Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 25 Dec 2012
Full Title: Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, 1934-1941
Having finally completed the comprehensive The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich a few months ago (I had wanted to check out that book for years by then), and having enjoyed thoroughly, when I came across William Shirer's Berlin Diary at the local library, I reached for it right away. In a manner of speaking, Berlin Diary was the starting point of the project that would culminate in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and I really wanted to get a sense of his experiences, and perhaps understand how those experiences might have affected his later work.
As an American working in Germany, William Shirer was able to clearly see the Nazi corruption of the German patriotism. As an American outside of the United States or Britain, he also saw the rising danger of appeasement. Through this journal, he gave the readers an insight to his understanding of the European situation. When coupled with the tidbits about his daily life, such as his observation of German folks feeding animals in the park with a part of their bread ration and his frustration with German censors, the author gave us another view of life in Germany during the crucial years when the European situation took a dramatic turn for the worse, heading down the path to war. This journal also revealed his Germanophobia, exhibited in through trivial things such as his comment that German women were unattractive (while he frequently complimented many other women for their attractiveness in other diary entries) and in more serious accusations such as his notion that the German society was not advanced enough for democracy; this could explain some of the more questionable conclusions and comments in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
I had reviewed this title in its audio format, in which Tom Weiner did an excellent job with the reading.
If you were to ask me whether I would recommend Berlin Diary for learning about the WW2-era Germany, I probably would not in light of the author's prejudice, and instead direct you to his The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. As a tool to help analyze Shirer, however, Berlin Diary revealed much about his sentiment and personality.
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George Patton, 31 May 1944