In the mid-1920s, Iowa farm boy and sometime reporter William L. Shirer came to Paris, intending, like so many of his contemporaries, to become a great expatriate novelist. He found that his talent lay in the realm of fact, however, and for the next decade and a half he covered wars, revolutions, famines, and plagues in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East for a succession of newspapers. His reporting skills landed him a post in Berlin in the mid-1930s, where he was able to see firsthand Adolf Hitler's ascent to power, an experience that illuminated the pages of Shirer's classic, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
"This Is Berlin", a collection of Shirer's radio scripts, crackles with even greater immediacy. It describes, as they were occurring, the great events on which Shirer would reflect in his later book, among them the Nazi annexation of Austria and northwestern Czechoslovakia, the Munich Pact, the German invasion of Poland, and subsequent conquest of much of the rest of Europe. Acting as eyes and ears for his American audience, Shirer provides details that are often absent from standard histories of World War II, among them the viewpoints of the German media and ordinary citizens in the face of crisis. He also delivers revealing tidbits of information in passing, such as his list of the bestselling books in Germany at the start of World War II--at the top of which is Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, followed by the expected anti-British and anti-Soviet screeds. Shirer's reportage makes for fascinating reading, and it provides an important new primary source for historians, as well. --Gregory McNamee [via]