William Lawrence Shirer (/ˈʃaɪrər/; February 23, 1904 – December 28, 1993) was an American journalist and war correspondent. He wrote The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a history of Nazi Germany that has been read by many and cited in scholarly works for more than 50 years. Originally a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and the International News Service, Shirer was the first reporter hired by Edward R. Murrow for what would become a CBS radio team of journalists known as "Murrow's Boys". He became known for his broadcasts from Berlin, from the rise of the Nazi dictatorship through the first year of World War II (1940). With Murrow, he organized the first broadcast world news roundup, a format still followed by news broadcasts.
Shirer wrote more than a dozen books besides The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, including Berlin Diary (published in 1941); The Collapse of the Third Republic (1969), which drew on his experience living and working in France from 1925 to 1933; and a three-volume autobiography, 20th Century Journey (1976 to 1990).
William L. Shirer
Shirer in 1961
William Lawrence Shirer
February 23, 1904
|Died||December 28, 1993 (aged 89)|
|Alma mater||Coe College|
Born in Chicago in 1904, Shirer attended Washington High School and Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He graduated from Coe in 1925. Working his way to Europe on a cattle boat to spend the summer there, he remained in Europe for 15 years.:236
He was European correspondent for the Chicago Tribune from 1925 to 1932, covering Europe, the Near East and India. In India he formed a friendship with Mohandas Gandhi. Shirer lived and worked in France for several years starting in 1925. He left in the early 1930s but returned frequently to Paris throughout the decade. He lived and worked in Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1940.
In 1931, Shirer married Theresa ("Tess") Stiberitz, an Austrian photographer. The couple had two daughters, Eileen ("Inga") and Linda. Shirer and his wife divorced in 1970. In 1972 he married Martha Pelton, whom he divorced in 1975. His third (and final) marriage was to Irina Lugovskaya, a long-time teacher of Russian at Simon's Rock College. Shirer and Irina had no children.
As a print journalist and later as a radio reporter for CBS, Shirer covered the strengthening one-party rule in Nazi Germany beginning in 1933. Shirer reported on Adolf Hitler's peacetime triumphs like the return of the Saarland to Germany and the remilitarization of the Rhineland.
Shirer was hired in 1934 for the Berlin bureau of the Universal Service, one of William Randolph Hearst's two wire services. In Berlin Diary, Shirer described this move, in a self-proclaimed bad pun, as going from "bad to Hearst". When Universal Service folded in August 1937, Shirer was first taken on as second man by Hearst's other wire service, International News Service, then laid off a few weeks later.
On the day when Shirer received two weeks' notice from INS, he received a wire from Edward R. Murrow, European manager of Columbia Broadcasting System, suggesting that the two meet. At their meeting a few days later in Berlin, Murrow said that he couldn't cover all of Europe from London and that he was seeking an experienced correspondent to open a CBS office on the Continent. He offered Shirer a job subject to an audition—a "trial broadcast"—to let CBS directors and vice presidents in New York judge Shirer's voice.
Shirer feared that his reedy voice was unsuitable for radio, but he was hired. As European bureau chief, he set up headquarters in Vienna, a more central and more neutral spot than Berlin. His job was to arrange broadcasts, and early in his career he expressed disappointment at having to hire newspaper correspondents to do the broadcasting; at the time, CBS correspondents were prohibited from speaking on the radio.
Shirer was the first of "Murrow's Boys", broadcast journalists who provided news coverage during World War II and afterward.
CBS's prohibition of correspondents talking on the radio, viewed by Murrow and Shirer as "absurd", ended in March 1938. Shirer was in Vienna on March 11, 1938, when the German annexation of Austria (Anschluss) took place after weeks of mounting pressure by Nazi Germany on the Austrian government. As the only American broadcaster in Vienna (NBC rival Max Jordan was not in town), Shirer had a scoop but lacked the facilities to report it to his audience. Occupying German troops controlling the Austrian state radio studio would not let him broadcast. At Murrow's suggestion, Shirer flew to London via Berlin; he recalled in Berlin Diary that the direct flight to London was filled with Jews trying to escape from German-occupied Austria. Once in London, Shirer broadcast the first uncensored eyewitness account of the annexation. Meanwhile, Murrow flew from London to Vienna to cover for Shirer.
The next day, CBS's New York headquarters asked Shirer and Murrow to produce a European roundup, a 30-minute broadcast featuring live reporting from five European capitals: Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Rome, and London. The broadcast, arranged in eight hours using the telephone and broadcasting facilities of the day, was a major feat. This first news roundup established a formula still used in broadcast journalism. It was also the genesis of what became CBS World News Roundup, still on the network each morning and evening, network broadcasting's oldest news series.
Shirer reported on the Munich Agreement and Hitler's occupation of Czechoslovakia before reporting on the growing tensions between Germany and Poland in 1939 and the German invasion of Poland that launched World War II on September 1, 1939. During much of the pre-war period, Shirer was based in Berlin and attended Hitler's speeches and several party rallies in Nuremberg.
When war broke out on the Western Front in 1940, Shirer moved forward with the German troops, reporting firsthand on the German "Blitzkrieg". Shirer reported on the invasion of Denmark and Norway in April from Berlin and then on the invasion of the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France in May. As German armies closed in on Paris, he traveled to France with the German forces.
Shirer reported the signing of the German armistice with France on June 22, 1940, to the American people before it had been announced by the Germans. His commentary from Compiègne was hailed as a masterpiece. On the day before the armistice was to be signed, Hitler ordered all foreign correspondents covering the German Army from Paris to move back to Berlin. It was Hitler's intention that the Armistice should be reported to the world by Nazi sources. Shirer avoided being returned to Berlin by leaving the press hotel early in the morning and hitching a ride to Compiègne with a German officer who despised Hitler. Once on site, Shirer was able to give an eye-witness account of that historical moment, "I am but fifty yards from [Hitler]. […] 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.":742 Then he followed proceedings inside the railway car, listening to the transmission relayed to Berlin through a German army communications truck. After the armistice was signed, Shirer was allowed to transmit his own broadcast to Berlin, but only for recording and release after the Nazi version had been disseminated. Shirer spent five minutes before he went on calling CBS radio in New York, hoping that the broadcast would get through. It did. When German engineers in Berlin heard Shirer calling New York, they assumed that he was authorized to broadcast. Instead of sending his report to a recording machine as ordered, they put it on the shortwave transmitter. When CBS heard Shirer's call, he was put on live. For six hours Shirer's report was the only news the world had of the Armistice.
In peacetime, Shirer's reporting was subject only to self-censorship. He and other reporters in Germany knew that if Nazi officials in Joseph Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry objected to their reporting, they could withdraw access to state-owned broadcasting facilities or expel them from Germany. Shirer was granted more freedom than German reporters writing or broadcasting for domestic audiences. At the beginning of the war, German officials established censorship; Shirer recalled that the restrictions were similar to wartime censorship elsewhere, restricting information that could be used to Germany's military disadvantage.
However, as the war continued and as Britain began to bomb German cities, including Berlin, Nazi censorship became more onerous to Shirer and his colleagues. In contrast to Murrow's live broadcasts of German bombing of London in the Blitz, foreign correspondents in Germany were not allowed to report British air raids on German cities. They were not permitted to cast doubt on statements by the Propaganda Ministry and Military High Command. Reporters were discouraged by the Propaganda Ministry from reporting news or from using terms like Nazi that might "create an unfavorable impression". Shirer resorted to subtler ways until the censors caught on.
As the summer of 1940 progressed, the Nazi government pressed Shirer to broadcast official accounts that he knew were incomplete or false. As his frustration grew, he wrote to bosses in New York that tightening censorship was undermining his ability to report objectively and mused that he had outlived his usefulness in Berlin. Shirer was subsequently tipped off that the Gestapo was building an espionage case against him, which carried the death penalty. Shirer began making arrangements to leave Germany, which he did in December 1940.
Shirer smuggled his diaries and notes out of Germany and used them for his Berlin Diary, a firsthand, day-by-day account of events in Nazi Germany during five years of peace and one year of war. It was published in 1941. Historians comparing the original manuscript diary with the published text discovered that Shirer made many changes. Like many others his early impressions of Hitler had been favourable, and revised later. Much of the text about the pre-1934 to 1938 period was first written long after the war began.
He returned to Europe to report on the Nuremberg trials in 1945.
During the war Shirer became a director of the Society for the Prevention of World War III, which lobbied after the war for a harsh peace with Germany.
The friendship between Shirer and Murrow ended in 1947, culminating in Shirer's leaving CBS in one of the great confrontations of American broadcast journalism (below).
Shirer briefly provided analysis for the Mutual Broadcasting System and then found himself unable to find regular radio work. He was named in Red Channels (1950), which practically barred him from broadcasting and print journalism, and he was forced into lecturing for income. Times remained tough for Shirer, his wife Tess, and daughters Inga and Linda until Simon & Schuster published The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in 1960. The hardback was reprinted 20 times in the first year and sold more than 600,000 copies through Book of the Month Club alone and 1 million copies overall. Serialization of a condensed version in Readers Digest and critical acclaim ensured its success in the US. Fawcett Crest gained paperback rights for $400,000 – a record for the time – and a further 1 million copies were sold at $1.65 (equivalent to $14 in 2018). It won the 1961 National Book Award for Nonfiction and Carey–Thomas Award for non-fiction.
The dispute between Shirer and Murrow started in 1947 when J. B. Williams, a maker of shaving soap, withdrew sponsorship of Shirer's Sunday news show. CBS, through Murrow, who was then vice president for public affairs, and CBS head William S. Paley, did not seek another sponsor, moved Shirer's program to Sunday midday and then stopped producing it, all within a month. CBS maintained that Shirer resigned based on a comment made in an impromptu interview, but Shirer said he was fired.
Shirer contended that the root of his troubles was that the network and sponsor did not stand by him because of his on-air comments, such as those critical of the Truman Doctrine, and what he viewed as an emphasis on placating sponsors rather than an emphasis on journalism. Shirer blamed Murrow for his departure from CBS, referring to Murrow as "Paley's toady". The episode hastened Murrow's desire to give up his vice-presidency and return to newscasting. It foreshadowed his misgivings about the future of broadcast journalism and his difficulties with Paley.
The friendship between Shirer and Murrow never recovered. In her preface to This is Berlin, a compilation of Shirer's Berlin broadcasts published after his death, Shirer's daughter Inga describes how Murrow, suffering from lung cancer which he knew could be terminal, tried to heal the breach with Shirer by inviting the Shirers to his farm in 1964. Murrow tried to discuss the breach. Though the two chatted, Shirer steered the conversation away from contentious issues between the two men, and they never had another opportunity to speak before Murrow died in 1965. Shirer's daughter also writes that, shortly before her father's death in 1993, he rebuffed her attempts to learn the source of the breach that opened between the two journalists 45 years earlier.
Some clues are given in The Nightmare Years (1984), the second volume in Shirer's three-volume memoir, 20th Century Journey. Shirer describes the birth and growth of a warm relationship with Murrow in the 1930s. Although his reminiscences are wound together with his version of their professional relationship, he emphasizes that he and Murrow were close friends as well as colleagues. He does not mention their break. A number of touching recollections are included. Thus, it is easy to understand that their break in 1947, based on business disagreements, was made bitter by the close personal relationship they once had.
Another aspect of The Nightmare Years is Shirer's description of his and Murrow's three-way relationship with Paley. Shirer says that, in private, he and Murrow were contemptuous of Paley and almost always sided against him in the 1930s. Thus, when Paley and Murrow ganged up on Shirer in 1947, it was a shock, although Shirer does not say so explicitly.
The last is a compilation of Shirer's CBS broadcasts (ISBN 1-585-67279-3).
Berlin Diary ("The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934–1941") is a first-hand account of the rise of Nazi Germany and its road to war, as witnessed by the American journalist William L. Shirer. Shirer, a radio reporter for CBS, covered Germany for several years until the Nazi press censors made it impossible for him to report objectively to his listeners in the United States; feeling increasingly uncomfortable, he left the country. The identities of many of Shirer's German sources were disguised to protect these people from retaliation by the German secret police, the Gestapo. The contents of this book provided much of the material for his landmark book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
The book, published on June 20, 1941, almost six months before Germany declared war on the United States, was "the first attempt by a big-name American journalist to shed light on what was really happening in Nazi Germany." It sold almost 600,000 copies in the first year of its publication. Simultaneously published in Canada by Ryerson Press when that country was already at war with Germany, the book was widely praised by academics and critics at the time of its publication.In 1947, End of a Berlin Diary continued and finished the story of the Third Reich, from July 20, 1944, to the Nuremberg Trials.Caesar von Hofacker
Caesar von Hofacker (sometimes Cäsar) (2 March 1896 – 20 December 1944) was a German Luftwaffe Lieutenant Colonel and member of the 20 July plot against Adolf Hitler.Constance Drexel
Constance Drexel (ca. November 24, 1884 or ca. November 28, 1894 (possible; disputed) – August 28, 1956), a naturalized United States citizen, and groundbreaking feature writer for U.S. newspapers, was indicted (but not tried or convicted) for treason in World War II for radio broadcasts from Berlin that extolled Nazi virtues.She became famous falsely claiming to be an heiress of the famous Drexel family of Philadelphia. Arrested in Vienna and jailed at war’s end by American troops, she was released and allowed to return to the United States to live. The U.S. Department of Justice eventually dismissed the treason charges against her because her broadcasts were not deemed “political in nature.”Hermann Fegelein
Hans Otto Georg Hermann Fegelein (30 October 1906 – 28 April 1945) was a high-ranking commander in the Waffen-SS of Nazi Germany. He was a member of Adolf Hitler's entourage and brother-in-law to Eva Braun through his marriage to her sister Gretl.
Fegelein joined a cavalry regiment of the Reichswehr in 1925 and transferred to the SS on 10 April 1933. He became a leader of an SS equestrian group, and was in charge of preparation for the equestrian events of the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936. He tried out for the Olympic equestrian team himself but was eliminated in the qualifying rounds.
In September 1939, after the Invasion of Poland, Fegelein commanded the SS Totenkopf Reiterstandarte (Death's-Head Horse Regiment). They were garrisoned in Warsaw until December. In May and June 1940, he participated in the Battle of Belgium and France as a member of the SS-Verfügungstruppe (later renamed the Waffen-SS). For his service in these campaigns he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 15 December 1940. Units under his command on the Eastern Front in 1941 were responsible for the deaths of over 17,000 civilians during the Pripyat swamps punitive operation in the Byelorussian SSR. As commander of the 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer in 1943, he was involved in operations against partisans as well as defensive operations against the Red Army, for which he was awarded the Close Combat Clasp in bronze.
After being seriously wounded in September 1943, Fegelein was reassigned by Heinrich Himmler to Hitler's headquarters staff as his liaison officer and representative of the SS. Fegelein was present at the failed attempt on Hitler's life on 20 July 1944. He was on duty at Hitler's Führerbunker in Berlin in the closing months of the war, and was shot for desertion on 28 April 1945, two days before Hitler's suicide. Fegelein was an opportunist who ingratiated himself with Himmler, who granted him the best assignments and rapid promotions. Historians William L. Shirer and Ian Kershaw characterise him as cynical and disreputable. Albert Speer called him "one of the most disgusting people in Hitler's circle".Jesuits and Nazi Germany
At the outbreak of World War II, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) had some 1700 members in Nazi Germany, divided into three provinces: Eastern, Lower and Upper Germany. Nazi leaders had some admiration for the discipline of the Jesuit order, but opposed its principles. Of the 152 Jesuits murdered by the Nazis across Europe, 27 died in captivity or its results, and 43 in the concentration camps.Hitler was anticlerical and had particular disdain for the Jesuits. The Jesuit Provincial, Augustin Rosch, ended the war on death row for his role in the July Plot to overthrow Hitler. The Catholic Church faced persecution in Nazi Germany and persecution was particularly severe in Poland. The Superior General of the Jesuits at the outbreak of War was Wlodzimierz Ledochowski, a Pole. Vatican Radio, which spoke out against Axis atrocities, was run by the Jesuit Filippo Soccorsi.Jesuits made up the largest contingent of clergy imprisoned in the Priest Barracks of Dachau Concentration Camp, where some 30 Jesuits died. Several Jesuits were prominent in the small German Resistance, including the influential martyr Alfred Delp of the Kreisau Circle. The German Jesuit Robert Leiber acted as intermediary between Pius XII and the German Resistance. Among the Jesuit victims of the Nazis, Germany's Rupert Mayer has been beatified. Among twelve Jesuit "Righteous Gentiles" recognised by Yad Vashem is Belgium's Jean-Baptiste Janssens, who was appointed Superior General of the Jesuits after the War.Maurice Gamelin
Maurice Gustave Gamelin (20 September 1872 – 18 April 1958) was a French army general in the French Army. Gamelin is remembered for his disastrous command (until 17 May 1940) of the French military during the Battle of France (10 May–22 June 1940) in World War II and his steadfast defence of republican values.
The Commander-in-chief of the French Armed Forces at the start of World War II, Gamelin was viewed as a man with significant intellectual ability. He was respected, even in Germany, for his intelligence and "subtle mind", though he was viewed by some German generals as stiff and predictable. Despite this, and his competent service in World War I, his command of the French armies during the critical days of May 1940 proved to be disastrous. Historian and journalist William L. Shirer presented the view that Gamelin used World War I methods to fight World War II, but with less vigor and slower response.Gamelin served with distinction under Joseph Joffre in World War I. He is often credited with being responsible for devising the outline of the French counter-attack in 1914 which led to victory during the First Battle of the Marne. In 1933 Gamelin rose to command the French Army and oversaw a modernisation and mechanisation programme, including the completion of the Maginot Line defences.
Édouard Daladier supported Gamelin throughout his career owing to his refusal to allow politics to play a part in military planning and promotion, and his commitment to the republican model of government; this was not a trivial matter at a time when Communists on the left and Royalists and Fascists on the right were openly advocating regime change in France.Murrow Boys
The Murrow Boys, or Murrow's Boys, were the CBS broadcast journalists most closely associated with Edward R. Murrow during his time at the network, most notably in the years before and during World War II.
Murrow recruited a number of newsmen and women to CBS during his years as a correspondent, European news chief, and executive. The "Boys" were his closest professional and personal associates. They also shared Murrow's preference for incisive, thought-provoking coverage of public affairs, abroad and at home. They achieved nationwide fame, and inadvertently became early examples of "celebrity journalism" in the days of radio and early television news.Odilo Globočnik
Odilo Globočnik (21 April 1904 – 31 May 1945) was an Austrian war criminal. He was a Nazi and later an SS leader. As an associate of Adolf Eichmann, he had a leading role in Operation Reinhard, which saw the murder of over one million mostly Polish Jews during the Holocaust in Nazi extermination camps Majdanek, Treblinka, Sobibór and Bełżec. Historian Michael Allen described him as "the vilest individual in the vilest organization ever known".Otto Bräutigam
Otto Bräutigam (14 May 1895 – 30 April 1992) was a German diplomat and lawyer, who worked for the Auswärtiges Amt as well as the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories of Alfred Rosenberg in Nazi Germany. In this position Bräutigam was involved in the Holocaust. After the end of World War II he joined the Auswärtiges Amt of West Germany.Paal Berg
Paal Olav Berg (18 January 1873 – 24 May 1968), born in Hammerfest, was a Norwegian politician for the Liberal Party. He was Minister of Social Affairs 1919-1920, and Minister of Justice 1924-1926. He was the 12th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1929 to 1946.Paal Berg was instrumental in the German Dismissal of pro-Nazi puppet regime of Vidkun Quisling to be replaced by a council of Norwegian citizens, including himself on April 15, 1940. This was
overseen after April 24 by Hitler's appointee Josef Terboven. Despite holding this position in the occupied government, Berg was far from a collaborator. Indeed, William L. Shirer names him the secret leader of the Norwegian Resistance. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1947.Pius XII and the German Resistance
During the Second World War, Pope Pius XII maintained links to the German resistance to Nazism against Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. Although remaining publicly neutral, Pius advised the British in 1940 of the readiness of certain German generals to overthrow Hitler if they could be assured of an honourable peace, offered assistance to the German resistance in the event of a coup and warned the Allies of the planned German invasion of the Low Countries in 1940. The Nazis considered that the Pope had engaged in acts equivalent to espionage.Reichswehr
The Reichswehr (English: Realm Defence) formed the military organisation of Germany from 1919 until 1935, when it was united with the new Wehrmacht (Defence Force).Sigrid Schultz
Sigrid Schultz (January 5 [or January 15 according to Wisconsin Historical Society], 1893 – May 14, 1980) was a notable American reporter and war correspondent in an era when women were a rarity in both print and radio journalism.The Collapse of the Third Republic
The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940 by William L. Shirer (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1969) deals with the collapse of the French Third Republic as a result of Hitler's invasion during World War II.The Nightmare Years
The Nightmare Years is a book by William L. Shirer, recounting his pre-WW2 years as a journalist in Nazi Germany.
It is also a 1989 American television miniseries directed by Anthony Page. It stars Sam Waterston as Shirer, the American reporter who was stationed in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. The supporting cast consists of Marthe Keller, Kurtwood Smith, Ronald Pickup, Peter Jeffrey, Walter Gotell and Garrick Hagon.
The miniseries premiered on Turner Network Television on September 17, 1989 as a four-part miniseries and was later released on VHS. As of 2014, there are some limited versions of the series on DVD.The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany is a book by William L. Shirer chronicling the rise and fall of Nazi Germany from the birth of Adolf Hitler in 1889 to the end of World War II in 1945. It was first published in 1960, by Simon & Schuster in the United States. It was a bestseller in both the United States and Europe, and a critical success outside Germany; in Germany, criticism of the book stimulated sales. The book was feted by journalists, as reflected by its receipt of the National Book Award for non-fiction,
but the reception from academic historians was mixed.
Rise and Fall is based upon captured Nazi documents, the available diaries of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, of General Franz Halder, and of the Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano, evidence and testimony from the Nuremberg trials, British Foreign Office reports, and the author's recollection of his six years in Germany (from 1934 to 1940) as a journalist, reporting on Nazi Germany for newspapers, the United Press International (UPI), and CBS Radio. The work was written and initially published in four parts, but a larger one-volume edition has become more common.The Valiant Years
The Valiant Years was a documentary produced by ABC based on the memoirs of Winston Churchill, directed by Anthony Bushell and John Schlesinger, narrated by Gary Merrill and with extracts from the memoirs voiced by Richard Burton. It ran in the United States from 1960 to 1961, in 27 30-minute episodes and was broadcast in the UK by the BBC from February to August 1961. Its incidental music was written by Richard Rodgers, who won an Emmy for it in 1962. Scriptwriters included Victor Wolfson a dramatist and writer, playwright William Templeton, Quentin Reynolds, William L. Shirer an American journalist, war correspondent and historian, and Richard Tregaskis. One of the programme's London-based producers was actor Patrick Macnee, just prior to his being cast as secret agent John Steed in the long-running cult TV series The Avengers.There Shall Be No Night
There Shall Be No Night is a three-act play written by American playwright Robert E. Sherwood.Wolfram Sievers
Wolfram Sievers (10 July 1905 – 2 June 1948) was Reichsgeschäftsführer, or managing director, of the Ahnenerbe from 1935 to 1945.
Works of William L. Shirer