The Long Night: William L. Shirer and the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich


The story of legendary American journalist William L. Shirer and how his first-hand reporting on the rise of the Nazis and on World War II brought the devastation alive for millions of Americans

When William L. Shirer started up the Berlin bureau of Edward R. Murrow’s CBS News in the 1930s, he quickly became the most trusted reporter in all of Europe. Shirer hit the streets to talk to both the everyman and the disenfranchised, yet he gained the trust of the Nazi elite and ...

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The Long Night: William L. Shirer and the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

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The story of legendary American journalist William L. Shirer and how his first-hand reporting on the rise of the Nazis and on World War II brought the devastation alive for millions of Americans

When William L. Shirer started up the Berlin bureau of Edward R. Murrow’s CBS News in the 1930s, he quickly became the most trusted reporter in all of Europe. Shirer hit the streets to talk to both the everyman and the disenfranchised, yet he gained the trust of the Nazi elite and through these contacts obtained a unique perspective of the party’s rise to power.

Unlike some of his esteemed colleagues, he did not fall for Nazi propaganda and warned early of the consequences if the Third Reich was not stopped. When the Germans swept into Austria in 1938 Shirer was the only American reporter in Vienna, and he broadcast an eyewitness account of the annexation. In 1940 he was embedded with the invading German army as it stormed into France and occupied Paris. The Nazis insisted that the armistice be reported through their channels, yet Shirer managed to circumvent the German censors and again provided the only live eyewitness account. His notoriety grew inside the Gestapo, who began to build a charge of espionage against him. His life at risk, Shirer had to escape from Berlin early in the war. When he returned in 1946 to cover the Nuremberg trials, Shirer had seen the full arc of the Nazi menace. It was that experience that inspired him to write The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich—the magisterial, definitive history of the most brutal ten years the modern world had known—which has sold millions of copies and has become a classic.

Drawing on never-before-seen journals and letters from Shirer’s time in Germany, award-winning reporter Steve Wick brings to life the maverick journalist as he watched history unfold and first shared it with the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Dwight Garner
I'd be lying…if I said I didn't swallow The Long Night in three contented gulps. Mr. Wick sticks close to the plain facts of Shirer's story, taken from his copious letters and journals. His book is packed with daring escapes and midnight deadlines and hard-boiled editors and all-night drinking sessions and crooks and Nazis and spies.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The accomplishments of acclaimed American journalist William Shirer are celebrated in Wick's latest book, which faithfully tracks the ambitious writer's Midwest origins to his Chicago Tribune reporting apprenticeship and landing a plum job as the workhorse of Edward Murrow's CBS News bureau in 1933 Berlin. Wick, a Pulitzer-winning staffer at Newsday, uses unpublished letters and journals, showing the dogged Shirer, uneasy in the new Germany, wary of the riseof the National Socialists with their swastikas, heated rhetoric, rigid social codes, and treatment of Jews. Shirer, realizing that he was witnessing a historic event in the corruption of a nation by Hitler and his cronies, risked the ire of Nazi officials watching for a wrong move. He "ask the wrong question, the wrong story, to the wrong people," even if that meant risking deportation. After his hasty exit in 1940 (both personally and professionally depleted), Shirer collected his reportage, captured Third Reich documents, and Nuremburg trial testimony to form The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which won the 1961 National Book Award. Wick (Bad Company: Drugs, Hollywood and the Cotton Club Murder) offers an absorbing and very detailed account, the perfect companion piece to Shirer's masterwork. (Aug.)
America In WWII Magazine
Shirer's papers from his Berlin years formed the core of Wick's sources for The Long Night. It is when he moves away from those sources that he gets into trouble. In the advance copies of The Long Night that were provided for this review, there are some small historical slip-ups (which may be caught and corrected in the final editing process. Even so, the life story of William Shirer is one that deserves to be told well. Wick is an award-winning author of books and a lot of reportage, but he won't receive much positive notice for this work. Another few months of attention to his manuscript would have allowed him to polish his prose and eliminate some of the informational issues.
From the Publisher
“It’s this Shirer — the human being, a man of determination and steely nerve — that Mr. Wick gets onto the pages of his book.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times 

"Illuminating . . . Wick has done an excellent job in bringing together the man's life and work in this detailed and probing biography." – The St. Petersburg Times

"The Long Night is indeed an adventure story, with short chapters and a fast-paced narrative drive. But Mr. Wick has documented the story with scrupulous attention to detail, too, drawing on Shirer's published works as well as his papers and correspondence." — The Wall Street Journal


"Steve Wick makes excellent use of Shirer’s letters and papers to chronicle his often fraught relationships . . . A seasoned journalist, Wick knows how to tell a good story, and for long stretches his book reads like a novel . . . [It] has much of interest to say about the life of a foreign correspondent in the war-torn Europe of the 1930s and early 1940s." — Richard Evans, The New Republic

"A suspenseful recasting of the same period covered in Berlin Diary, using the published diary but more importantly the original handwritten pages Shirer smuggled out of Berlin . . . Wick has used his resources scrupulously and illuminates, more than does the 1941 book, the heavy personal toll that remaining in Berlin took on Shirer and his family." —Columbia Journalism Review

"A gripping account of a courageous journalist's efforts to alert the world to Hitler's plan, and an engaging discussion of the relationship between journalism and personal integrity, which is as relevant today as it was then."—Kirkus Reviews

"Wick offers an absorbing and very detailed account, the perfect companion piece to Shirer's masterwork." —Publishers Weekly 

"Thorough, fast-paced, and absorbing." —World War II Magazine

"An intimate portrayal of a pioneering broadcasting icon." — Baltimore Jewish Times 

"A thought-provoking and accessible exposition about the man, the times in which he worked, and the book itself." —Jewish Book World

“Working as a foreign correspondent in Hitler's Germany was a harrowing experience, but William L. Shirer was among those who delivered exceptional journalism despite the circumstances.  In The Long Night, Steve Wick skillfully describes Shirer's courage and persistence during these years.”—Philip Seib, author of Broadcasts from the Blitz: How Edward R. Murrow Helped Lead America into War

"Steve Wick tells the human story behind William Shirer's brilliant and perceptive radio broadcasts from Nazi Berlin.  Making extensive use of Shirer's private papers, he succeeds in incorporating the high politics, the everyday and the personal in a single, elegantly-written and engaging narrative."—Roger Moorhouse, author of Killing Hitler

“In Steve Wick’s talented hands, The Long Night puts you in the shoes of William Shirer and lets you experience the frightful, yet fascinating buildup of the Nazi regime for yourself. This account of one gutsy journalist witnessing history in the making is top-notch, an engrossing page turner that will have you eager to see what happens next. The Long Night stands out as a keen telling of  one man’s eventful life, while also offering a unique perspective on an important moment in time. A compelling read.”—Greg Freeman, author of The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys

Library Journal
The drama and tension of covering Europe during Hitler's rise to power comes to life in this account of William Shirer's early career. Wick (senior editor, Newsday) draws on Shirer's diaries and letters to detail his thoughts and actions as he headed for Paris in 1925 to begin his journalism career. Framed as an adventure story, the book engages readers with an insider's view of Shirer's work and personal life, first with the Chicago Tribune, then with Hearst, and finally partnering with Edward R. Murrow to establish CBS radio news. Shirer was stationed in Paris, Vienna, India, and Berlin, and he knew or covered some of the best-known people of the era. Wick acknowledges the challenges of covering the Nazis under the watchful eye of German government censors but raises questions about whether journalists did enough to inform the world about the Nazi menace. He highlights a Jewish acquaintance of Shirer who sought his assistance in escaping Austria and whose fate is unknown. VERDICT Readers interested in Europe at the beginning of World War II or journalism history will be quickly drawn into this well-written book, which raises important questions about journalism that have resonance today.—Judy Solberg, Seattle Univ. Lib.
Kirkus Reviews

In a trenchant discussion of journalism, biography and ethics, Newsday senior editor Wick (Bad Company: Drugs, Hollywood and the Cotton Club Murder, 1990, etc.) examines the life of William Shirer (1904–1993), American war correspondent and author of the landmark bookThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960).

The author is very much attuned to the conflicts and difficulties of a journalist like Shirer working in a police state. Wick asks what more he might have done, and discusses Shirer's concerns about getting stories published in New York, where he thought "no one...paid much attention." Shirer's knowledge only part of the story. He endured both the German government's lies and the corporate concerns of CBS, and he had to act on this partial and contradictory knowledge, not the fuller truth now available. He also had to protect his sources. His transmissions were monitored by Nazi spies in the United States who reported back with recommendations for action against him. It was a major undertaking for him to get his diaries and personal papers out of Hitler's Germany when he left in 1940. The papers eventually provided the necessary documentation for the influential books he later wrote about Hitler's rise to power and the Third Reich. As one of the first broadcast journalists, Shirer was breaking new ground with his nightly transmissions. Unfortunately, we will never know his full story because he protected his sources and burned sensitive papers before he left.

A gripping account of a courageous journalist's efforts to alert the world to Hitler's plan, and an engaging discussion of the relationship between journalism and personal integrity, which is as relevant today as it was then.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230341616
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 676,666
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Wick is a senior editor at Newsday and the author of Bad Company: Drugs, Hollywood and the Cotton Club Murder, among others. He has been a journalist for 30 years and has won dozens of writing and reporting awards, including sharing in two Pulitzer Prizes for local reporting.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Leaving Berlin

The Writer

His Luck Holds

The American Correspondent

The Long Train Home

His Luck Holds Again

Gestapo at the Train Station

Berlin and the World


The Watering Hole

Ten - The dirty liar

P*** On his Grave

Bad Writing

Get Out of the Country

Drinks at the Adlon

The Jewish Doctor

Clearing the Mountains

The Photographer

Sigrid Wakes Him Up

Lies as Thick as Grass

The Germans are Out of Their Minds

Riding in Staff Cars

War of the Worlds

A Long Train Ride to Tess

Crowded Buses

A Warning from a Friend

Postscript: The Ruins

Author's Note




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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2011

    An incredible book following the career of William Shirer, foreign correspondent.

    An exceptional rehashing of Berlin Diary and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, both books written by and about William L. Shirer's time as foreign correspondent in Europe before the start of the Second World War. Mr. Shirer wrote in his own diary about the things that were going on in Germany in the late 30's and early 40's and used the original handwritten pages that he smuggled out of Berlin when he and other Americans were hightailing it out of Europe on the eve of the Americans entering the war.

    In this book, Mr. Wick uses Shirer's powerful pages to bring Shirer and his family to life and tell about what they went through during this time. After college Mr. Shirer's dream was to go to Europe and be a foreign correspondent for a major newspaper in the United States. This was not as easy as it sounded as many young people were on their way to France in the 30's to be on the front lines when things started to happen. In 1933, Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany and started his biography of aggression through Germany and beyond. He was determined to conquer Europe and go on to run the 1000-year Reich. William Shirer, by the skin of his teeth, got a job when he arrived in Paris right before he would have had to go home for lack of funds.

    William finally gets a job in Berlin, right where the action was, in August of 1934. He was hired by an American news wire service. After working in Berlin for a while he begins to realize that the Nazi government is using propaganda purposes to fool the citizens into thinking that the treaties signed after WWI were not fair to Germany and that the Jewish population in Germany and surrounding countries were to blame for everything that had gone wrong. Shirer really did not fall for the Nazi propaganda and began to try to warn the Americans that they had better start for home before they couldn't get out of the country. Germany, in the early 30's swept through Europe and invaded countries on their borders and when they invaded Poland in 1939, England and France declared war on Germany. Mr. Shirer had started the Berlin Bureau under Edward R. Murrow of CBS News and his radio programs became the most listened to in the country. But, of course, the German government stopped many of them and censored most of them. However, many of the programs got through to Ameria and told of the horrible attrocities that were going on in Europe.

    In 1940, Shirer finally realized that he had to pack up his family (wife and child) and head for America. The Gestapo wanted to stop him from talking about what was going on and he left for Portugal to take a plane or ship to America. He got out right before most of the borders were closed and went on to write the books about the times when he was a radio correspondent in Berlin.

    The author's description of The Long Night of waiting before Shirer was able to board the ship for home was a very difficult time in his life. He didn't know until the last minute if he would be able to get out as there were so many people waiting to board planes and ships to America. Mr. Wick tells an extremely human story of Mr. Shirer's life with his family in Europe and how they were forever on the watch for the Gestapo to come to their apartment and arrest them. By using Mr. Shirer's papers and diarys and also his books, Mr. Wick was able to write this story about the horror faced by people in Europe on the eve of WWII.

    This book ends right before Ameri

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 16, 2011

    Interesting if often dispiriting read

    I knew of William L. Shirer as a colleague of Edward R. Murrow during World War II, and the author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich - the 1,000+ page best-seller documenting the rise of Nazism from the early 1930s to the end of World War II. Steve Wick fleshes out the story of Shirer's years in Berlin covering the war.

    Shirer left Iowa in 1925, after college graduation, to travel to Paris and seek work as a foreign correspondent. He worked for several news organizations and spent most of his years there as a radio reporter for CBS, hired by Murrow. He left almost 20 years later, when he decided he could no longer maintain his journalist integrity and still deal with the propagandists and censors. Truth was a scarce commodity.

    Based on Shirer's memoirs and government documents, The Long Night is an interesting, if often dispiriting read. Although the term "foreign correspondent" has an adventurous ring to it, Wick manages to convey the tediousness and frustrations of that job -- and the cloud of fear that hung over everyone operating in a police state in Nazi Germany and occupied Europe at that time.

    This book will be most interesting to avid readers of World War II history and those interested in journalism as conducted in wartime. It also shows an interesting side of Murrow.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2011

    Live To Read

    The Long Night is a very powerful nonfiction book. The plot concerns Hitler's rise to power and the destruction that ensued after. Shirer, the main character, was the only reporter who reported every brutal event. He was one of the few not to fall for Nazi propaganda while still remaining (for a little while) in Germany and among the soldiers and Nazi elite. The author has the ability to make the events appear as if they are occurring right when the reader is reading about them. The atmosphere and permeating fear and horror is tangible, as is the desperation.

    Shirer is an admirable character to read about. He reported his findings accurately, much to the chagrin and impending threats by the Nazi party. He advocated early warnings about the true intentions of the Nazi party and he stayed for as long as possible in the heart of the chaos. The reader will grow close to Shirer while reading this novel and share his hopelessness and need for the truth to be known. Shirer and the reader both will feel increasingly disparaging towards powerful leaders and the people who should have listened and taken into consideration Shirer's reports. A history buff and the average nonfiction reader will devour this novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2012

    A gem of a book!

    Whether or not you've read Shirer's THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH, this book will make you appreciate the correspondent's character, bravery, and tenacity in working in Nazi Germany, under difficult circumstances, to report the truth. Even the mention of some perhaps less-than-perfect decisions and personality traits in his later years does not detract from Shirer's remarkable professional accomplishments. Author Steve Wick has done an excellent job of melding Shirer's notes and diary entries into a most informative and readable account of both a correspondent's life and of an era. If you liked Erik Larson's THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY and IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS, you will like this book, also.

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    Posted August 14, 2011

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    Posted February 2, 2012

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    Posted October 6, 2011

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