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

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

by Steve Wick

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780230338494
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 08/02/2011
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 1,162,212
File size: 2 MB

About 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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The Long Night

William L. Shirer and the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich


By Steve Wick

Palgrave Macmillan

Copyright © 2011 Steve Wick
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-230-62318-7



CHAPTER 1

The Writer


Lloret de Mar, Spain, Summer 1933

Every morning at 8:00 sharp, William Lawrence Shirer climbed the stairs to his study on the third floor in the big villa by the sea and took his seat at his desk in front of the typewriter. The desk was covered with books, his many files and manuscripts, and stacks of newspapers—from London, Paris, Vienna, and Spain. There were American magazines, too, that his brother and mother sent to help keep him informed on news back home. He could read about the Depression in the United States and political upheavals in London and Paris, and about the new government in Berlin that had come to power the previous January.

Every day that he sat at his desk, he followed a strict schedule, working faithfully from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. He knew that a writer who wanted to be successful needed a routine that he stuck to as an article of faith, something never to be disrespected or cast aside. There was always paper in the typewriter and no shortage of ideas. There were his stories, a play about India, a novel, a memoir, and, of course, the letters to friends and the regular entries in his diary or those he typed on onionskin paper. He kept at it, day after day.

On sunny days when the air was warm and the sky a deep, rich blue, the big house filled with soft light soon after sunrise. It was the kind of light painters called "wet," the light diffused by salt water. At the end of the day when the sun dropped behind the mountains west of the village, the sea in front of the house turned colors, from a soft blue to a darker blue, and then darker still as the sun disappeared and the jealous sky reluctantly let go of the glorious light. With all the windows open on hot afternoons and a breeze off theMediterranean, Bill and Tess could sit almost anywhere in the house and smell the salt in the air and tell each other how lucky they were. They had both been born landlocked—he in the American Midwest, she in Austria. The sea was a marvel.

On some mornings, seated in front of his typewriter, Shirer listened to Andres Segovia practicing his guitar on the far side of the big house. The soft chords, filtered through the house's thick walls, pleased Shirer. Hearing Segovia play reminded Shirer of nights in Vienna, when he and Tess had gone to concerts to hear a Mozart work and, when it was over, moved almost to tears, had jumped to their feet and shouted and clapped their hands. Shirer acquired his love of music from his mother, who on afternoons in the living room of her house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, sat enraptured in front of her radio listening to the opera broadcast from New York City.

"Had so much grand music on the radio today," she wrote her son one day. "Do not know as I can come down to earth enough to write. Heard three symphony concerts. Sunday is the greatest day for grand music ... We get a full opera broadcast from the N.Y. Metropolitan. I just could not exist in this place if it were not for the radio."

Shirer felt lucky to have discovered the village and the house and thought it a stroke of good fortune when the Spanish guitarist rented one side of the villa to enjoy the summer months on the Costa Brava. A small fishing village, Lloret de Mar hugged the Mediterranean Sea north of Barcelona, its back to the mountains that pushed north to the Pyrenees and the high, rugged frontier with France.

Unwilling to impose on Shirer and disturb his daily writing ritual, Segovia had told him he would practice as far away from him as he could. Shirer appreciated the kindness. Truth be told, he did not mind at all, nor did the guitar disturb him as he sat at the desk trying to write a future for himself. The three-story seaside house at Calle de San Bartolome 14, a double-sided villa with high ceilings and large rooms and a kind of shabby gentility, was big enough for both of them.

Bill and Tess had found the village, with its population of three thousand, by accident and then lucked out when the house was available. It was far too big for them, but it was cheap, the rent just $15 a month, its owner a doctor in Barcelona to whom Shirer had taken an instant liking. The year he hoped they could spend productively in the village would cost them a few hundred dollars a month, at most. They had less than $1,000 when they arrived soon after stepping off a ship that had brought them from the Italian coast. Hoping for the best, Shirer had paid the landlord the full year in advance, so he knew they would have a roof over their heads until April 1934. He gave himself twelve months to gain some traction on his writing goals. If he failed, he would have to begin aggressively looking for another reporting job.

He was well into a novel and a stage play about India. One of the characters was Gandhi, whom Shirer had met two years before. He posted query letters to New York editors nearly every week. He could not have been busier, but it was the busyness of a man anxiously looking for direction and so far not finding it. Still, he kept to his daily routine: at his desk from 8:00 A.M. until early afternoon, then sitting on the beach with Tess and Segovia or other friends like John and Frances Gunther if they were in town, reading from a bag of books he had assembled before they arrived. Evening found them having supper in the house, often freshly caught fish sold by the local fishermen, and afterward sitting in the living room and listening intently to Mozart, his favorite composer. Shirer sat quietly smoking his pipe, a book or a newspaper on his lap.

The newspapers brought word of growing unrest across Spain. Shirer feared that the Republican government would almost certainly fall. In Germany, Hitler was halfway through his first year as chancellor. In America, the economy was in a shambles. Certainly his brother, John, kept him up to date on that news. Shirer knew, as his and Tess's money slowly ran out, that it would be next to impossible to find another job in journalism. So deep was his despair that he began to accept the unthinkable: he might never again work as an American correspondent based in Europe.

Some days he felt overwhelmed with the sickening weight of failure and the great fear that the life he wanted for himself had been thwarted. E. S. Beck, the managing editor of theChicago Tribune, had fired him the previous October, for reasons Shirer could still not get his mind around. He believed it had something to do with his crossing the paper's imperious publisher, Colonel Robert McCormick, but in any case he'd had no success in joining the staff of another paper. Now, so much depended on his writing efforts to bring in the money they needed to get by.

"McCormick's a contemptible son of a bitch," Shirer told Tess.


* * *

On a warm spring day in May 1925, in Cedar Rapids, a growing city in eastern Iowa that served as the business hub for the region's farm belt, Shirer walked across the campus of Coe College on graduation day feeling confident about himself and the road that lay ahead of him. At twenty-one years of age, with a boyish face and light brown hair he often parted down the middle, Shirer acted like a much older, more worldly man, one about to step out of rural Iowa and through an open door into his future.

His four years on the campus were over, finally. While he would remain cynical in many ways about his college experience, he had had several excellent professors and he felt more than well prepared. He was buoyant, self-assured, looking out across his own horizon and seeing nothing but great promise.

Just before graduation he had borrowed $100 from his deceased father's brother, Bill, who worked on the business side of publishing in Chicago, with the goal of using it as seed money to go to Paris to look for a job on the reporting staff of an American newspaper. He was certain that, if he got there, the pieces of the life he envisioned for himself would click together. Beginning during his last years at Coe College, while he was a reporter on the campus newspaper, no place tugged at Shirer's imagination more than Paris. It was everything he wanted. On top of that, he saw no future at all for himself in Cedar Rapids, whose small-city ways had long bored him half to death and about whose leading lights, in business, politics, and religion, he had grown increasingly cynical.

Not a religious man in the formal sense—he, his sister, Josephine, his brother, John, and their mother, Elizabeth (Bessie), were Presbyterians in an overwhelmingly Protestant part of the country—Shirer nonetheless believed in the essentially Calvinist notion of fate. It was not a religious conviction as much as a profoundly personal one. He saw a role for himself in the world. He had carried with him since his teen years a strong sense of his own place and the kind of life he wanted. It was a life in large part drawn from his readings while still in high school and later in college. The adventures of the journalist John Reed had captivated him. Reed's book on witnessing the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, Ten Days That Shook the World, k nocked Shirer for a loop. He couldn't imagine seeing what Reed saw and writing it all down in a popular book. This pivotal role of the journalist as an eyewitness to history, as a keeper of the record and a sounder of alarms, informed Shirer's view of the world.

He also had a habit from childhood of reading the Chicago newspapers, the Tribune, which billed itself as the "World's Greatest Newspaper," and the Daily News. Even before Shirer began reading newspapers on his own, his father would read stories out loud to his family, excitedly relaying the big news of the day. Everything the papers represented in a free society fascinated Shirer—from the rough-and-tumble ways of the reporters' work in a corrupt society to the images they conveyed of a writer seated at his desk in a loud, busy newsroom, typing out a story.

Shirer's reading habits and fascination with daily events came to him from his father, Seward Shirer, a Chicago federal prosecutor who involved himself in his community and read avidly in politics and history. In 1904, the year Shirer was born in the family home at 6500 Greenwood Avenue, Seward Shirer was a sergeant-at-arms at the Republican National Convention in the city. He watched as Theodore Roosevelt was nominated for the presidency. A political moderate, the senior Shirer was close to many of the city's most influential citizens, including the attorney Clarence Darrow, a champion of the poor and of the city's embattled labor unions.

Seward Shirer died on February 18, 1913, when his son Bill was eight years old, after his appendix burst and his doctors were unable to stop a severe infection from spreading through his body. His death at age forty-two forced his widow, with only the proceeds of a small insurance policy, to move with her three young children from Chicago to her parents' home in Cedar Rapids. Bessie Shirer had grown up in the city, attending an elementary school also attended by Orville and Wilbur Wright. There was considerable history on both sides of the family in Iowa. Seward Shirer had been born in 1871 on a farm in Black Hawk County, and he stayed in Iowa to attend the Methodist-affiliated Cornell College.

Years later, the young Shirer would remember stepping off the train at Union Station in Cedar Rapids with his sad mother, brother, and sister, to be greeted by his anxious maternal grandparents. The city's skyline was dominated by the grain elevators of the Quaker Oats cereal company. From the train station he could see a large sign "meant to catch the eye of the tens of thousands who passed by on the passenger trains of the four railroads: CEDAR RAPIDS SUITS ME! IT WILL YOU!"

With his mother's encouragement, Shirer again read the newspapers. He appreciated that his mother had the Chicago Tribune delivered to the house. That way, Shirer could keep up on developments in the city where his father had worked. As she and her husband had done in Chicago, Bessie also talked with her children about art and books and writers. It caught on with Bill. "Something in the literary ferment in Chicago, a constant subject of talk in our household as I grew up, must have brushed off on me so that a little later, in Iowa, I felt it in my bones," Shirer wrote.

The young boy read the papers closely, taking particular note of the bylined stories of the correspondents who sent in their dispatches from across Europe. Often, he spoke with his mother about the accounts of the Great War that had begun the year after the family moved to Cedar Rapids. He knew the reporters' names, read their every word, and followed battlefield developments on maps printed in the newspapers. He was enormously relieved to read one day that Paris had not fallen to the advancing Germans.

Certainly before his eighteenth birthday, when he graduated from Washington High School and enrolled at Coe College near the family's home for his freshman year, he was sure he wanted to be a part of the rarefied world of these correspondents whose lives he romanticized. As he made clear to his mother and friends, staying in Iowa after college was not an option. Chicago, maybe, but not Cedar Rapids. The world was divided between doers and phonies, and he knew what side of the line he wanted to be on.

Besides a strong desire to get away, Shirer was less than enthusiastic about the citizens of Cedar Rapids. An exception was the painter Grant Wood, who lived with his mother in a house on Fourteenth Street and later built a studio in an old barn across the street from the Shirer home. The two came from different worlds—Wood's early life was marked by extreme rural poverty—and they were more than ten years apart in age. The two saw each other occasionally in Cedar Rapids, at a time when the artist had not yet caught on, and Shirer saw him as an example of an artist pursuing his passion through thick and thin.

Because he saw himself as a budding writer and journalist whose words would one day mean a great deal, Shirer in his late teens began recording his thoughts in diaries and journals and, later, on typed sheets of onionskin paper. Like any diarist, Shirer did not know what lay ahead. A historian works in hindsight, examining a record and knowing full well what would come; a diary exists only for the moment it is written and knows nothing of the future.

Similarly, a man living in Germany, Victor Klemperer, determined to "bear witness" in his diary, could sit at his writing table on an August day in 1933—when Shirer and his wife might have been on the beach in front of their villa, happily reading and chatting—and observe without any knowledge of what lay ahead: "I simply cannot believe that the mood of the masses is really still behind Hitler. Too many signs of the opposite. But everyone, literally everyone cringes with fear. No letter, no telephone conversation, no word on the street is safe anymore. Everyone fears the next person may be an informer."

Soon after enrolling at Coe College in the fall of 1921, Shirer and other students interested in journalism fell under the spell of one of the school's brightest lights, a dedicated professor named Ethel R. Outland. She had graduated from Coe in the class of 1909, had gone east to Radcliffe to attend graduate school as had many of Iowa's brightest, and returned to teach at her alma mater. In addition to teaching classes, she oversaw the staff of the campus newspaper, the Cosmos, whose reporters and editors prided themselves on their independence from the school.

Photographs of Outland taken at the time show a small, serious woman, single then and for the rest of her life, who was all about her work. She was one of those professors students always remembered—dedicated, very good at her chosen field, blunt in her criticism of work she considered inferior, a grammarian who knew the rules of the language and expected everyone else to know them as well, and someone who introduced her students to the wider world available to them if they applied themselves.

"She could not stand sloppy thinking and especially sloppy writing," Shirer wrote. She read books, attended plays, was worldly in a Midwestern city not noted for its worldliness, and kept up on the news of the day locally, nationally, and internationally. For Shirer and several other students who went on to find careers in journalism, she was a transformative figure. For him, his four years at Coe would largely come down to everything he learned from Ethel Outland.

While attending classes and writing for the Cosmos as well as one of the Cedar Rapids newspapers, Shirer began looking ahead to his graduation in 1925. He kept in touch with Coe graduates who had found work on the staffs of newspapers around the region. A friend who wrote for an industry newspaper in Chicago called the Manufacturer's News, which came out every Saturday, advised Shirer to reach out to H. J. Smith, the news editor of the Chicago Daily News. In addition, the friend urged Shirer to write to R. J. Finnegan, the managing editor of the Chicago Journal, and to James P. Bicket, the news editor of the Chicago American. Shirer had a special connection to Bicket, who had been a good friend of his father's.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Long Night by Steve Wick. Copyright © 2011 Steve Wick. Excerpted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan.
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

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
Tauentzienstrasse
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
Acknowledgements
Bibliography
Endnotes

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The Long Night: William L. Shirer and the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
Icecream18 More than 1 year ago
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.
NewsieQ More than 1 year ago
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.
NewsieQ on LibraryThing 8 months ago
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.
skstiles612 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
William L. Shirer was journalist who took chances many others wouldn¿t to get the truth out. Most of this story took place in Berlin at the height of Hitler¿s reign. I can¿t imagine what it would have been like to not know who to trust, not know if you were going to get your information out or not. The stress alone knowing that you could be booted out of the country and denied access to what was really going on around you while fighting to stay alive from the bombings had to have been horrible. Even though most of his work was censored he tried to warn people about what Hitler and his men were really up to. He attended Nazi Party Rally¿s and got a first hand look at what was coming. While reading about Shirer¿s experiences I felt as if I had been transported back to a time long before I was even a thought and was living in Berlin watching event unfold. I admire people like Shirer who are willing to risk everything to get to the truth. It is by hearing watered down versions of the truth in the media today that we continue to make the same mistakes. Anyone who loves this time period or history in general will love this book. It is not an easy read but it is well worth it.
Icecream18 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
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.
babashopper More than 1 year ago
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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