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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 5 September 2016
William L Shirer was an American journalist who played a major role, alongside Ed Murrow, in waking his fellow countrymen up to the dangers of Nazism and the impossibility of US neutrality in the face of the existential threat to the liberal democratic world posed by Hitler. His most famous work is The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, in my view one of the best works of narrative history/journalism ever written. This book contains his diaries from when he was correspondent in Berlin, initially for two of Randolph Hearst's wire services, then for CBS. He arrives in the German capital at a time when "Hitler and the Nazis have lasted out a whole year in Germany and our friends in Vienna write that fascism, both of a local clerical brand and of the Berlin type, is rapidly gaining ground in Austria". World war is still of course, well over five years away, but Shirer is more prescient than many.
He chronicles the rise of fascism and collapse of social democracy in Austria, then the familiar litany of Hitler's advances, the Rhineland, Austria, the Sudetenland, the rest of Czechoslovakia, and finally Poland before Britain and France wake up to the threat and finally abandon appeasement and stand up to Hitler. He is an excellent writer and brings home clearly the drama and horror of events as they unfold, in the sheer rapidity of the German advance into Poland and of the Blitzkrieg across northern and western Europe in 1940, which year covers half of the entire text of the book. Reading this account as the events unfold is very different from reading a historical account written with the hindsight knowledge of Nazi defeat in 1945.

While Shirer acknowledges that Hitler could never totally control Europe as long as Britain remained free, he thinks it plausible that Hitler could effectively control the world: "I am firmly convinced that he does contemplate [invading the USA] and that if he wins in Europe and Africa he will in the end launch it unless we are prepared to give up our way of life and adapt ourselves to a subservient place in his totalitarian scheme of things". He marks the contrast between the old world and the new in these striking words: "How dim in memory the time when there was peace. That world ended, and for me, on the whole, despite its faults, its injustices, its inequalities, it was a good one. I came of age in that one, and the life it gave was free, civilized, deepening, full of minor tragedy and joy and work and leisure, new lands, new faces—and rarely commonplace and never without hope. And now darkness. A new world. Black-out, bombs, slaughter, Nazism. Now the night and the shrieks and barbarism".

Despite this bleakly pessimistic vision, he thinks that "even if Germany should win the war it will lose its struggle to organize Europe". This derives from his belief that, contrary to the assertions of some that Hitler and the Nazis imposed their creed on a wholly unwilling populace, "the Nazi regime has expressed something very deep in the German nature and in that respect it has been representative of the people it rules". He believes that "the German.......is incapable of organizing Europe. His lack of balance, his bullying sadism when he is on top, his constitutional inability to grasp even faintly what is in the minds and hearts of other peoples, his instinctive feeling that relations between two peoples can only be on the basis of master and slave and never on the basis of let-live equality—these characteristics of the German make him and his nation unfit for the leadership in Europe they have always sought and make it certain that, however he may try, he will in the long run fail". So while he accepts that only Hitler made this appalling war possible, in doing so the dictator was, in the author's view, drawing on the dark side of the nature of a critical mass of German people who craved submission and who had "almost joyfully, almost masochistically, ...... turned to an authoritarianism which releases them from the strain of individual decision and choice and thought and allows them what to a German is a luxury—letting someone else make the decisions and take the risks, in return for which they gladly give their own obedience". At the same time, this weakness caused Germany to underrate the infuriating stubbornness of British resistance, as the latter "won’t admit they’re licked. [The Germans] cannot repress their rage against Churchill for still holding out hopes of victory to his people, instead of lying down and surrendering, as have all of Hitler’s opponents up to date".

Shirer finally leaves Berlin towards the end of 1940 when the censorship has got so bad once Hitler has abandoned his plans to invade Britain and the Nazis are for the first time not having everything their own way, that he is virtually restricted to reading out the communiques of the High Command verbatim, without analysis or comment. He can do no more to raise the awareness of his American audience to the realities of Nazism. He concludes his diaries as follows:

"I stood against the rail watching the lights recede on a Europe in which I had spent all fifteen of my adult years, which had given me all of my experience and what little knowledge I had. It had been a long time, but they had been happy years, personally, and for all people in Europe they had had meaning and borne hope until the war came and the Nazi blight and the hatred and the fraud and the political gangsterism and the murder and the massacre and the incredible intolerance and all the suffering and the starving and cold and the thud of a bomb blowing the people in a house to pieces, the thud of all the bombs blasting man’s hope and decency."

Superb writing and just a brilliant piece of narrative of these world-shattering events. 5/5
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on 4 September 2015
I was really pleased to get a second hand copy of this book. It was described as good condition - I would have said no more than fair but not bad considering the age of the book. The author was an American radio journalist who spent the late 1930s and the early part of the war in Germany and other parts of Europe. It is very much an American view of Europe generally and Germany in particular. I suspect it also reflects the author's personal prejudices. For example, he frequently refers to the Germans as "hysterical" as though this was an inherent national characteristic. I also wonder how much editorialising there was in preparing the diaries for publication as the author seems remarkably prescient at various points. However, the book does not pretend to be a measured, authoritative history - it is a diary and benefits greatly from its immediacy and the fact that the author was an eye-witness to many of the most remarkable events of the period. The accounts of some of the Nuremberg rallies are particularly interesting.
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on 11 December 2013
This is just fantastic. Shirer was a war correspondent based in Germany before and during the war. After the war he wrote the first classic history "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". But this diary is almost better. It is his day by day notes of living and surviving in Europe as Hitler came to power. In his broadcasts he may be a carefully censored war correspondent, but in these private notes he rages against the Nazi's and Hitler and the arrogant power of Germanism. He cannot believe the stupidity of the allies failing to see the coming threat. He bemoans the hollow-chested bespectacled insurance clerks from Liverpool, captured by the physically superior blonde Aryan youth. He despairs. He sees defeat. He bitterly complains about Churchill's lack of courage in not coming to the aid of the Norwegians. The balanced broadcaster is left behind. Here we have the coruscating criticism of a very angry man who has to report on the war and survive in Berlin with his wife and baby.
It is so readable. Read it!
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on 1 February 2013
I found this a fascinating read. William Shirer was in the heart of Europe during the rise of Nazism and the first two years of the Second World War.

Despite knowing the history, knowing what happened, I was still caught up by the events he described in his diary. Day after day, week after week, month after month, Shirer catalogued the unstoppable Nazi war machine as Hitler turned his attention to one European country after another. Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, France and so on, Shirer criss-crossed the continent to report on events for American radio.

It was fascinating too to see the Second World War in Europe through the eyes of an American. I'm British, so reading Shirer's thoughts on the people, strategies and characters of my country was very interesting. So too was his description of the Germans and the German populations reactions to Hitler, the Nazis, the war and their views of other countries. Some of the blatant lies the Nazis peddled as propaganda are simple staggering.

Shirer's diary showed me a view of the war that I've never seen before. I found it to be quite the page turner despite knowing what was coming. Definitely worth a read if you're at all interested in the Second World War.
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on 5 September 2015
If, like me, you find the rise and fall of Nazism fascinating then this free Kindle book by one of the foremost journalists of the early 20th Century is a must.

Shirer lived through and recorded the most tumultuous times in a most readable way.

The diary covers the years from Hitlers ascension to absolute power until the end of 1940.

The most amazing thing about these daily thoughts show how perceptive Shirer was, almost as if he had written in hindsight.

I cannot praise this book enough, an absolute must for students of WWII history and Germany
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on 7 March 2014
I thought it was a very readable account of events and did give of the atmosphere in Berlin and Germany prior to and during the early part of the Second World War.

What I think I missed was an account of what sort of personalities people like Goering, Goebbels and Hitler really were. He obviously did not like them as is evident from the very start of the diary but the reasoning for him having developed this view early on, earlier than others as far as I can guess, is something in which I would have been interested.. I may have expected too much as after all it is a diary and that of a newspaper/radio reporter at that..

I certainly don't regret having taken the time to read the book.
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on 22 February 2015
Great diary, so full of snippets of wisdom, understanding of ills of a nation gripped by Nazism, and of the weakness of western governments in the lead up to 1939 and after. The economic war with Germany failed and the excuse to invade to unite German speaking peoples is so similar to the Ukraine at present. Some fantastic background facts, some convinced by 1940 that Nazis would not stop persecuting jews until all were exterminated, and that press coverage of extermination of mental hospital patients was limited to death notices of those gassed and cremated. In other words large proportion of society aware of the horrors, some rebelled and were then taken care of, so to speak.
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on 24 October 2014
Bought this book twelve months ago as it was a kindle daily deal,at 0.99p. Kept putting off reading it as I felt it might be to heavy. Boy what a mistake that was.

Started reading it 10'days ago and I can't put it down. It is absolutely fantastic. Well written and very interesting, not too deep but written by a family man who was doing his job under very trying conditions.

I am enjoying every minute of it. If you want to read the true version of what the German put up under the Nazi Party then this is a must read.

Next buy now is "rise and Fall of the Third Reich".

A must buy.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 March 2013
Having read Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich during the 1960s and revisited it recently in its Kindle version, I found that Berlin Diary, which I read recently for the first time, to be an excellent complement.

It is particularly interesting in the respect that it provides significant detail about the author himself and his life and times as an American foreign correspondent in Berlin, prior to the German declaration of war on America.

Significantly his reflections on aspects of life, important and influential characters in the German hierarchy and his interactions with everyday acquaintances provide a fascinating insight into life in Berlin at that time, as the threat of war emerges into total reality.
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on 26 May 2017
A very revealing and enlightening window into early war years for those of us who remember these times from the English perspective.
Highly recommend.
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