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'THIS IS BERLIN' by William L. Shirer


Radio Broadcasts, 1938-1940

by William L. Shirer

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1999
ISBN: 0-87951-719-0
Publisher: Overlook

An often gripping, but seriously under-edited, series of the famed correspondent’s news reports for CBS radio, published for the first time. Shirer (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Berlin Diary, etc.) was an American journalist covering Germany when Edward R. Murrow of CBS hired him as a radio news broadcaster in 1938. His firsthand addresses to America from Nazi Germany are captivating. Although some of them are formulaic period pieces, most are full of trenchant observations about the reactions of ordinary Germans or the Nazi press to domestic or international events. They present an American perspective on incidents as they unfolded and remind us how well-informed in broad outline the democracies were about life under Hitler. Because editorial comments on Shirer’s broadcasts are sparse throughout, however, readers seeking to place the reports in historical context will need to supply a good deal of that context themselves. A sound introduction by the journalist’s daughter Inga Shirer Dean offers background on his life and recounts the sort of Nazi censorship his work was subject to, but says nothing about its place in the news programs in which it regularly appeared. The place, date, and time are given for each report, but not the day of the week, making it difficult for readers to place references to “last Monday.” In addition, occasional errors of substance—for example, the heading “Berlin” for the broadcast of September 13, 1939, beginning, “This is William L. Shirer in Geneva”—may raise skeptical eyebrows about the entire project. The volume concludes, again rather confusingly, not with Shirer’s final broadcast in September 1940, but with his coverage of the Munich Crisis in September 1938. A less than ideal presentation, then, for an important American commentary on life in Nazi Germany.