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Berlin Diary by William L. Shirer

Berlin Diary (original 1941; edition 2011)

by William L. Shirer (Author)

Series: Berlin Diary (1)

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1,1911311,390 (4.21)42
By the acclaimed journalist and bestselling author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, this day-by-day, eyewitness account of the momentous events leading up to World War II in Europe is now available in a new paperback edition. CBS radio broadcaster William L. Shirer was virtually unknown in 1940 when he decided there might be a book in the diary he had kept in Europe during the 1930s--specifically those sections dealing with the collapse of the European democracies and the rise of Nazi Germany. Berlin Diary first appeared in 1941, and the timing was perfect. The energy, the passion, the electricity in it were palpable. The book was an instant success, and it became the frame of reference against which thoughtful Americans judged the rush of events in Europe. It exactly matched journalist to event: the right reporter at the right place at the right time. It stood, and still stands, as so few books have ever done--a pure act of journalistic witness.… (more)
Title:Berlin Diary
Authors:William L. Shirer (Author)
Info:RosettaBooks (2019), 490 pages
Collections:Your library, EBooks
Tags:Ebooks, American Writer, American Nonfiction, Nonfiction

Work details

Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 by William L. Shirer (1941)


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Journal of foreign Correspondent 1934-1941
  wicomico | Oct 15, 2019 |
I have read and reread Shirer book three or four times during different periods in my life. While his own personal story as a journalist is very compelling, because of his adventures and experiences in Nazi Germany, even more interesting to me was the reaction of the German people to Hitler. It's hard to believe that a civilized and cultured nation would allow a mediocre man to be the leader of their country and to plunge them into war and self-destruction.

The reader wonders if something like that could happen in the United States. Until this election cycle, I would have said no – – there are more smarter and wiser people than dumbing evil ones in this country. Now I'm not so sure…

I would list this book as one of the most influential ones in my lifetime. It is a long book – – over 600 pages but the story is very compelling and needs to be shared. ( )
  writemoves | Jan 30, 2017 |
William L Shirer was an American journalist who played a major role, alongside Ed Murrow, in waking his fellow countrymen up to the dangers of Nazism and the impossibility of US neutrality in the face of the existential threat to the liberal democratic world posed by Hitler. His most famous work is The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, in my view one of the best works of narrative history/journalism ever written. This book contains his diaries from when he was correspondent in Berlin, initially for two of Randolph Hearst's wire services, then for CBS. He arrives in the German capital at a time when "Hitler and the Nazis have lasted out a whole year in Germany and our friends in Vienna write that fascism, both of a local clerical brand and of the Berlin type, is rapidly gaining ground in Austria". World war is still of course, well over five years away, but Shirer is more prescient than many.
He chronicles the rise of fascism and collapse of social democracy in Austria, then the familiar litany of Hitler's advances, the Rhineland, Austria, the Sudetenland, the rest of Czechoslovakia, and finally Poland before Britain and France wake up to the threat and finally abandon appeasement and stand up to Hitler. He is an excellent writer and brings home clearly the drama and horror of events as they unfold, in the sheer rapidity of the German advance into Poland and of the Blitzkrieg across northern and western Europe in 1940, which year covers half of the entire text of the book. Reading this account as the events unfold is very different from reading a historical account written with the hindsight knowledge of Nazi defeat in 1945.

While Shirer acknowledges that Hitler could never totally control Europe as long as Britain remained free, he thinks it plausible that Hitler could effectively control the world: "I am firmly convinced that he does contemplate [invading the USA] and that if he wins in Europe and Africa he will in the end launch it unless we are prepared to give up our way of life and adapt ourselves to a subservient place in his totalitarian scheme of things". He marks the contrast between the old world and the new in these striking words: "How dim in memory the time when there was peace. That world ended, and for me, on the whole, despite its faults, its injustices, its inequalities, it was a good one. I came of age in that one, and the life it gave was free, civilized, deepening, full of minor tragedy and joy and work and leisure, new lands, new faces—and rarely commonplace and never without hope. And now darkness. A new world. Black-out, bombs, slaughter, Nazism. Now the night and the shrieks and barbarism".

Despite this bleakly pessimistic vision, he thinks that "even if Germany should win the war it will lose its struggle to organize Europe". This derives from his belief that, contrary to the assertions of some that Hitler and the Nazis imposed their creed on a wholly unwilling populace, "the Nazi regime has expressed something very deep in the German nature and in that respect it has been representative of the people it rules". He believes that "the German.......is incapable of organizing Europe. His lack of balance, his bullying sadism when he is on top, his constitutional inability to grasp even faintly what is in the minds and hearts of other peoples, his instinctive feeling that relations between two peoples can only be on the basis of master and slave and never on the basis of let-live equality—these characteristics of the German make him and his nation unfit for the leadership in Europe they have always sought and make it certain that, however he may try, he will in the long run fail". So while he accepts that only Hitler made this appalling war possible, in doing so the dictator was, in the author's view, drawing on the dark side of the nature of a critical mass of German people who craved submission and who had "almost joyfully, almost masochistically, ...... turned to an authoritarianism which releases them from the strain of individual decision and choice and thought and allows them what to a German is a luxury—letting someone else make the decisions and take the risks, in return for which they gladly give their own obedience". At the same time, this weakness caused Germany to underrate the infuriating stubbornness of British resistance, as the latter "won’t admit they’re licked. [The Germans] cannot repress their rage against Churchill for still holding out hopes of victory to his people, instead of lying down and surrendering, as have all of Hitler’s opponents up to date".

Shirer finally leaves Berlin towards the end of 1940 when the censorship has got so bad once Hitler has abandoned his plans to invade Britain and the Nazis are for the first time not having everything their own way, that he is virtually restricted to reading out the communiques of the High Command verbatim, without analysis or comment. He can do no more to raise the awareness of his American audience to the realities of Nazism. He concludes his diaries as follows:

"I stood against the rail watching the lights recede on a Europe in which I had spent all fifteen of my adult years, which had given me all of my experience and what little knowledge I had. It had been a long time, but they had been happy years, personally, and for all people in Europe they had had meaning and borne hope until the war came and the Nazi blight and the hatred and the fraud and the political gangsterism and the murder and the massacre and the incredible intolerance and all the suffering and the starving and cold and the thud of a bomb blowing the people in a house to pieces, the thud of all the bombs blasting man’s hope and decency."

Superb writing and just a brilliant piece of narrative of these world-shattering events. 5/5 ( )
  john257hopper | Sep 5, 2016 |
A diary by the Author, an American war correspondent in Germany from 1934 - 1941. You don't get a sense of all aspects of the situation of the political situation in Germany. The most interesting part from my perspective was seeing the war from the perspective of the common people and some insight into the character of the German people.

I have a hard time believing that Hitler and his power group were bluffers in their annexation of Romania, Austria and Czechoslovakia in the late 1930's. I don't think they would have backed down if militarily challenged as implied by the author. Maybe they would have but I doubt it. It was interesting to read the tactics used though and how Hitler played mind games with nations, forming and breaking treaties at will and impunity in most cases. The issues today with Putin's aggressive stance with the Ukraine and the Crimea almost seems to be a parallel... history repeating itself it seems.

Other than a few mentions of Jewish problems you did not get any sense of the plight of the Jew in this book which shows you how well those actions were held back from general knowledge at the time.

I am glad I read the book... it was tough reading at first but certainly picked up as the Germans invaded France. It certainly seemed that he had a lot of liberty as a correspondent in Germany...but then he learned how to play by the rules it seems. ( )
  Lynxear | May 29, 2015 |
Simply a classic a=of first person history. Shire an excellent journalist and historian, shares his unfettered personal observations. It is incredible how often Shirer accurately predicts what will take place next. Also we get to see the immediate viewpoint lost in the retelling of history. Italy was feared, the French army “the best in Europe, and other ideas we know today are wrong, influenced the decisions made at momentous moments. It is hard for any history buff to imagine the access Shirer had at that time. He witnessed the French surrendering to Hitler, watched Hitler give speeches in the Reichstag, observed the body language of Chamberlain at Munich, etc. Incredible stuff.
The fact he is in Germany and deals with the censors and sees for himself the day to day reality of the third Reich, gives him a better understanding of Hitler and his goals. It is the tragedy of the twentieth century that so many people ignored him, and US ambassador Dodd. His frustration leaps off the page, as he tried somehow to get his message through. ( )
  yeremenko | Feb 3, 2014 |
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To Tess who shared so much
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Lloret de Mar, Spain, January 11, 1934: Our money is gone.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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See separate LT work pages for Berlin Diary (1941) and End of a Berlin Diary (1947). Please do not combine the separate works; thank you.
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