20TH CENTURY JOURNEY by William L. Shirer
Kirkus Star

20TH CENTURY JOURNEY

A Memoir of a Life and the Times; Vol. II: The Nightmare Years: 1930-1940

KIRKUS REVIEW

The rise of the Third Reich achingly relived; the foreign correspondent's calling displayed. The second volume of Shirer's memoirs opens, in 1930, with the young Chicago Tribune reporter in India, covering Gandhi. In the next three years, he slips into warring Afghanistan (a then-to-now update); de-trains, impulsively at UR-JUNCTON (where Leonard Woolley has just uncovered evidence of the Flood); marries in Vienna, takes sick in India, loses his job and his sight in one eye (a Col. McCormick foible; a skiing accident); spends a year on the Spanish coast (writing an unpublishable novel, getting turn-downs from magazines, seeing the Spanish Republic totter); grabs at a copy-desk job on the Paris Herald; covers the rightist 1934 Paris riots (a footnote flashes forward to Vichy); and, apprehensive about Britain and France, gets the frontline post he wants--as a correspondent, with Hearst's Universal Service, in Nazi Berlin. The remaining, bulk of this incident-and-afterthought-crammed book could be called from Nuremberg to Nuremberg. Shirer, astounded by the Germans' enthusiasm for Hitler, their docility under repression, realizes that they yearn "to be strong again." He too finds the Fuhrer's eyes hypnotic, his voice mesmerizing. He reports church persecution--excessively: resistance made news, but most were untouched, unconcerned. Hitler moves into the Saar, rearms: "What will London and Paris do? Foolish question! They did nothing." Hitler marches into the Rhineland: "I was sure that if the French army had budged it would easily have turned back the Germans. . . and that would have been the end of Hitler and the Nazi Germany." (Hitler, we now know, agreed.) By the time of the Anschluss, Shirer will be with CBS--after another scary brush with unemployment. "I first met Ed Murrow in the lobby of the Adlon in Berlin at seven o'clock on Friday, August 27, 1937." Murrow hires him--after Ed Paley OKs his voice--to arrange broadcasts on the Continent, frustratingly. Witnessing the Anschluss, he flies to London and broadcasts the first "firsthand" report; within days, he and Murrow are setting up "the first world news roundup ever"--by correspondents in London, Vienna, Berlin, Paris, and Rome. Shirer is scathing, throughout, about Chamberlain--and merciless about Munich: the Allies lost ground in the year's "breathing space," and quite possibly lost the USSR. Still to come: the Blitzkrieg, the German entry into Paris, the armistice at Compiegne. In 1940, hamstrung by the Nazis, Shirer leaves. . . to return briefly to Berlin ha ruins and the Nazis in the dock. Shirer is still pained, still jubilant--and, on a private level, both frank and gracious.
Pub Date: May 23rd, 1984
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1984




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