither Ed nor I were allowed to speak on the air. You know what we had to do for the first eight months that I was on the thing? Ed and I went around Europe organizing children’s choirs for some Sunday afternoon program of kids’ choirs. Well, they were very nice choirs, the kids were wonderful, but here was Europe going to hell, and we couldn’t report it. If we did this-try a report, we had to get another correspondent to talk.

BILL MOYERS: A newspaper correspondent?

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Yeah. And if you went to, say, The New York Times, or UP or AP, they wouldn’t let their top people talk on the air. And that was some-because you remember, there was a prejudice against radio news at that time. But they would give you the fifth or sixth man. So I’d hire somebody to talk, say, from Vienna or Berlin, some kid just away from the police beat in New York. And I have to admit, it rather burned me up. I thought I knew a little bit more than he did about it, because I’d been around so long.

BILL MOYERS: But CBS wouldn’t let you do it because

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: They wouldn’t do it.

BILL MOYERS: -they didn’t want their employees editorializing, or


BILL MOYERS: -taking sides.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: And actually, when the war started, because Ed and I broke it-you mentioned the Anschluss, when they wouldn’t let me broadcast that night when the Nazis took over the Austrian radio, and I flew to London. And Ed, who’d been up in Poland on some children’s choir or something, came down to Vienna to cover for me. I think it was a Saturday I arrived, a Saturday evening, getting out of Vienna had been difficult, I finally got there by plane. And just went on the air, I didn’t ask them at all, I just said, “Can you give me a few minutes for an eyewitness report?” That’s the first time that we broke that rule. After that, Ed and I were on the air every day.

BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] We’ll continue this conversation with William L. Shirer on another edition of A World of Ideas. I’m Bill Moyers.

PICTURES FROM HISTORY: Rare Images Of War, History , WW2, Nazi Germany

An indispensable book for those interested in Nazi Germany and WW2. Simple, gripping style of writing. Not like a history textbook. Wealth of information and facts.

Hugh Trevor-Roper The New York Times Book Review
A splendid work of scholarship, objective in method, sound in judgment, inescapable in its conclusions.

John Gunther
One of the most spectacular stories ever told.

Theodore H. White
A monumental work, a grisly and thrilling story.

Orville Prescott The New York Times
One of the most important works of history of our time.

Published in 1960 during the height of the Cold War, Rise and Fall represents one of the first and most comprehensive analyses of Hitler’s Germany . When reading the book, it is important to remember the subtitle. It is “a history” of Nazi Germany, not “the history.” Even in 1100 pages, Shirer gives the reader a summary of Hitler’s rise and the European theater of war.

William Shirer was a newspaper correspondent in Germany during Hitler’s ascent to absolute power. On occasion, he editorializes and lets his rage show through. In this case, just because he is angry does not mean he is inaccurate. One also has to remember it was written in 1960 with the wounds of the Second World War still fresh.

Shirer, as a newspaperman, makes his book an exciting read. It is a page-turner with forward narrative momentum like the best of thrillers.

Hitler began a long speech with a sop to the industrialists. "Private enterprise," he said, "cannot be maintained in the age of democracy it is conceivable only if the people have a sound idea of authority and personality . . . All the worldly goods we possess we owe to the struggle of the chosen . . . We must not forget that all the benefits of culture must be introduced more or less with an iron fist." He promised the businessmen that he would "eliminate" the Marxists and restore the Wehrmacht (the latter was of special interest to such industries as Krupp, United Steel and I. G. Farben, which stood to gain the most from rearmament). "Now we stand before the last election," Hitler concluded, and he promised his listeners that "regardless of the outcome, there will be no retreat." If he did not win, he would stay in power "by other means . . . with other weapons." Goering, talking more to the immediate point, stressed the necessity of "financial sacrifices" which "surely would be much easier for industry to bear if it realized that the election of March fifth will surely be the last one for the next ten years, probably even for the next hundred years."

All this was made clear enough to the assembled industrialists and they responded with enthusiasm to the promise of the end of the infernal elections, of democracy and disarmament. Krupp, the munitions king, who, according to Thyssen, had urged Hindenburg on January 29 not to appoint Hitler, jumped up and expressed to the Chancellor the "gratitude" of the businessmen "for having given us such a clear picture." Dr. Schacht then passed the hat. "I collected three million marks," he recalled at Nuremberg.

The coincidence that the Nazis had found a demented Communist arsonist who was out to do exactly what they themselves had determined to do seems incredible but is nevertheless supported by the evidence. The idea for the fire almost certainly originated with Goebbels and Goering. Hans Gisevius, an official in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior at the time, testified at Nuremberg that "it was Goebbels who first thought of setting the Reichstag on fire," and Rudolf Diels, the Gestapo chief, added in an affidavit that "Goering knew exactly how the fire was to be started" and had ordered him "to prepare, prior to the fire, a list of people who were to be arrested immediately after it." General Franz Halder, Chief of the German General Staff during the early part of World War II, recalled at Nuremberg how on one occasion Goering had boasted of his deed.
At a luncheon on the birthday of the Fuehrer in 1942 the conversation turned to the topic of the Reichstag building and its artistic value. I heard with my own ears when Goering interrupted the conversation and shouted: "The only one who really knows about the Reichstag is I, because I set it on fire!" With that he slapped his thigh with the flat of his hand.*

*Both in his interrogations and at his trial at Nuremberg, Goering denied to the last that he had any part in setting fire to the Reichstag.

Van der Lubbe, it seems clear, was a dupe of the Nazis. He was encouraged to try to set the Reichstag on fire. But the main job was to be done—without his knowledge, of course—by the storm troopers. Indeed, it was established at the subsequent trial at Leipzig that the Dutch half-wit did not possess the means to set so vast a building on fire so quickly. Two and a half minutes after he entered, the great central hall was fiercely burning. He had only his shirt for tinder. The main fires, according to the testimony of experts at the trial, had been set with considerable quantities of chemicals and gasoline. It was obvious that one man could not have carried them into the building, nor would it have been possible for him to start so many fires in so many scattered places in so short a time.

(Hitler's face) "is afire with scorn, anger, hate, revenge, triumph."

William Shirer was a radio reporter for CBS News. We join his story as he stands in a clearing in the forest of Compiegne next to the railroad car where the ceremony will take place. Hitler and his entourage arrive just moments before the ceremony:

"The time is now three eighteen p.m. Hitler's personal flag is run up on a small standard in the centre of the opening.

Also in the centre is a great granite block which stands some three feet above the ground. Hitler, followed by the others, walks slowly over to it, steps up, and reads the inscription engraved in great high letters on that block. It says:


Hitler reads it and Goring reads it. They all read it, standing there in the June sun and the silence. I look for the expression on Hitler's face. I am but fifty yards from him and see him through my glasses as though he were directly in front of me. I have seen that face many times at the great moments of his life. But today! It is afire with scorn, anger, hate, revenge, triumph. He steps off the monument and contrives to make even this gesture a masterpiece of contempt. He glances back at it, contemptuous, angry - angry, you almost feel, because he cannot wipe out the awful, provoking lettering with one sweep of his high Prussian boot. He glances slowly around the clearing, and now, as his eyes meet ours, you grasp the depth of his hatred. But there is triumph there too - revengeful, triumphant hate. Suddenly, as though his face were not giving quite complete expression to his feelings, he throws his whole body into harmony with his mood. He swiftly snaps his hands on his hips, arches his shoulders, plants his feet wide apart. It is a magnificent gesture of defiance, of burning contempt for this place now and all that it has stood for in the twenty-two years since it witnessed the humbling of the German Empire.

. It is now three twenty-three p.m. and the Germans stride over to the armistice car. For a moment or two they stand in the sunlight outside the car, chatting. Then Hitler steps up into the car, followed by the others. We can see nicely through the car windows. Hitler takes the place occupied by Marshal Foch when the 1918 armistice terms were signed. The others spread themselves around him. Four chairs on the opposite side of the table from Hitler remain empty. The French have not yet appeared. But we do not wait long. Exactly at three thirty p.m. they alight from a car. They have flown up from Bordeaux to a near-by landing field. . Then they walk down the avenue flanked by three German officers. We see them now as they come into the sunlight of the clearing.

. It is a grave hour in the life of France. The Frenchmen keep their eyes straight ahead. Their faces are solemn, drawn. They are the picture of tragic dignity. They walk stiffly to the car, where they are met by two German officers, Lieutenant-General Tippelskirch, Quartermaster General, and Colonel Thomas, chief of the Fuhrer's headquarters. The Germans salute. The French salute. The atmosphere is what Europeans call "correct." There are salutes, but no handshakes.

Now we get our picture through the dusty windows of that old wagon-lit car. Hitler and the other German leaders rise as the French enter the drawing-room. Hitler gives the Nazi salute, the arm raised. Ribbentrop and Hess do the same. I cannot see M. Noel to notice whether he salutes or not.

Hitler, as far as we can see through the windows, does not say a word to the French or to anybody else. He nods to General Keitel at his side. We see General Keitel adjusting his papers. Then he starts to read. He is reading the preamble to the German armistice terms. The French sit there with marble-like faces and listen intently. Hitler and Goring glance at the green table-top.

The reading of the preamble lasts but a few minutes. Hitler, we soon observe, has no intention of remaining very long, of listening to the reading of the armistice terms themselves. At three forty-two p.m., twelve minutes after the French arrive, we see Hitler stand up, salute stiffly, and then stride out of the drawing-room, followed by Goring, Brauchitsch, Raeder, Hess, and Ribbentrop. The French, like figures of stone, remain at the green-topped table. General Keitel remains with them. He starts to read them the detailed conditions of the armistice.

Hitler and his aides stride down the avenue towards the Alsace-Lorraine monument, where their cars are waiting. As they pass the guard of honour, the German band strikes up the two national anthems, Deutschland, Deutschland uber Alles and the Horst Wessel song. The whole ceremony in which Hitler has reached a new pinnacle in his meteoric career and Germany avenged the 1918 defeat is over in a quarter of an hour."

William L. Shirer Books In Order

William L. Shirer
William L. Shirer was a history and non-fiction author born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1904. He was also a journalist best known for CBS broadcasts from Berlin at the beginning of the second world war. Despite the author’s journalism background, his debut novel The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich remains his greatest achievement. The author also has an impressive list of non-fiction historical novels and memoirs to his name. a good portion of Shirer’s writing on the second world war are from his own experiences. He and fellow journalists experienced censorship firsthand, and he had to smuggle his notes and diaries out of Germany. Shirer died in 1993.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich tries to explain what happened to a dictatorial rule that was supposed to last a thousand years. Adolf Hitler is known for the nightmare he created barely after the end of the first world war. While the Third Reich only lasted slightly over twelve years, so much damage was done within those short years that the world went into yet another war. The torture that people experienced in concentration camps cannot be put into words, and Hitler’s determination to rule the world was uncontrollable the entire time. So what led to the collapse of this rule? How was one person able to wield so much power, and what led to their defeat?

This book answers all these questions and more. Shirer takes you through the catastrophic events that characterized this era. He even includes testimonies from camp inmates and Nazi leaders. Since the author was a foreign correspondent living in Germany for most of the time, Hitler was in power, some of his narration comes from his own experiences. He explains how Hitler managed to use Japan and Mussolini and also narrates how the United States eventually got involved. You will also read about the dangers that made Shirer and his family seek refuge elsewhere.

If you love history stories, especially about the second world war, you will love this book. The author has clearly done his homework, and his narrative style keeps you wanting to know more about what happened next. This book was published in 1957, slightly over a decade after The Fall, recorded towards the end of the book. Shirer’s memory of what happened was still fresh, and the massive documentation available at the time made it easy for him to complete his research. It is shocking what devastation and havoc such a brief span wrecked on the west.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is a classic and conclusive novel on Nazi Germany. Everything from the early successes to Germany’s eventual defeat is recorded here. Aside from the known facts about Hitler and his character, the author lends his perspective on some of the events that shaped his rule. He is careful to separate his experiences and the information picked from historical records. Still, it is exciting reading the views of a person who actually experienced the effects of Hitler’s rule. The book also comes with enough footnotes, and it is flowing in enlightening moments. Even though this book was published decades ago, it holds so much relevance to dare. It is perfect if you want a comprehensive yet intriguing account of the Nazi regime.

Berlin Diary
Berlin Diary is a firsthand account of the happenings in Europe between 1934 and 1941. At the time, the author was a foreign correspondent in Berlin. He details how Hitler and his men managed to deceive the public with lies and propaganda until things got out of hand. Since he had full control of the press, it was not so hard for Hitler to control how people viewed his regime. Even for foreign correspondents like Shirer, anything they submitted or broadcasted had to be censored first, and he was regularly forced to edit his work. Fortunately, the author had enough contact with the Nazis and Germans to know how they felt and thought about everything that was happening at their doorstep.

Given the author’s position, it was easier for him to experience the level of fanatism during Hitler’s reign. Since he had easy access to most of the Nazi’s functions, it was easier for him to gather the information that wasn’t easily available to the public. He made a point of noting his observations almost every day and relied heavily on this information while writing this story. Unlike other historical books, this one covers day to day activities. It is easier for readers to understand what really went on and the effect the Nazis and their leader had on the population at large. If you are curious to know what led to the second world war, you will find this book informative and fascinating.

The saddest thing in this book is that all the ugliness in it actually happened. Shirer explains why the Nazis did not see anything wrong with what Hitler was doing to those who dared to defy his orders. Whether out of fear or sheer ignorance, they supporting the dictator in all his autocracies, and Europe suffered greatly for their actions. All the momentous events that led to the second world war in Europe are highlighted here. This book is an eye-opener for anyone who thought that dialogue instead of war could have been used. A lot was happening on the ground, and even the media was compromised to broadcast only what Hitler and his men wanted.

Berlin Diary was first published in 1941, and its timing was perfect given what was happening at the time. Shirer’s passion and energy throughout the book is contagious, and the electricity is almost palpable. This book because a success immediately it was published and was considered a reference point for Americans who thought that Europe rushed into the war. America had just joined the war, and the book painted a good picture of the happenings that led to the war. The book remains one of the pieces that have given a journalistic view of one of Europe’s most challenging times.

William L. Shirer - History

Unlike his counterpart, Ed Murrow, Bill Shirer was born in a large city, Chicago, and was raised for his first nine years in a rather intellectual family. His father had been a U.S. Attorney and was a man with populist ideas. Friends with Clarence Darrow, who was a frequent guest in the Shirer household, Shirer's father was constantly espousing on the likes of John Dewey and Theodore Dreiser. But very quickly, Bill Shirer's world would change. At age nine, his father suddenly died and Shirer's mother, now with little money, moved the family to his maternal grandmother's home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. But because of his previous life in Chicago, Bill Shirer came to dislike the squeaky-clean life he lived in Iowa.

The lack of money only allowed Shirer to attend Coe, a small Presbyterian school in Cedar Rapids. He found it boring, but became the editor in his senior year of the school's newspaper, the Cosmos, which he promptly used as a forum to eschew bourgeois lifestyles. In one of his editorials, “Thousands for Athletics Why Not a Few Shekels for Literature?” he argued for support of a student literary publication. While at Coe, Shirer met Dr. Edward R. Burkhalter, who happened to be a neighbor. According to the broadcaster, he wrote:

Upon graduation in 1925, he took off for Europe where he was able to garner a job with the Paris Tribune. Beginning as a copy editor, he relished his life in Paris at this time. It was a time of ferment in the city of Lights. He found himself in constant discussions with his friend James Thurber as they talked of Hemmingway, Joyce and Fitzgerald all of whom were there.

In 1927, he became a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, which owned the Paris Tribune. He was sent to other parts of the world such as India to cover Gandhi in a series of interviews and Afghanistan reporting on their new King. But soon, with the depression forcing companies to reduce staff, Shirer soon found himself out of a job. He was rescued by the Paris Herald, the French branch of the New York Herald, which offered him a job back on the copy desk, for which he had no choice if he wanted to remain.

Within a few months, opportunity came knocking in a position in Berlin with the Hearst Universal Wire Service. For it he covered the rising Nazi's as they paraded at Nuremberg. He continued to cover the rise of Hitler and the increasing hate of Jews all of which alarmed Shirer. But by 1937, the Hearst Wire service was being shut down and Shirer once more found himself out of a job. Coincidentally, he had received a note from Ed Murrow asking to have lunch with him.

Murrow was trying to establish CBS as a news organization and felt hiring a print journalist would add even more credibility to the task. Shirer, out of work at the time, accepted even though he did not feel he had the voice for broadcasting. Paul White, Murrow's boss felt the same way, but Murrow prevailed.

Shirer's work with CBS is a standout. His inate knowledge and dogged journalist sense allowed him to get to the heart of what was happening to the people of Europe, especially Germany, in light of Hitler's rise. He was able to ferret out a story and reported with not only the people's comments, but with some wit of his own. As Nazi power increased, Shirer was increasingly in danger and had to be careful how he reported the news. On the eve of the start of European War in 1939, Shirer found himself in Berlin.

When Hitler began to invade Western Europe, Shirer continued to cover events from Berlin. By June 21st, 1940, Nazi Germany took Paris and Hitler wanted a signing of the surrender of France to be held at Compienge using the same rail car that the French had used when they defeated Germany at the end of The Great War.

Eventually, he had to escape Germany wherein he returned to the USA and began reporting news and commentary on his own news program in New York. He eventually left CBS and broadcast journalism and began working on several books detailing his own experience (Berlin Diary) in Germany. His most famous work was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich which reports in details how the Nazis came to power, and how they ultimately fell from grace.

Watch the video: Linda William - Lautre soleil (June 2022).


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