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William L. Shirer was the first journalist hired by CBS to cover World War II in Europe, where he continued to work for over a decade as a news broadcaster. This book compiles two and a half years’ worth of wartime broadcasts from Shirer’s time on the ground during WWII. He was with Nazi forces when Hitler invaded Austria and made it a part of Germany under the Anschluss; he was also the first to report back to the United States on the armistice between France and Nazi forces in June of 1940. His daily roundup of news from Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Rome, and London, which documented Nazi Germany and the conditions of countries under invasion and at war, became famous for its gripping urgency. Shirer brought a sense of immediacy to the war for listeners in the United States and worldwide, and his later books, including the seminal Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, became definitive works on World War II history.
This collection of Shirer’s radio broadcasts offers all the original suspense and vivid storytelling of the time, bringing World War II to life for a modern audience.
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Berlin September 19, 1938
[By the time of the Munich Crisis, Shirer had left Vienna and shifted his base to Berlin.]
Hello America. This is Berlin calling.
Germany, like the rest of Europe, is waiting on Prague tonight.
But if I judge the temper of the people in the street right — and I've talked with many of them since flying up here from Prague this morning — they are waiting with a sense of relief.
Whereas three weeks ago when I was last here — or even a week ago — the people were wondering what could be in store for them, tonight they seem sure of one thing. That there will be no war.
"Isn't it wonderful," I've been told a hundred times today by scores of people who did not hide their sense of relief. "Isn't it wonderful. There's to be no war. We're going to have peace."
And today as the news came in that Britain and France — Britain and France, mind you — had agreed on a settlement which would hand over most of the Sudetenland to this country, the sense of elation among the people you saw about was very marked.
Not only National Socialist Party members, but others. They all felt that Chancellor Hitler had brought them undoubtedly the greatest victory of his career.
"And mind you," a German newspaperman said to me tonight. "It's a bloodless victory."
That's a feeling that's very deep in the minds of these people here tonight. That Chancellor Hitler appears to have achieved what he wanted without bloodshed.
"Like the occupation of the Rhine. Like the Anschluss with Austria. Done peacefully, without war." I've heard those phrases from a dozen people in the course of today.
None here that I've talked to today seems to doubt for a single moment that the Czechs will accept the Franco-British proposals.
Last night in Prague — and this morning, just before I left, talking with Czechs, I wasn't so sure. But tonight in Prague may be a different story. I have no definite last minute information. It is a very grave decision they're taking in Prague. But, as I said, here in Berlin the Germans seem to think that it can only be acceptance. The ordinary little man doesn't seem to think it can be anything else. And he's glad.
As a matter of fact, it appears that even yesterday people here made up their minds that there would be no war. Friends of mine tell me that thousands — it was a lovely warm, summer-like day — drove down in their cars to the Sudeten frontier, and picnicked while they gazed over the frontier at the lovely, blue Sudeten mountains.
And while the people in the Berlin streets going home to work tonight seemed relieved and pleased with the turn of events, the excitement on the Sudeten frontier — especially among the Sudetens who've come over to this side — was at a feverish pitch.
I sat most of this evening at the side of a loudspeaker, listening to the broadcast of a great Sudeten mass-meeting at Dresden tonight where thousands crowded into a great hall went literally mad with excitement.
It was really indescribable.
I happened to be stationed in this country at the moment of Chancellor Hitler's first two great achievements. The tearing up of Versailles in 1935 when he proclaimed conscription and set out to build up the modern German army.
I thought I had seen the peak of mass enthusiasm that day.
A year later when he reoccupied the Rhineland I went up and down the Rhine, and the enthusiasm, as the troops marched in, was even greater. Unbelievable sometimes.
But tonight. Well, I don't know any words to describe it. It was simply a terrific mass hysteria. For two hours 10 or 15 thousand people, mostly Sudeten Germans who crossed over into the Reich — Dresden is near the border, remember — yelled themselves hoarse. The yelling in a big stadium at homecoming when your side makes the winning touchdown would be nothing compared to what we heard tonight.
There seemed to be two yells, and they were not unlike some of our college yells at home.
Adolf Hitler, mach uns freiVon der Tschechoslowakei.
Translated it would be: Adolf Hitler, free us from Czechoslovakia. But in German it rhymes and has a popular swing.
The other was the more familiar one:
One Reich, One Folk, One Führer.
And they yelled and yelled it, until you would have thought that their voices would have given in, or the roof of the building fallen through.
The principal speaker at this meeting in Dresden tonight was Herr Sebekovsky, the young Sudeten deputy. His voice, as it came roaring through the radio, choked with emotion. It was hard for me to think that it was this same young man, Herr Sebekovsky, with whom I talked quietly not two weeks ago in the Sudeten headquarters in Prague. In Prague, the afternoon we talked, he struck me as a quiet, young, business-like type. Then he talked and argued earnestly about the Carlsbad demands for autonomy within Czechoslovakia.
That was two weeks ago! It seems like an eternity.
Herr Sebekovsky addressed most of his words to his fellow Sudetens across the frontier, many of whom, no doubt, were listening to him on their radios.
"Sudeten brothers at home," he roared. "Keep your courage! The hour of your liberation nears!" And then there was a pandemonium of yelling in the hall for several minutes before he could say: "Keep your courage. And we will come to you. And this time, not without arms."
Knowing from my personal experiences in Sudetenland how many Sudetens felt, how they came out last week when we passed on the road and asked us nervously: "When are they coming? Are they coming? And when?" I imagine his words and his promise cheered quite a few people.
So much for the Sudetens.
Here in Berlin the press is full of little other news. I've got some of today's papers with me here and I'd like to give you an idea of what is in them.
Here's the Angriff: a typical headline about alleged conditions in Czechoslovakia. It says: WOMEN AND CHILDREN MOWED DOWN BY ARMORED CARS. SUDETENS COMPLAIN. Another headline in the same paper: CZECHOSLOVAKIA WRITTEN OFF. RESULT OF THE LONDON CABINET MEETING.
The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung has a front page headline, or will have in its edition tomorrow morning — I just got a copy — UNDER THE BLOOD REGIME. NEW CZECH MURDERS OF GERMANS. And the editor of the paper has a two column editorial entitled: DESPERADOES. I take it he refers to the Czechs.
The Börsen Zeitung's front page leads off with the headline: POISON GAS ATTACK ON AUSSIG? And the story alleges a Czech plan to use poison gas on the German inhabitants of the town of Aussig. Special agents of Moscow are blamed.
The Hamburger Fremdenblatt, one of the leading provincial papers has this headline: EXTORTION. PLUNDERING. SHOOTING. THE CZECH TERROR IN GERMAN SUDETENLAND GROWS WORSE FROM DAY TO DAY.
And the Nachtausgabe, a widely-read evening paper carries this frontpage headline: DANGEROUS CHAOS IN PRAGUE. MOSCOW HOPES FOR CATASTROPHE IN SUDETENLAND.
And practically all the papers play up the story about the alleged gas attack plans for Aussig.
Now I'm not here tonight to tell you how I personally see the situation in Czechoslovakia. But I think perhaps you will be interested in seeing how the picture is presented in the newspapers here in Berlin.
The day after tomorrow there is to be the meeting at Godesberg between Prime Minister Chamberlain and Chancellor Hitler. That little town is a hive of activity tonight.
A friend of mine — one of the advance guard of the army of foreign correspondents who will descend on the little town tomorrow — was down there today and he has just phoned an idea of what it looks like.
The whole town, he reported, was being gaily decorated with pine-tree branches and bunting and thousands of flags. Not only the Swastika flag. The Union Jack too. Thousands of Union Jacks.
The good people of the little town officially of course are not supposed to know exactly who the decorations are for — the meeting hasn't been publicly announced yet. But of course they have a pretty good idea.
The little Hotel Dreesen where Chancellor Hitler went to stay way back in 1926 after his release from prison, and whose proprietor became his friend, was also getting a dressing-up today.
The hotel lounge was refurbished this afternoon and decorated with bowls of flowers and German and British flags.
Chancellor Hitler will occupy the little suite which is reserved for him the year around. And probably the meetings will be held there.
Mr. Chamberlain probably will stay in a hotel in nearby Petersberg, one of the seven famous Rhine mountains.
One thing is certain: Mr. Chamberlain will certainly get a warm welcome.
In fact I get the impression in Berlin today that Mr. Chamberlain is a pretty popular figure around here.
Cologne September 21, 1938 23.35
Hello America! This is Cologne, Germany, calling.
I want to tell you tonight about the beautiful, peaceful, sleepy little Rhineland town of Godesberg where Chancellor Hitler and Mr. Chamberlain are to have their historic meeting tomorrow. Chancellor Hitler is due to arrive by special train at 10 in the morning and Mr. Chamberlain by air from London shortly after noon.
I left Godesberg a half hour ago to drive over here to Cologne.
Driving down the Rhine today you get a curious sensation. It's the sight of the British Union Jack floating over the Rhine. Side-by-side with the Swastika. It appears to be a very popular combination in this part of the world tonight.
Godesberg itself, a town of some 24,000 tranquil souls, seemed to be rubbing its eyes today.
It has seen Chancellor Hitler before, to be sure, both before he became this country's greatest figure, and afterward. For 12 years he has had a suite reserved for himself at the Hotel Dreesen.
But never before have the good inhabitants of Godesberg had the chance of seeing not only the ruler of the German Reich, but the head of the British Empire. And they're plenty excited about it.
This afternoon I strolled down the river to the Hotel Dreesen where Chancellor Hitler will stay. It's a building of nondescript architecture, like many another hotel of its kind which line the banks of the Rhine. Made of white brick and stucco. And on the river side is painted on it a huge sign which says: RHINE HOTEL DREESEN — SUMMER AND WINTER STOPPING PLACE.
Inside the hotel there was a great deal of bustle. Flowers and pine-tree branches were being brought in. Union Jacks and Swastikas strung up.
From the Chancellor's rooms — from the room in which he and Mr. Chamberlain will meet tomorrow — there is a magnificent view across the Rhine to the famous Siebenbergen — the seven mountains which rise steeply from the opposite bank of the river. On the top of one of them you could see the ruins of the famous castle of Drachenfels — or, the Lair of the Dragons — a historic landmark.
But the view from Chancellor Hitler's hotel was nothing compared to the view we got from Mr. Chamberlain's hotel. The British Prime Minister is to stay across the river, on the Petersberg, one of the seven mountains, rising a thousand feet about the water.
I took lunch there today.
Now Godesberg is not an important enough town for a bridge and so we had to ferry over. Incidentally, driving down to the ferry, I noticed many horse-and-buggies. Godesberg is that kind of a town. Once across the river, we sped past the horse-and-buggies, around several hair-pin bends, and in ten minutes were on top of the mountain and being ushered into the Petersberg hotel where Mr. Chamberlain will stay.
The view was superb. The Rhine flowed like a narrow ribbon between the mountains. Ruined old medieval castles stood perched on the mountain tops like worn jewels. The air was clear and we could see 30 miles up the river to the range of the Eifel mountains. It was the landscape that inspired Beethoven, who was born at Bonn, five miles down the river; and Goethe.
And Mr. Chamberlain's rooms are so placed as to give him the best possible view of this noble landscape.
I saw them today — the three rooms. The assistant manager of the hotel took me all through them.
In Mr. Chamberlain's sitting room, he pointed out a large Louis Quinze table. A stream-lined telephone with an automatic dial stood incongruously on one corner of it. Back of the table on the wall was a large painting, one of those Victorian, or perhaps pre- Victorian works that I suppose modern critics would call amusing and slightly sentimental. Someone said the title of it was: "The Torn Letter". That was the idea, anyway.
The room was full of bowls of immense yellow and pink chrysanthemums. A door led from the sitting room to an immense veranda, a hundred feet wide, from which Mr. Chamberlain can get the wonderful view which I just described.
The other rooms, a breakfast room and the bedroom were just nice, pleasant hotel rooms.
And so back to Godesberg. Godesberg, by the way, is a watering place, a cure-place. People come here for cures from the springs here. What kind of cures, you may ask? This evening one of the town fathers gave me some literature. I'll just read from that: "The Godesberg baths," it says, "are generally acknowledged to be of the greatest value in cases of heart disease, and in nervous cases where a tonic effect is desired."
Godesberg September 22 1938 18:15
Hello America! This is Godesberg, Germany, calling.
We're speaking to you from the Hotel Dreesen in Godesberg. In a room just above us here the Chancellor of the German Empire and the head of the British Empire have been holding their historic conference most of the afternoon.
I say historic, and probably it is, though events are moving so fast that some people here are beginning to think that the meeting between the two statesmen will be little more than a formality — that is, to fix up the details.
Because the word coming in here today is that the Sudetens, backed by the Reich, have already moved into Czechoslovakia. And that the Swastika flag tonight flies from those two Sudeten strongholds in Czechoslovakia, Aasch and Eger.
It does look from here as if the avalanche cannot be stopped.
Now as to the meeting upstairs in the Dreesen Hotel here.
Chancellor Hitler arrived this morning at 10 o'clock by special train. Mr. Chamberlain, flying from London, landed at Cologne at thirty-six minutes past noon. Most of us were at the airport to meet him, but, as was expected, he had nothing to say. I thought he had a very serious look on his face, and little time was lost in formalities. Mr. Chamberlain was naturally preoccupied with the business at hand, so much so that he forgot his umbrella in the plane, and it had to be retrieved. Incidentally it was a beautiful day, with the sun out and very warm.
A guard of honor from Hitler's own personal bodyguard — crack S.S. troops in black uniforms and steel helmets — presented arms to Mr. Chamberlain and he acknowledged it by raising his arm.
Mr. Chamberlain did not meet Chancellor Hitler at once. He drove directly to his hotel on top of the Petersberg and after admiring the view had lunch with the British ambassador, Sir Nevile Henderson. At the hotel he remarked to friends: "I had a good flight. Weather was fine. We flew low and I could enjoy the landscape."
A little before 4 p.m., our time, Mr. Chamberlain climbed into one of Chancellor Hitler's Mercedes, drove down to the Rhine, and crossed on the ferry which we all use here to get across the river. The German Foreign Minister, Herr Ribbentrop, accompanied him.
At the Hotel Dreesen here, Herr Hitler was out on the terrace to meet his guest. They shook hands warmly and the Chancellor then conducted Mr. Chamberlain upstairs to the little conference room. After five minutes of formalities everyone withdrew, both the German and English advisers, and Mr. Chamberlain and Herr Hitler were left absolutely alone to talk and decide whatever fate they choose to impose upon Europe.
The only other person present was Professor Schmidt, Herr Hitler's interpreter.
It is too early yet to say with any authority what was said or decided.
Now, Mr. Chamberlain, it appears, came with some plans of his own to propose. They were said to be three.
1. An international commission for Sudetenland to arrange for the withdrawal of the Czechs and the transfer of the two populations.
2. An appeal by the four Western Powers for a period of peace and tranquility during which the present situation in Europe could be cleared up.
3. An international guaranty for what remains of Czechoslovakia.
That gives you an idea of what's in the air, but we'll have to wait a couple of day to see what comes of it.
And now for the news from the other side of Germany. According to reports here, the Czech troops and police withdrew today from the Eger sector, and it was immediately occupied by the Sudeten Legion, which crossed the Czech frontier from Germany where it had been arming all week.(Continues…)
Excerpted from ""This Is Berlin""
Copyright © 2014 William L. Shirer.
Excerpted by permission of RosettaBooks.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations,
Preface by Inga Shirer Dean,
Other Books by William L. Shirer,
About the Author,