This is your president speaking.

Number 245 in a series

And now a few words from the President of the United States.

The coronavirus,

This is their new hoax.

We have it totally under control.

It’s one person coming in from China.

One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.

When you have 15 people

and within a couple of days

is going to be down to close to zero.

We really think we’ve done a great job

in keeping it down to a minimum.

I really get it.

People are surprised

that I understand it.

No, I don’t take responsibility at all.

After that there is not much left to say. Except that the President of the United States is a fool.

Abusing Science

Number 64 of a series

The title was enough to get me interested. First of all, the statement is blatantly false, and it is one that has grown thin from wear. The Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture made the link available through their Evolution News site.

It’s an item posted by Michael Egnor:

Michael Egnor is a pediatric neurosurgeon and intelligent design supporter who writes for the Discovery Institute blog. He is a professor at the Department of Neurological Surgery at Stony Brook University, a position held since 1991.

The item caries the title “Arguments for God’s existence can be demonstrated by the ordinary method of scientific inference.”


Atheist Jerry Coyne has replied to my post last Sunday about prayer and the coronavirus pandemic. I argued that prayer makes sense because God exists, and His existence is demonstrable via the ordinary method of scientific inference. There’s a name for this demonstration—natural theology, which is the science of demonstrating God’s existence using evidence and logic. Natural theology may be contrasted with revealed theology, which is the study of God via revelation in Scripture.

Natural theology has a massive history—it goes back at least to the ancient philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BCE) (the Prime Mover argument). A high point in natural theology was Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways, which are scientific (i.e. evidence-based) arguments for God’s existence. In fact, the cornerstone of Aquinas’ metaphysics is that essence (what a thing is) is utterly distinct from existence (that a thing is).

So begins the argument. Readers are invited to go to the link and read the entire thing. The essentials are here:

Here’s Aquinas’ First Way:

1) Change exists in nature (evidence)
2) Change is the actuation of potentiality and an essential chain of actuations cannot go to infinite regress. A fully actual Prime Mover is necessary (logic)
3) That Prime Mover is what all men call God (conclusion)

I may be dense, but this appears to be the Argument from First Cause rehashed.

  • Everything has a cause.
  • The Universe is finite—there was a time when the Universe did not exist.
  • Therefore the Universe had a cause before it existed.
  • That cause must be God

There are some things wrong with this, the first being the statement “Everything has a cause.” We can demonstrate events that do not have a cause, but that is minor objection. Another objection is Egnor takes the supposition that the Universe had a beginning as a fact, when it really is a supposition upon which a bunch of scientific theory is based. To complete his argument Egnor will need to prove the Universe had a beginning, and that is something which appears to be true, but for which there is no factual evidence. He is saying supposing what some very reputable scientists hold to be true really is true, then it follows that God exists.

There is more. Read Egnor’s complete argument. “3) That Prime Mover is what all men call God (conclusion).” Notice “call God.” Dude, just because some people call the prime mover God does not lead directly to their actually being a God.  Calling a stick a snake does not make it a snake. It is still a stick, and specifically it is not a snake.

Michael Egnor does not seem to do any real science, nor do any of those shilling for Intelligent Design at the Discovery Institute.

The Government You Paid For

Number 66 of a Series

Trump supporters spout about how in-charge he is, making decisions on his own and refusing to consult with elitists who only want to tear this country down. They like that Donald Trump is not afraid to make those hard choices, choices that could possible offend some snowflake from the West Coast.

Ha! Donald Trump is nothing compared to Italian politicians, who are know what it takes to get things done and are ready to act, where others would hold back. Here are two screen shots from John Oliver’s show yesterday, 29 March.

Yeah, Pisano, you mess with the rules, and we’re going to singe your hide. People, you get the government you paid for.

Quiz Question

Number 250 of a series

See the following:

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 = 100

The problem for this week is to place + and – signs between the digits to make the equation correct. If you don’t place a plus or minus then, for example, 3 2 becomes 32.

Post your solution in the comments section below. Other readers will only be able to see your answer after I moderate the comments on Sunday.

Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing a review of William Shirer’s Berlin Diary

William Shirer’s book recounts his experiences and observations from close up during the years prior to the war and concluding when Adolf Hitler’s government expelled him in 1940. Eighty years ago a new year opened with the war ramping up. The Kriegsmarine suffered its first major defeat with the loss of the Graf Spee. Hitler suspected the Allies were casting an eye on Scandinavia, and he was right. Holland and Belgium blithely acted on the presumption they could stay out of the war. This post will cover excerpts from February and March 1940.

In February Shirer made another trip to Switzerland. In his diary he recounts three items of interest, the first of which I excerpt here. A hallmark of a corrupt society is to exercise control over all information.


Three stories I must put down:

1. In Germany it is a serious penal offence to listen to a foreign radio station. The other day the mother of a German airman received word from the Luftwaffe that her son was missing and must be presumed dead. A couple of days later the BBC in London, which broadcasts weekly a list of German prisoners, announced that her son had been captured. Next day she received eight letters from friends and acquaintances telling her they had heard her son was safe as a prisoner in England. Then the story takes a nasty turn. The mother denounced all eight to the police for listening to an English broadcast, and they were arrested.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 288). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

He describes the hazards of traveling in a war zone.

Berlin, February 23

My birthday. Thought of being thirty-six now, and nothing accomplished, and how fast the middle years fleet by. Disagreeable experience at the Swiss border yesterday: the Swiss relieved me of all my provisions—chocolate, soap, canned food, coffee, and a bottle of whisky which Winant had given me. I see their point. They are cut off from the outside world and want to keep what they have and not let it get into the hands of the Germans. But I was sore. On the German side the Gestapo stripped two thirds of the passengers, including all the women. For some reason, possibly because I was the last to get my passport okayed and the train was late, they let me off. Arrived here this morning (Friday) to find it a meatless day. The food is abominable. Because of the cold spell, no fish. Even at the Adlon I could get only potatoes and some canned vegetables, and my friends said I was lucky because for several days there had not been even potatoes, the city’s supply having been spoiled by freezing. The newspapers seem inane after the Swiss. But the Germans swallow the fare, the lies. After this terrible winter their morale is lower, but they seem to be in the same cow-like mood. It’s hard to see the limit of what they will take. Much talk here of the spring offensive. But where?

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 290-291). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer recounts a tale which turned out to be profoundly prophetic.

Berlin, February 25

X told me a fantastic story today. He claims a plan is afoot to hide S.S. shock troops in the bottom of a lot of freighters, have them put in at ports in Scandinavia, Belgium, and Africa, and seize the places. I don’t get the point. Even if they got into the ports, which is doubtful, how could they hold them? I suspect this story is a plant and that the Nazis would like us to put it out as part of their nerve war. I shan’t.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 291). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

In April German ships with troops secreted inside docked in Copenhagen. At the prescribed time they emerged and captured the city.

A sorry fact of the World War II mess.

Berlin, February 27

Though the quota of Germans allowed entrance into America annually is 27,000, Marvin found a waiting-list of 248,000 names at the American consulate. Ninety-eight per cent were Jews—or about half the Jewish population left in Germany.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 292). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Failure of other countries to take in Europe’s Jewish population meant death to millions.

He recounts the logistics of getting a broadcast out of Nazi Germany in wartime.

Berlin, March 4

My pockets are stuffed full of passes. If I cannot find the right one I must wait in the vestibule on arriving at the station and fill out a paper permitting me to enter. Finally arrived, I go to an office and write my script. Two offices down I can hear Lord Haw-Haw attacking his typewriter with gusto or shouting in his nasal voice against “that plutocrat Chamberlain.” A half-hour before my broadcast I must have my script in the hands of the censors. Follows a half-hour battle with them.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 294). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

An iteration of the dire position of wartime Germany with respect to its supply of iron.

Berlin, March 8

Diplomatic circles buzzing with talk of a secret peace parley in Stockholm to end the Russo-Finnish war. A decree today orders all persons and firms who possess old metal or scrap iron to deliver it to the state. Lack of iron may lose Germany the war.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 295). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Wartime in Germany. Memorial Day in Germany.

Berlin, March 10

Today is Memorial Day in Germany, a day to remember the dead who’ve been slain in all the wars. In former years the Germans remembered the two million men slaughtered between 1914 and 1918. Today the Nazis ask the people not to think too much of the World War dead, but to concentrate their thoughts on those who have been done to death or will die in this war. How perverse human beings can be! A front-page editorial in the Lokal Anzeiger says: “This is no time for being sentimental. Men are dying for Germany day and night. One’s personal fate now is unimportant. There is no asking why if one falls or is broken.”

That’s the trouble. If the Germans asked why, the flower of their youth might not always be condemned to be butchered on the battlefield. General von Rundstedt, one of the leading military figures in the conquest of Poland, writes in the Völkische Beobachter: “Memorial Day—1940: Certainly we think earnestly of the dead, but we do not mourn.” And this paper bannerlines in red ink across Page one: “OVER THE GRAVES FORWARD!”

Hitler spoke today in a courtyard in the Zeughaus, the War Museum. There amidst the museum pieces—the arms and weapons Europeans have used to kill one another in all the wars of the past, he orated. His voice was full of hatred, which he might have been expected to avoid on Memorial Day. Has the man no other emotion? He promised his people that the end of this war would give Germany the most glorious military triumph in history. He thinks only of arms. Does he understand the economic role in this war? Ribbentrop off to Rome to make sure what Mussolini will do when the German offensive starts and also to see the Pope. Talk of a new concordat. Monsignor Cesare Orsenigo, the Papal Nuncio, has been quietly paying visits to the Wilhelmstrasse for weeks. Germany didn’t observe the last concordat, persecuting the church whenever it pleased. But they will probably sign a new one. It will mean prestige for Hitler at home and abroad. All Germans I talk to afraid hell will break loose this month.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 295-296). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Six months into the war, and Germany is not yet committed 100%. It is, however, girding its loins, so to speak, for a massive slug-fest.

Berlin, March 11

A ralk today with General von Schell, a wizard who is responsible for oil and automobiles. He claimed he would have enough oil for a ten-year war. He said his factories were now producing only 20 types of trucks as compared with 120 last year. Beginning April 20, all German youths between ten and eighteen will be compelled to join the Hitler Youth. Conscription of youth was laid down in a law dated 1936, but only goes into effect now. Boys between seventeen and eighteen will receive preliminary military training.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 297). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The future of Finland is now beyond its control. It will eventually be forced to ally with Germany and in the end be treated as one of the defeated nations at the end of the war.

Berlin, March 13

In Moscow last night peace was made between Russia and Finland. It is a very hard peace for Finland and in Helsinki today, according to the BBC, the flags are at half-mast. Berlin, however, is delighted. For two reasons: (1) It releases Russia from the strain of war, so that she now may be able to furnish some badly needed raw materials to the Reich. (2) It removes the danger of Germany having to fight a war on a long northern front, which she would have had to supply by sea and which would have dispersed her military forces now concentrating in the west for the decisive blow, which may begin any day now.

I think in the end Norway and Sweden will pay for their refusal to allow Allied troops across their territories to help Finland. To be sure, they were not in a pleasant spot. Baron von Stumm of the F.O. confirmed to me today that Hitler had informed both Oslo and Stockholm that had Allied troops set foot in Scandinavia, Germany immediately would have invaded the north to cut them off. The trouble with the Scandinavians is that a hundred years of peace have made them soft, peace-at-any-pricers. And they have not had the courage to look into the future. By the time they make up their minds to take sides, it will be too late, as it was with Poland. Sandler, Sweden’s Foreign Minister, alone seems to have seen the situation correctly, and he has been forced to resign.

Finland now is at the mercy of Russia. On any fake pretext the Soviets can henceforth overrun the country, since the Finns must now give up their fortifications, as the Czechs had to do after Munich. (Czecho lasted five and a half months after that.) Have we not reached a stage in history where no small nation is safe any longer, where they all must live on sufferance from the dictators? Gone are those pleasant nineteenth-century days when a country could remain neutral and at peace .

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 297-298). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Political turmoil in England brings forth a fountain of propaganda from Dr. Goebbels. The Nazis exhibit total appreciation for irony. The iron hand tightens its grip on the people.

Berlin, March 14

In London last night, one Mohamed Singh Azad shot and killed Sir Michael O’Dwyer. Not Gandhi, but most of the other Indians I know, will feel this is divine retribution. O’Dwyer was once Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab and bore a share of responsibility in the 1919 Amritsar massacre, in which General Dyer shot fifteen hundred Indians in cold blood. When I was at Amritsar eleven years after, in 1930, the bitterness still stuck in the people there. Goebbels makes the most of the assassination. Nachtausgabe headline tonight: “THE DEED OF AN INDIAN FIGHTER FOR FREEDOM—SHOTS AGAINST THE OPPRESSOR.” This from Germans who are carrying out mass murders in Bohemia and Poland.

ITEMS: Two more Germans beheaded today for “damaging the people’s interests.” A third sentenced to death; same charge…. The Germans boast that prices here have not risen. Today in the Adlon I paid a dollar for a dish of boiled carrots…. Göring today decrees that the people must give up their copper, bronze, brass, tin, lead, and nickel. How can Germany fight a long war lacking these? In 1938 Germany imported from abroad nearly a million tons of copper, 200,000 tons of lead, 18,000 tons of tin, and 4,000 tons of nickel.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 298-299). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Prices are remarkably stable. Don’t believe your eyes, the facts are right there in print. In a few years hence George Orwell will enjoy rehashing this.

As short a time ago as February, the Ministry of Plenty had issued a promise (a “categorical pledge” were the official words) that there would be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984. Actually, as Winston was aware, the chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grams to twenty at the end of the present week. All that was needed was to substitute for the original promise a warning that it would probably be necessary to reduce the ration at some time in April.

Orwell, George. 1984 (p. 25). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Hitler demands adulation from those dependent on him. The resemblance to a modern American president is uncanny.

Berlin, March 15

Today Hitler forces Hacha to send him a “congratulatory” telegram, praising him for having destroyed Czechoslovakia and wishing him victory in this war. Hitler’s cynicism is of rich quality, but millions of Germans believe that today’s exchange of telegrams is perfectly sincere. Hitler replies that he is “deeply moved” by Hacha’s wire and adds: “Germany has no intention of threatening the national existence of the Czechs.” When he has already destroyed it! Neurath, a typical example of the German aristocrats who sacrificed their souls (they had no minds) to Hitler, sends him a slavish telegram thanking him for his “historic deed” and pledging the “unbreakable loyalty of Bohemia and Moravia.” In an interview with the German press Neurath says the Czechs are content with their lot, all except “a few intellectuals and those elements of disturbance which were put down in a manner the sharpness of which was not misunderstood.” He refers to the mass shooting of Czech students last fall.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 299-300). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The warring countries at last bring the war to each other’s shores, and there is the first mention of America’s untapped menace.

Berlin, March 17

Much excitement on this Palm Sunday in official quarters over a war communiqué claiming that the Luftwaffe hit and damaged three British battleships in Scapa Flow last night. More important to me was that for the first time the Germans admitted that during the raid their planes also bombed British air bases at Stromness and Kirkwall. In this half-hearted war this is the first time that one side has purposely dropped bombs on the land of the other. It heralds, I suppose, the spring opening of the war in earnest. Editor Kircher of the Frankfurter Zeitung attempts to answer a question this morning that has bothered neutral military minds for a long time. Why haven’t the Germans used their acknowledged air superiority over the Allies? Why are they waiting while the Allies, with American help, catch up? Kircher’s answer is that the Allies have not been catching up, that Germany’s relative superiority has been greatly increased in the last seven months.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 300-301). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Hitler begins to bring Italy into the Axis block. It will prove fateful. As with the Habsburg Empire of the previous war, Mussolini’s Italy will become a millstone around the German neck.

Berlin, March 18

For two and a half hours this morning while a snowstorm raged, Hitler and Mussolini conferred at the Brenner. We opine Hitler wanted to make sure of the Duce before embarking on his spring plans, whatever they are. The Wilhelmstrasse plan tonight was that Hitler had won over Musso to the idea of joining a tripartite bloc with Germany and Soviet Russia which will establish a new order in Europe. Maybe so.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 301). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.


Another section that needs to be totally incorporated.

Berlin, March 19

John Chapman, whom I have not seen since high-school days in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, called. He is foreign editor of Business Week, and has just come up from the Balkans and Italy. He had some good dope. He doubts that Italy will go into the war. So do I. Italy can be blockaded. John said he noticed a lessening of the drive in Fascism. People are more relaxed. Il Duce does not push them so hard. He’s aging, growing fat, and spends much time with his youthful blonde mistress, by whom—John was told in Rome—he has just had a child. John said he saw Pétain in Madrid. The old man said: “I pray that the Germans try to break through the Maginot Line. It can be broken through—at a cost. But let them infiltrate through. I’d like to be in command of the Allied army then.” I called on Major X of the X Embassy this afternoon. He sees three possibilities open to Germany now:

  1. Germany can make peace. He thinks Hitler wants peace. And that he could afford to offer a peace which would sound pretty fair and might be acceptable to all but the English, and which would still consolidate most of his gains. Such a peace, he argued, would be equivalent to a great German victory.
  2. Germany can continue as at present, keeping Scandinavia and Italy neutral and co-operative economically, and developing southeastern Europe and especially Russia. This would take time, at least three years, but once developed, it would make the Allied blockade comparatively ineffective. The major pointed out that no nation which lost control of the seas had ever in all history won a major war. But he thinks it might be accomplished this time if Germany keeps her northern, southern, and southeastern doors open and develops Russia sufficiently. He regards the Russian tie-up as Hitler’s master stroke, but says it was forced upon him by the German General Staff, which simply told him that war with the West was impossible if Russia joined the Allies, or even remained strictly neutral, but unfriendly to Germany.
  3. Germany can try to force the issue on the western front. This he regards as improbable. The German General Staff, he says, has a great respect for the Maginot Line and the French army. He admits the Maginot Line might be pierced—at great cost—but that this would not necessarily win the war.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 301-303). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The Brits bomb a German base in Sylt, and bombs hit (then) neutral Denmark. Lacking all sense of irony, Goebbels’ propaganda mill makes the most of it.

Berlin, March 20

Headline in the 12-Uhr Blatt today over its report of Chamberlain’s speech in the House last night: “HOLIDAY OF LIES IN LOWER HOUSE.—THE PIRATES CONFESS THEIR CRIME AGAINST THE NEUTRALS!”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 303-304). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

In a few days German troops will overrun neutral Denmark.

The Nazis gained great notice for their tremendous inflation of the death penalty. No surprise by now. On 30 June in 1934 the party carried out mass slayings, disposing of those they considered threatening or merely a nuisance.

Berlin, March 21

Three more Poles sentenced to death at Posen today for allegedly slaying a German during the war. I hear sixteen Polish women are in a Berlin jail waiting to have their heads lopped off, all of them having been sentenced to death.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 304). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Oops! Wartime exigencies become increasingly manifest.

Berlin, March 23

It is announced today that all church bells made of bronze are to come down and be melted up for cannon.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 305). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Germany is preparing to expand the war into Norway and Denmark. Shirer senses something is afoot.

Berlin, March 24

Comparatively few soldiers in the street. Few leaves granted? Meaning? Offensive soon?

I was surprised to notice how shabby the Kaiser’s Palace at the end of the Linden is. The plaster falling off all over the place. Very dilapidated. The stone railing of the balcony on which Wilhelm II made his famous appearance in 1914 to announce to the delirious mob at his feet the coming of war appeared to be falling to pieces. Well, they were not delirious before Hitler’s balcony when this war started.

I tried to read in the faces of the thousands what was in their minds this Easter day. But their faces looked blank. Obviously they do not like the war, but they will do what they’re told. Die, for instance.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 306). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer suspects a Scandinavian adventure is in the works, and he tests this thought, along with the Nazi censors’ tolerance.

Berlin, March 28

Germany cannot stay in the war unless she continues to receive Swedish iron, most of which is shipped from the Norwegian port of Narvik on German vessels which evade the blockade by feeling their way down the Norwegian coast and keeping within the three-mile limit, where they are safe from the British navy. Some of us have wondered why Churchill has never done anything about this. Now it begins to look as if he may. The Wilhelmstrasse says it will watch him. For Germany this is a life-and-death matter. X assures me that if British destroyers go into Norwegian territorial waters Germany will act. But how is not clear. The German navy is no match for the British.

I hope I didn’t put myself out on a limb, but from what I’ve heard this week I wrote tonight in my broadcast: “Some people here believe the war may spread to Scandinavia yet. It was reported in Berlin today that last week a squadron of at least nine British destroyers was concentrated off the Norwegian coast and that in several instances German freighters carrying iron received warning shots…. From here it looks as if the neutrals, especially the Scandinavians, may be drawn into the conflict after all.”

I often write a paragraph like that to see how the military censor will react. He made no objection, which is interesting.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 307). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The Nazis are acutely aware of the need to keep the United States out of the war. In this country they have many allies. The anti-war and isolationist movements are teeming, and their ranks include many of great note. Apparently Joseph Kennedy, father of a future president, was not one of the Nazi favorites.

Berlin, March 30 [80 years ago today]

The Nazis launched last night what they thought would be a bombshell in America. Today it looks more like a boomerang. And a fine example of clumsy German diplomatic blundering.

The Foreign Office released a new White Book containing what is purported to be sixteen documents discovered by the Germans in the Warsaw Foreign Office. Ribbentrop says they are secret reports of various Polish envoys. The most important are from the Polish ambassadors in London, Paris, and Washington. They “implicate” American ambassadors Kennedy, Bullitt, and Biddle, and the point of them is that these diplomats, backed by Roosevelt, were leading conspirators in forcing this war on Germany!

Though it seems incredible that even the Germans could be so stupid, my friends in the Foreign Office say that Ribbentrop actually thought these “revelations” would make Roosevelt’s position so untenable that his defeat in the next election—or the defeat of his candidate, should he not run—would be assured. Having got wind of the strong sentiment in America to stay out of war, Ribbentrop thought these “documents” would greatly strengthen the hand of the American isolationists by convincing the American people that Roosevelt and his personally appointed ambassadors had not only had a hand in starting the war but had done everything to get us in. Happily, first American reactions are good and the New York press is suggesting the documents are fakes. They may not be faked; probably only doctored.

LATER.—One of the most amusing Nazi fakes I’ve seen in a long time appears in the evening press. It tells the German people that the publication of the Polish “documents” has hit America like a bombshell. The implication is that Roosevelt has been dealt a staggering blow. Secretary Hull issues an official denial of the allegations in the “documents.” The DNB twists it around and heads it: “HULL DISAVOWS USA AMBASSADORS!” A crude piece of faking!

The only trouble is that men like Ham Fish and Senator Rush Holt may snatch at Nazi propaganda such as this to help fight Roosevelt. The DNB cables flatly that Senator Holt “agrees with the German White Book.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 308-309). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

That was Shirer’s final entry for March of 1940. The following month the war began its inexorable expansion, a necessity for Hitler and also the thing that would bring him down.

Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing a review of William Shirer’s Berlin Diary

William Shirer’s book recounts his experiences and observations from close up during the years prior to the war and concluding when Adolf Hitler’s government expelled him in 1940. Eighty years ago a new year opened with the war ramping up. The Kriegsmarine suffered its first major defeat with the loss of the Graf Spee. Hitler suspected the Allies were casting an eye on Scandinavia, and he was right. Holland and Belgium blithely acted on the presumption they could stay out of the war. This post will cover excerpts from January 1940.

Winter in Berlin.

Berlin, January 1, 1940

What will this year bring? The decision, as Hitler boasted yesterday? I haven’t met a German yet who isn’t absolutely certain. Certain it is that this phony kind of war cannot continue long. Hitler has got to go forward to new victories or his kind of system cracks.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 271-272). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Same day, a nearly hilarious incident involving more people than sanity allows attempting to use a lone taxi. A little girl upsets this awful arrangement.

She too cried to get out. Her mother joined her. Then her father. Finally the driver, apparently awakened by the bedlam, decided to stop. Out on the curb the father and the soldier began to engage in a fierce argument as to who had spoiled whose New Year’s Eve. Russell and I and the taxi-driver stole away, leaving them to fight it out. The frayed nerves of the war, we decided.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 272-273). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer lays out the realities of Germany’s situation during this stage in the war. It is grim.

Berlin, January 3

I learned today what the Russians have promised to deliver to Germany this year:

1,000,000 tons of fodder and grain;
500,000 tons of oil seeds;
500,000 tons of soya beans;
900,000 tons of petroleum;
150,000 tons of cotton (this is more cotton than Russia had to export to the whole world last year);
Three million gold marks’ worth of leather and hides. This looks good on paper, but I would bet a lot the Russians deliver no more than a fraction of what they have promised.

An official statement announces that Göring is to become absolute dictator of Germany’s war economy—a job he has had in effect for a long time. The press is beginning to harp about “Britain’s aggressive designs in Scandinavia.” Hitler, we hear, has told the army, navy, and air force to rush plans for heading off the Allies in Scandinavia should they go in there to help Finland against Russia. The army and navy are very pro-Finnish, but realize they must protect their trade routes to the Swedish iron-ore fields. If Germany loses these, she is sunk.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 273). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Swedish neutrality turned out to be Hitler’s savior. Without the iron ore Sweden supplied throughout the war, Germany would have either needed to conquer Sweden or else throw in the towel when its war industry ran out of steel.

Hitler did conquer and occupy Norway, using neutral Swedish territory. Clifton is a town in Texas, and it is populated by Norwegian settlers. For some time after, Swedes were not welcome in Clifton.

The fighting in Finland was the main news in the early part of the year.

Berlin, January 9

Harry C., probably the best-informed man we have in the Moscow Embassy, passed through today with his wife, who is going to have her baby in America. Harry, no Bolo-baiter, had some weird tales. He says the one and only thought of a Russian nowadays is to toe the Stalin line so that he can save his job or at least his life. The Russians, he says, have hopelessly bungled the attack on Finland. A hundred thousand casualties already, the hospitals in Leningrad and the north jammed with wounded. But they are the lucky ones because thousands of lightly wounded died of cold and exposure. Harry says everyone in Moscow, from Stalin down, thought the Red army would be in Helsinki a week after the attack started. They were so sure that they timed an attack on Bessarabia for December 6, and only called it off at the last minute.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 274-275). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

For clarification, Bolo was slang for Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks (majority) defeated the Mensheviks (minority) in the Russian Revolution, and the Communists are known as Bolsheviks.

The same day—the brutality of the Gestapo is a surprise?

Learn that eighteen Poles were killed and thirty wounded recently in a Polish prison camp. The S.S. here claim there was a “revolt.” The army is protesting to Hitler about the senseless brutality of the Gestapo in Poland, but I doubt if that will change matters.

Must note a new propaganda campaign to convince the German people that this is not only a war against the “plutocratic” British and French, but a holy struggle against the Jews. Says Dr. Ley in the Angriff tonight: “We know that this war is an ideological struggle against world Jewry. England is allied with the Jews against Germany…. England is spiritually, politically, and economically at one with the Jews…. For us England and the Jews remain the common foe….”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 275). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Gestapo is a contraction of Geheim Staatspolizei, secret state’s police, headed up by Heinrich Himmler.

The winter of 1940 was particularly bitter, and German citizens suffered more so due to the lack of coal. Those out of favor suffered even worse.

Berlin, January 11

Cold. Fifteen degrees below zero centigrade outside my window. Half the population freezing in their homes and offices and workshops because there’s no coal. Pitiful to see in the streets yesterday people carrying a sack of coal home in a baby-carriage or on their shoulders. I’m surprised the Nazis are letting the situation become so serious. Everyone is grumbling. Nothing like continual cold to lower your morale.

Hitler is back in town and last night at the Chancellery, I hear, he and Göring lambasted the big industrialists, who had been hurriedly convoked from the Rhineland, for being slack. These great tycoons, who made it possible with their money for Hitler to climb to power, sat there, I’m told, with red faces and never dared utter a peep. Hitler also saw the military yesterday and today and there is talk about a big push in the spring. The army, according to my spies, is still against an offensive on the Maginot Line despite party pressure for it. Will the Germans try to go through Holland, as many think? They want air bases on the Dutch coast for the take-off against Britain. Also fantastic talk here of an invasion of England; of the Germans going into Sweden to sew up their Swedish iron-ore supplies, the justification to be that the Swedes are plotting to let in Allied armies to fight in Finland.

Learned today from a traveller [sic] back from Prague that producers of butter, flour, and other things in Slovakia and Bohemia are marking their goods destined for Germany as “Made in Russia.” This on orders from Berlin, the idea being to show the German people how much “help” is already coming from the Soviets.

A Wilhelmstrasse official admitted to me today that the Germans had imposed forced labour on all Jews in Poland. He said the term of forced labour was “only two years.”16 A German school-teacher tells me this one: the instructors begin the day with this greeting to their pupils: “Gott strafe England!”—whereupon the children are supposed to answer: “He will.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 276-277). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Wilhelmstrasse is a major Berlin thoroughfare, the center of government during this period. The term was used to designate the German government.

Edward R. Murrow rose to prominence with his coverage of the war, particularly during the Blitz, from London. Shirer and Murrow got together in Amsterdam to confer. Shirer’s take on the Dutch outlook is revealing. Germany’s neighbor’s worked under the delusion they could survive having Nazi Germany as a neighbor. We know today of the tragedy that was to come in a few weeks, and this knowledge is stark in juxtaposition with the picture Shirer paints here.

Amsterdam, January 18

Ed [Murrow] and I here for a few days to discuss our European coverage, or at least that’s our excuse. Actually, intoxicated by the lights at night and the fine food and the change in atmosphere, we have been cutting up like a couple of youngsters suddenly escaped from a stern old aunt or a reform school. Last night in sheer joy, as we were coming home from an enormous dinner with a fresh snow drifting down like confetti, we stopped under a bright street-light and fought a mighty snow-ball battle. I lost my glasses and my hat and we limped back to the hotel exhausted but happy. This morning we have been ice-skating on the canals with Mary Marvin Breckinridge, who has forsaken the soft and dull life of American society to represent us here. The Dutch still lead the good life. The food they consume as to both quantity and quality (oysters, fowl, meats, vegetables, oranges, bananas, coffee—the things the warring peoples never see) is fantastic. They dine and dance and go to church and skate on canals and tend their businesses. And they are blind—oh, so blind—to the dangers that confront them. Ed and I have tried to do a little missionary work, but to no avail, I fear. The Dutch, like everyone else, want it both ways. They want peace and the comfortable life, but they won’t make the sacrifices or even the hard decisions which might ensure their way of life in the long run. The Queen, they say, stubbornly refuses to allow staff talks with the Allies or even with the Belgians. In the meantime, as I could observe when I crossed the border, the Germans pile up their forces and supplies on the Dutch frontier. If and when they move, there will be no time for staff talks with the Allies. The Dutch tell you that if they even whisper to the Allies about joint defence [British spelling] plans, Hitler will consider that an excuse to walk in. As though Hitler will ever want for an excuse if he really decides to walk in.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 277-278). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

I was in Amsterdam last year, and I had a conversation with a resident. I brought up the matter of skating on the canals, and he told me that was a thing of the past. The climate is so much warmer, the canals no longer freeze.

I have to reprint the entire section from January 20, because it gives a stark picture of how anybody, no matter who they were, could be caught up in the paranoid Nazi machine.

Amsterdam, January 20

Ed off today to Paris and I, alas, must head back tonight to Berlin. I’ve invited Marvin to come up next month and do the “women’s angle.” Ran into Tom R., an American businessman, in the bar of the Carlton this afternoon. He gave me the story at last of what happened to Eleanor K.17 He himself was involved. He had given her a couple of business letters to certain parties in Germany which he says he did not think were compromising, but which obviously were. These were the letters which in the end almost led to her death. Eleanor did not look at them, merely tucking them into her bag. At Bentheim, on the Dutch-German border, the Gestapo discovered them. They arrested her, but allowed her to be confined in the local hotel, there being no suitable jail. Each day there were long hours of questioning, with the Gestapo inquisitioners trying to break her down and make her admit what she in truth refused to: that she knew the contents of her letters and was really a courier in the service of shady business interests inside and outside Germany which were engaging in unlawful financial practices. To make matters worse, one of the letters was to a Jew in Berlin. One night in the hotel Eleanor fell into a mood of deep depression. The Gestapo had questioned and threatened her all day. She saw herself receiving a long prison sentence. She had intended to return to America for good in a few weeks. Now she would spend years in a Nazi concentration camp or a damp prison cell. She decided to make sure she wouldn’t. She decided to kill herself. The resolve made, she prepared for it coolly. She procured a rope, tied one end to the radiator, the other around her neck, opened the window, sat down on the window-ledge, and began to swallow strong sleeping-pills. She would soon be unconscious, she knew, would topple out of the window, and the rope would do the rest. Why it didn’t, she will never know, Tom says. Probably the rope slipped off the radiator. All she knows is that some days later they told her in the hospital that the snow in the street below had broken her fall, that she had lain there for five hours until someone had stumbled across her half-frozen form in the first light of dawn, and that she had broken almost every bone in her body, but probably would recover. Eventually she was removed to a prison hospital in Berlin, where the American consulate, in great secrecy, procured her release and quietly got her out of the country. She is now in America, Tom says.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 278-280). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Another entire copy and paste, illustrating how unglamorous was the life of a foreign correspondent during the war.

Berlin, January 22

I got an idea yesterday of how German transportation, at least of railroad passengers, has been paralysed by the severe winter and the demands of the army. At the German border we were told that the usual express train to Berlin had stopped running. With fifty other passengers I took refuge from the blizzard in the station at Bentheim and waited several hours until the railroad officials organized a local train which they said would take us some twenty-five miles of the two hundred and fifty miles to Berlin. The train, which was unheated, soon stopped; we piled out in the snow with our luggage as best we could, there being no porters in Germany nowadays. By the time it was dark, we had progressed on various local trains about seventy-five miles when in one little station word came that an express train from Cologne would be coming along soon and would pick us up for Berlin. But when it came in, it was jammed and there were at least five hundred people on the platform who wanted to get aboard. There was a free-for-all fight. I used college football tactics and charged in behind my baggage, just managing to squeeze into the outer platform of a third-class coach, the rest of the crammed passengers shouting and cursing at me. For the next eight hours I stood in that unheated spot until we got almost to Berlin. Several hundred irritable passengers stood in the corridors most of the night, and there were thousands on the station platforms we stopped at who never got on the train at all. Such grumbling I have not heard from Germans since the war started.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 280-281). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer obtains a perspective of the German mentality from somebody thoroughly acquainted.

Berlin, January 24

think Percival W., a retired American businessman of German parentage who has spent most of his life in this country, sees something I’ve been trying to get straight. I had never met him before, but he dropped up to my room this morning for a chat. We discussed the German conception of ethics, honour, conduct. Said he: “For Germans a thing is right, ethical, honourable, if it squares with the tradition of what a German thinks a German should do; or if it advances the interests of Germanism or Germany. But the Germans have no abstract idea of ethics, or honour, or right conduct.” He gave a pretty illustration. A German friend said to him: “Isn’t it terrible what the Finns are doing, taking on Russia? It’s utterly wrong.” When Mr. W. remonstrated that, after all, the Finns were only doing what you would expect all decent Germans to do if they got in the same fix—namely, defending their liberty and independence against wanton aggression—his friend retorted: “But Russia is Germany’s friend.”

In other words, for a German to defend his country’s liberty and independence is right. For a Finn to do the same is wrong, because it disturbs Germany’s relations with Russia. The abstract idea there is missing in the German mentality.

That probably explains the Germans’ complete lack of regard or sympathy for the plight of the Poles or Czechs. What the Germans are doing to these people—murdering them, for one thing—is right because the Germans are doing it, and the victims, in the German view, are an inferior race who must think right whatever the Germans please to do to them. As Dr. Ley puts it: “Right is what the Führer does.” All this confirms an idea I got years ago: that the German conception of “honour,” about which Germans never cease to talk, is nonsense.

Mr. W. tells me he was in Germany until shortly before we entered the war in 1917 and that until the winter of 1916–17 there was no suffering among the civilian population at all. He says the present rations and shortages are about the same as Germany experienced in the third year of the World War. He is sure things cannot go on as at present, with the front quiet and nothing but hardship, especially the suffering from the cold we’ve had for more than a month now. “What the Germans must have,” he said in departing, “are a lot of quick victories.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 281-282). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Another entire section copied and pasted. Shirer gives more insight into German thinking from talking to people.

Berlin, January 25 (midnight)

Dined alone at Habel’s. A 1923 half-bottle of Bordeaux rouge, but despite the waiter’s assurances, it was not a good enough wine to withstand that age; 1934 is the best year now for ordinary wines. I was about to leave when a white-haired old duffer sat down at my table. As he had no fat card for a meat dish he had ordered, I offered him one of mine. We started talking.

“Who will win the war?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Why, selbstverständlich, Germany,” he laughed. He argued that in 1914 Germany had the whole world against her, now only Great Britain and France, and Russia was friendly.

“Each side thinks it will win,” I said. “In all the wars.”

He looked at me with pity in his old eyes. “Germany will win,” he said. “It is certain. The Führer has said so.”

But as we talked I was conscious that my remarks were jarring him. He became aggressive, irritated. He said Britain and France started the war. “But you attacked Poland, and some people feel that started the war,” I put in. He drew himself up in astonishment.

“I beg your pardon,” he gasped, and then proceeded for ten minutes to repeat every lie about the origins of the war that Hitler has told. (The German people do believe Hitler then, I mused.) “The documents issued by our Foreign Office have proved beyond the shadow of doubt,” he went on, “that Britain and France started the war and indeed planned it for more than a year.”

“They don’t prove it to me,” I said.

This caused him to lose his breath. When he had recovered he said: “As I was saying, saying, the documents prove it….”

I noticed my sour remarks were attracting the attention of the rest of the room and that two hatchet-faced men with party buttons at the next table seemed to be on the point of intervening with some heroics of their own. I upped and left, bidding the old gentleman good-night.

At six p.m. Fräulein X called for some provisions I had brought her from relatives abroad. She turned out to be the most intelligent German female I have met in ages. We talked about the German theatre and films, about which she knew a great deal. She had some interesting ideas about German character, history, direction. The trouble with the Germans, she said, was that they were “geborene Untertanen”—born subjects, though “Untertan” conveys also a connotation of submissive subjects. Authority and direction from a master above was about all a German wanted in life.

“A German,” she said, “will think he has died a good German if he waits at a curb at a red light, and then crosses on a green one though he knows perfectly well that a truck, against the law though it may be, is bearing down upon him to crush him to death.”

What embittered her—and she was brilliantly bitter—was that this Germany was staking all in a war which might end the very Western civilization which certain elements in Germany had not only contributed to but had tried to make one with Germany’s culture. She thought the present regime cared not a whit about Western civilization and represented the barbarian element which had always lurked below the surface in German history and for whom life only had meaning when it meant glorified war, force, conquest, brutality, and grinding down a weaker foe, especially if he were a Slav. She blasted away about the German’s utter lack of political sense,

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 283-284). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

his slavishness towards authority, his cowardly refusal to think or act for himself.

The non-European, anti-Western civilization element, as she put it, now has the upper hand in Germany and she thought the only way the west-European nature of the German could be saved would be by another defeat, even another Peace of Westphalia (which split up Germany in 1648 into three hundred separate states). I’m rather inclined to agree.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 282-285). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer tells of the greatest organized mass migration in modern times. Germans will be moved in to occupy the territory stripped from the Poles. This is to be followed six years later by the greatest organized mass migration in modern times, as these Germans are repatriated to the post-war German state.

There is also great irony in the propaganda war.

Berlin, January 27

The greatest organized mass migration since the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey after the last war is now coming to an end in Poland. Some 135,000 Germans from Russian-occupied eastern Poland and 100,000 Germans from the Baltic states are now being settled in the part of Poland which Germany has annexed outright. To make room for them an equal number of Poles are being turned out of house, home, and farm and sent to occupied Poland…. Dr. Frank, German Governor-General of Poland, has decreed the death sentence for Poles who hold back goods from sale or refuse to sell their wares when offered a “decent” price. This will enable the Germans to complete their pillage of Poland. If a Pole objects, off with his head…. A German court in Posen has sentenced eight Poles, including three women, to death for allegedly mistreating German flyers—probably parachutists. Even the Germans admit that not one of the flyers was killed.

A phony war. Today’s dispatches from the front deal exclusively with an account of how German machine-guns fought French loud-speakers! It seems that along the Rhine front the French broadcast some recordings which the Germans say constituted a personal insult to the Führer.

“The French did not realize,” says the DNB with that complete lack of humour which makes the Germans so funny, “that an attack on the Führer would be immediately rejected by the German troops.” So the Germans opened fire on the French loud-speakers at Altenheim and Breisach. Actually the army people tell me that the French broadcast recordings of Hitler’s former speeches denouncing Bolshevism and the Soviets.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 285-286). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The following post will relate sections in the book from February 1940.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a Continuing Series

The supermarket was scheduled to open at 8:00, but by 7:45 there was a long line of people waiting to get in.

A car drove into the parking lot, and a young guy got out. He didn’t go to the back of the line but went straight to the front. The people in line were outraged and pushed him back.

He persisted. He again went straight to the front of the line, and the people pushed him out into the parking lot.

He stood there and shouted to them, “People, if you don’t let me unlock the door, nobody’s going to get in.”

Nobel Nobel

Eye on the Prize, Number 15

You go get ’em, Baby Cheeks. The Prize is there for you to take:

North Korea Seen Expanding Rocket Launch Facility It Once Promised To Dismantle

What I am thinking is Barack Obama will get a second Nobel before you get one.

Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing a review of William Shirer’s Berlin Diary

William Shirer’s book recounts his experiences and observations from close up during the years prior to the war and concluding when Adolf Hitler’s government expelled him in 1940. Prior installments recount the story, using extensive excerpts from the book. In December 1939 the war begins to get serious with the first German losses, notably in a famous sea battle.

Shirer relates the realities of a foreign correspondent operation.

Berlin, December 1

My telephone bill yesterday and today, including numerous urgent calls to Helsinki, Stockholm, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, and New York, has run over a thousand dollars and my cable and telegraph bill must come to almost half that. But Paul White and Klauber say: “Get the broadcasts.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 255). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

War is now being waged on other fronts, specifically between the Soviet Union and Finland. Churchill has not yet come to power, but his voice, long a metronome of prophecy, becomes increasingly strident. He catches the attention of the Nazi propaganda mill.

Berlin, December 13

New title for Churchill in the Nazi press these days: Lügenlord—“lying lord.” Most common reference to Churchill in the Nazi press is simply by his initials W.C., the letters painted on every water-closet in Germany, which is why the Nazis use them.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 259). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The fine edge of the German war machine obtains its first blunting with a resounding British naval victory off the South American coast. You would not know this from the Nazi press.

Berlin, December 14

The German papers tonight celebrate a great sea victory of the pocket-battleship Graf Spee over three British cruisers off Montevideo. On the radio I heard London hailing it as a British victory, which reminds one of Jutland, it, too, having been celebrated as a triumph by both Britain and Germany. The German papers claim the British cruisers used mustard-gas shells, though in German naval circles this charge is not taken seriously. Dr. Goebbels is certainly going to town on this story.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 259). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Nazi propaganda badly mishandles a resounding naval defeat.

Berlin, December 19

The populace is still a little bit puzzled about how the big victory of the Graf Spee suddenly ended by the pocket-battleship scuttling itself off Montevideo yesterday afternoon. But Goebbels and Göring have pulled a neat one to make them forget it as soon as possible. The attention of the German people tomorrow morning will be concentrated by the press and radio on something else, an alleged victory—this time in the air—off Helgoland. An official statement which the papers and radio have been told to bang for all it’s worth says that thirty-four out of forty-four British bombers were shot down this afternoon north of Helgoland. A very timely victory. We had just left the evening press conference after firing embarrassing questions about the Graf Spee and were putting on our overcoats downstairs when Dr. Boehmer rushed in breathlessly and said he had some big news and would we please return upstairs to the conference room. Then he read us in breathless tones the communiqué about the thirty-four British planes being shot down. Suspect it is eyewash.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 259-260). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The fact is, the Graf Spee had been savaging British shipping in the South Atlantic and in the Indian Ocean for weeks. Merchant ships had been sunk, cargo looted, and crew taken prisoner. The British Admiralty tracked these activities and figured where the ship would go next. Three British cruisers set out to intercept, and, in a near repeat from WWI, there was a fierce gun duel near the Falklands. It was a nearly even exchange, but the German ship had to limp into Montevideo for repairs. There the Brits bottled it up, faking their own strength through a fake telegram ordering up fuel for ships they did not have. Captain Langsdorff scuttled his ship in the harbor and shot himself.

The Nazis have the power they long craved, and now they have the war as an opportunity to swing the ax.

Berlin, December 21

Hitler and Ribbentrop have wired their Christmas greetings to Comrade Josef Stalin. How ludicrous. Wires Hitler: “Best wishes for your personal well-being as well as for the prosperous future of the peoples of the friendly Soviet Union.”15 The Russians are not going so fast in Finland after a month of fighting. I recall what the counsellor of the Soviet Embassy told me here a few days before the fighting began. “It will be all over in three days,” he boasted.

Eleven admitted executions here in the last two days. About half for espionage and the rest for “damaging the interests of the people in war-time”—the sentences in all but one case being passed by the “People’s Court” whose proceedings are never published. One of the eleven was sentenced by the court to fifteen years’ imprisonment for “damaging the people’s interests,” but Himmler wasn’t satisfied with the sentence, so he simply had the poor fellow shot. “Shot while offering resistance to state authority,” Himmler says. And Heinrich Himmler is such a mild little fellow when you talk to him, reminding you of a country school-teacher, which he once was—pince-nez and all. Freud, I believe, has told us why the mild little fellows or those with a trace of effeminacy in them, like Hitler, can be so cruel at times. I guess I would prefer my cruelty from great thundering hulks like Göring.

Many long prison sentences being meted out to Germans who listen to foreign radio stations, and yet many continue to listen to them. So many, in fact, that an official warning was issued today. It concluded: “No mercy will be shown the idiotic criminals who listen to the lies of the enemy.” I passed an afternoon with a German family the other day, mother, two daughters, one son. They were a little apprehensive when they turned on the six p.m. BBC news. The mother said that besides the porter, who is the official Nazi spy for the apartment house, they had just learned that a Jewish tenant in return for receiving clothing ration cards (Jews get food cards, but no clothing cards) had turned informer for the house, and they had to be very careful. They played the radio so low I could hardly catch the news, and one of the daughters kept watch by the front door.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 261-263). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

What memories Shirer must have had, wading in the midst of that flock of characters who would later become etched in history.

Berlin, December 24-5, three a.m.

Lord Haw-Haw, the British traitor who goes here by the name of Froehlich, but whose real name is William Joyce and whose voice millions of English listen to on the radio every night, and his English wife were at the party, but I avoided them. Later Jack Trevor, an English actor, who has also turned traitor and broadcasts German propaganda to England, came in, much in his cups. I cannot stomach him either.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 264). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Joyce became a fixture of the war with Germany. He ridiculed, and the Brits scoffed and laughed. At the conclusion he was scraped up with the refuse of the Allied victory, and the Brits executed him.

Shirer and other correspondents were given the opportunity to review some of the Kriegsmarine’s newest additions.

Berlin, December 27

A little way down the river, returning to our car, I noticed the 35,000-ton battleship Bismarck. It looked very near completion. Great secrecy surrounded this and its sister ship—the only two 35,000-ton battleships laid down by the German navy.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 266). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

In 18 months the Bismark would be at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean, having sunk only the British battleship Hood in its initial foray into the Atlantic Ocean.

The first year of World War II draws to a close, and harsh reality sets in.


Berlin, December 31

A flood of New Year’s proclamations from all and sundry—Hitler, Göring, Himmler, etc. Hitler holds out hope of victory to the people in 1940. Say he: “United within the country, economically prepared and militarily armed to the highest degree, we enter this most decisive year in German history…. May the year 1940 bring the decision. It will be, whatever happens, our victory.” He goes to extreme lengths to justify his war, and if the German people were not so poisoned by propaganda and suppression of the slightest factual news from abroad, they would laugh. He says the “Jewish reactionary warmongers in the capitalistic democracies” started the war! Words have no more meaning for the man nor, I fear, for his people. He says: “The German people did not want this war.” (True.) “I tried up to the last minute to keep peace with England.” (False.) “But the Jewish and reactionary warmongers waited for this minute to carry out their plans to destroy Germany.” (False.)

Curious how the Germans, who should know better by this time, try to scare the English by blustering threats. Göring has a piece in tomorrow’s V.B.: “Until now German airplanes have been content to keep a sharp eye on England’s war measures. But it needs only the word of the Führer to carry over there, instead of the present light load of cameras, the destructive load of bombs. No country in the world is so open to air attack as the British Isles…. When the German air force really gets started, it will make an attack such as world history has never seen.”

Cold, and a coal shortage. The office boy said tonight we were out of coal at the office and that there was no more coal to be had.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 270-271). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The following year the war will get on in earnest with Germany going gun-to-gun with France and Great Britain. And the illusion of German invincibility will be demolished with the Battle of Britain.

Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing a review of William Shirer’s Berlin Diary

William Shirer’s book recounts his experiences and observations from close up during the years prior to the war and concluding when Adolf Hitler’s government expelled him in 1940. Prior installments recount the story, using extensive excerpts from the book. In November 1939 the war in Poland is past history, and the sitzkrieg takes on the character of a guillotine blade about to fall. Nazi atrocities emerge from behind the curtain, and the stage is set for four more years of a world in anguish.

Hitler has made a pact with the Devil. This calls for some changes.

Berlin, November 2

The anti-Comintern is dead. I learn the Nazi anti-Comintern museum, which used to show us the horrors of Bolshevism here, has quietly closed down. This week the Nazi editor of the Contra-Komintern wrote his subscribers apologizing for the non-appearance of the magazine in September and explaining that it would be coming out under a new name. He intimated that the editors had ascertained that Germany’s real enemies after all were not Bolsheviks, but Jews. “Behind all the enemies of Germany’s ascendancy,” he writes, “stand those who demand our encirclement—the oldest enemies of the German people and of all healthy, rising nations—the Jews.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 242). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The Anti-Comintern Pact was a pact involving Germany and Japan to oppose the spread of communism. Hitler rose to power with his violent opposition to communism. Communists in Germany were rounded up and dispensed with routinely under his rule. However, with the revelation of the pact with the Soviet Union, it became necessary to make clear things had been different all the while. Read 1984.

Next Shirer describe’s Hitler’s routine.

Berlin, November 5

CBS wants me to broadcast a picture of Hitler at work during war-time. I’ve been inquiring around among my spies. They say: He rises early, eats his first breakfast at seven a.m. This consists usually of either a glass of milk or fruit-juice and two or three rolls, on which he spreads marmalade liberally. Like most Germans, he eats a second breakfast, this one at nine a.m. It’s like the first except that he also eats a little fruit. He begins his working day by wading into state papers (a job he detests, since he hates detail work) and discussing the day’s program with his adjutants, chiefly S.A. Leader Wilhelm Brückner, and especially with his deputy, Rudolf Hess, who was once his private secretary and is one of the few men he trusts with his innermost thoughts. During the forenoon he usually receives the chiefs of the three armed services, listens to their reports and dictates decisions. With Göring he talks about not only air-force matters but general economic problems, or rather results, since he’s not interested in details or even theories on this subject.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 242-243). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Remind you of somebody you know? More of interest, the same day.

He likes American films and many never publicly exhibited in Germany are shown him. A few years ago he insisted on having It Happened One Night run several times.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 244). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

An interesting bit of prophecy:

Berlin, November 7

The Queen of the Netherlands and the King of the Belgians have offered to mediate peace. Small hope. The offer coolly received here. The Dutch and Belgians still decline to have staff talks together. But their historic neutrality, their refusal to ally themselves with one side or the other, may land them in the soup unless they junk it. Much talk here about the Germans pushing through Holland. This would not only turn the Maginot Line, but give the Germans air bases a hundred miles from the English coast.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 245). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Later, an interview with Göring .

“Are you going to begin bombing enemy ports?”

“We’re humane.”

We couldn’t suppress our laughter at this, whereupon Göring retorted: “You shouldn’t laugh. I’m serious. I am humane.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 246). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The reality of the war becomes manifest.

Berlin, November 8

Hitler told the people to make up their minds to a long war and disclosed that on the Sunday two months ago when Britain and France came into the war, he ordered Göring to prepare for five years of conflict.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 246). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

One of several attempts on Hitler’s life.

Berlin, November 9

Twelve minutes after Hitler and all the big party leaders left the Bürgerbräu Keller in Munich last night, at nine minutes after nine o’clock, a bomb explosion wrecked the hall, killed seven, wounded sixty-three. The bomb had been placed in a pillar directly behind the rostrum from which Hitler had been speaking. Had he remained twelve minutes and one second longer he surely would have been killed. The spot on which he stood was covered with six feet of debris.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 246-247). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

One keeps being reminded of, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

Berlin, November 18

Yesterday nine young Czech students at the University of Prague were lined up before a German firing squad and executed. At the press conference this noon we asked the authorities why and they replied that the students had staged anti-German demonstrations in Prague on October 23 and November 15. “There can be no joking in war-time,” said our spokesman, a little bored by our question. Later in the day the Germans admitted that three more Czechs, two of them policemen, were shot for “attacking a German.” I would bet my shirt that in the twenty years that three million Sudeten Germans lived under Czech rule not a single one of them was ever executed for taking part in any kind of demonstration.

Here in Germany three youths were executed yesterday for “treason.” And two youngsters aged nineteen were sentenced to death in Augsburg today for having committed a theft in the home of a soldier.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 249). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The sitzkrieg wears on. Meanwhile a signal Nazi policy becomes clear.

Berlin, November 19

For almost two months now there has been no military action on land, sea, or in the air. From talks with German military people, however, I’m convinced it would be a mistake to think that Germany will accept the Allied challenge to fight this war largely on the economic front. That is just the kind of war in which the Reich would be at a disadvantage. And that’s one of the reasons why most people here expect military action very soon now.

Frank, the Governor-General of occupied Poland, today decreed that the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw henceforth must be shut off from the rest of the capital by barricades and placed under sharp police control. He says the Jews are “carriers of diseases diseases and germs.” An American friend back from Warsaw tonight tells me the Nazi policy is simply to exterminate the Polish Jews. They are being herded into eastern Poland and forced to live in unheated shacks and robbed of any opportunity of earning bread and butter. Several thousand Jews from the Reich have also been sent to eastern Poland to die, he says.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 250). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Toward the end of November Shirer departed Berlin for another stay in Geneva. The narrative will continue in December.

Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing a review of William Shirer’s Berlin Diary

William Shirer’s book recounts his experiences and observations from close up during the years prior to the war and concluding when Adolf Hitler’s government expelled him in 1940. Prior installments recount the story, using extensive excerpts from the book. In the month of October 1939 the war comes to full bloom.

The war comes to Berlin, sort of, and Britain finds, to its surprise, it really is in the war. The Nazis become unconstrained, bringing their true character to bear.

BERLIN, October 2

Just heard the BBC announce that English planes had flown over Berlin last night. A surprise to us here. No air-raid alarm. No sound of planes. But they’re all lying these days. The Germans say they’ve sunk the Ark Royal, for instance.

The family of Eleanor K., a naturalized American girl of German parentage who has been very helpful to me here for years, has been after me since yesterday to do something about locating her. She left Amsterdam for Berlin a few days ago, but failed to arrive. I went over to the consulate today and got G. to put through a blitz call to the German secret police at the Dutch border. Answer: Eleanor is under arrest there. How shall I explain that to her family?

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 228-229). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

A German submarine really did sink the British carrier Royal Oak at anchor at Scapa Flow, but on 14 October. Meanwhile, it’s time for everybody to choose up sides. Countries caught up in the typhoon of another European war are coming under Soviet domination, not to see the light of day again for 50 years.

BERLIN, October 5

Reichstag tomorrow. Hitler is expected to offer peace terms. No one expects them to be very generous. He himself flew to Warsaw today to hold a triumphant review of his troops. He made a speech to his soldiers, the speech of a conquering Cæsar. The people here certainly want peace. The government may want it for the moment. Will Britain and France make it now, and then maybe next year have to mobilize again? Hitler has won the war in Poland and lost the peace there—to Russia. The Soviets, without a fight, get nearly half of Poland and a stranglehold on the Baltic states and now block Germany from its two main goals in the east, Ukrainian wheat and Rumanian oil. Hitler is hastily withdrawing all Germans from the Baltic states, where most of them have been settled for centuries. Estonia has capitulated to Moscow and agreed to the Soviets’ building an air and naval base on its soil. The foreign ministers of Latvia and Lithuania are shuttling back and forth between their capitals and Moscow trying to save the pieces. And once the Soviets get a wedge in these Baltic states, how soon will they go Bolshevik? Soon. Soon.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 230-231). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg, Holland, Belgium, and Switzerland elect to sit this one out. Only Switzerland and Sweden will survive intact. Spain, reeling from a devastating civil war remains neutral against great pressure from Hitler. Spain’s neutrality will eventually spell doom to Hitler’s ambitions. Italy will throw in it’s lot with Hitler the following year, Mussolini being Hitler’s inspiration. Portugal will remain neutral and will have little effect on the course of history. See the movie Casablanca, which prophetically characterizes Portugal’s place in the war.

It worked before. Maybe it will work again. He may as well give it a try. Hitler pitches peace to his enemies. It’s déjà vu all over again.

BERLIN, October 6

Hitler delivered his much advertised “peace proposals” in the Reichstag at noon today. I went over and watched the show, my nth. He delivered his “peace proposals,” and they were almost identical with those I’ve heard him offer from the same rostrum after every conquest he has made since the march into the Rhineland in 1936. These must have been about the fifth. And though they were the fifth at least, and just like the others, and just as sincerely spoken, most Germans I’ve talked to since seem aghast if you suggest that perhaps the outside world will put no more trust in them than they have learned by bitter experience to put in the others.

Hitler offered peace in the west if Britain and France stay out of Germany’s Lebensraum in eastern Europe. The future of Poland he left in doubt, though he said Poland would never again endanger (!) German interests. In other words, a slave Poland, similar to the present slave Bohemia.

I doubt very much if England and France will listen to these “proposals” for five minutes, though some of my colleagues think so on the ground that, now that Russia has come up against Germany on a long front and this past week has been busy establishing herself in the Baltic states, it would be smart of London and Paris to conclude peace and sit back until Germany and Russia clash in eastern Europe. Pertinax wrote a few months ago that the German problem would never be settled until Germany had a barrier on the East that it knew it could not break. Then it would stop being expansive, stop disturbing the rest of Europe, and turn its undoubted talents and energy to more peaceful pursuits. Russia might provide that barrier. At any rate Russia is the winner in this war so far and Hitler is entirely dependent upon the good graces of Stalin, who undoubtedly has no good graces for anyone but himself and Russia.

Hitler was calmer today than usual. There was much joviality but little enthusiasm among the rubber-stamp Reichstag deputies except when he boasted of German strength. Such a boast sets any German on fire. The members of the Cabinet—up on the stage where the opera singers used to perform—stood about before the session chatting easily, Ribbentrop with Admiral Raeder, Dr. Goebbels with von Neurath, etc. Most of the deputies I talked to afterwards took for granted that peace was assured. It was a lovely fall day, cold and sunny, which seemed to contribute to everybody’s good feelings. As I walked over to the Reichstag (held as usual in the Kroll Opera) through the Tiergarten I noticed batteries of anti-aircraft everywhere.

The early edition of tomorrow morning’s Völkische Beobachter, Hitler’s own sabre-rattler among the journals, seems transformed into a dove of peace. Its flaming headlines: “GERMANY’S WILL FOR PEACE—NO WAR AIMS AGAINST FRANCE AND ENGLAND—NO MORE REVISION CLAIMS EXCEPT COLONIES—REDUCTION OF ARMAMENTS—CO-OPERATION WITH ALL NATIONS OF EUROPE—PROPOSAL FOR A CONFERENCE.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 231-233). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

What could have been a routine foreign assignment was now looking to be a stretch of living dangerously. After noting multiple death notices in the newspaper, Shirer makes arrangements for the long haul.

BERLIN, October 8

I leave tomorrow for Geneva to recover my senses and fetch some winter clothing, as the weather has turned cold. I did not bring any winter things when I left Geneva exactly two months ago. I did not know. Two months! What an age it seems. 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.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 233). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer observes the sitzkrieg up close.

BERLIN, October 10

Coming up the Rhine from Karlsruhe to Basel this morning, we skirted the French frontier for a hundred miles. No sign of war and the train crew told me not a shot had been fired on this front since the war began. Where the train ran along the Rhine, we could see the French bunkers and at many places great mats behind which the French were building fortifications. Identical picture on the German side. The troops seemed to be observing an armistice. They went about their business in full sight and range of each other. For that matter, one blast from a French “75” could have liquidated our train. The Germans were hauling up guns and supplies on the railroad line, but the French did not disturb them.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 234). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

How different things are in neutral Switzerland.

Geneva, October 12

A curious sensation to see the Swiss papers reporting both sides of the war. If you had that in the dictatorships, maybe the Cæsars couldn’t go to war so easily. Much fun romping around with Eileen and Tess. Coming down with a cold. No heat in the houses here yet.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 235). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Switzerland during the war.

Berlin, October 15

Back again, depressed, the week in Switzerland over in no time. Of my three and a half days in Geneva, two spent down with a cold and fever and one preparing a broadcast which never got through because of atmospherics. But it was grand just the same. Tess came along as far as Neuchâtel in the train and it was sad parting in the little station above the lake there. Swiss train full of soldiers. The country has one tenth of its population under arms; more than any other country in the world. It’s not their war. But they’re ready to fight to defend their way of life. I asked a fat businessman in my compartment whether he wouldn’t prefer peace at any price (business is ruined in a Switzerland completely surrounded by belligerents and with every able-bodied man in the army) so that he could make money again.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 235). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

That same day.

At Anhalter station I bought the morning papers. Big news. “GERMAN SUB SINKS BRITISH BATTLESHIP ‘ROYAL OAK’!” British Admiralty admits it. That’s a blow. Wonder how it was done. And where?

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 236). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Still later.

My room waiter tells me there was much loud anti-aircraft fire heard in Berlin last night, the first since the war began. Propaganda Ministry explains tonight a German plane got lost over the city and was shot down.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 236). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Censorship becomes evident as the Nazis block NBC and CBS transmissions.

Berlin, October 19

Nothing much at all has happened, it says, and I’m inclined to believe it, though Paris has swamped America for weeks with wild tales of a great French offensive against the Westwall. High Command says German losses up to October 17 in the west have been 196 killed, 114 missing, 356 wounded. Which tends to prove how local the action there has been. I’m almost convinced that the German army tells the truth in regard to its actions. The navy exaggerates, the air force simply lies.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 238). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

During the previous war the Turks sided with Germany. Now there is a turnabout that will prove fortunate for the western powers.

Berlin, October 21

The Wilhelmstrasse furious at the Turks for signing a mutual-assistance pact with the British day before yesterday. Papen jerked back here hurriedly and was called before the master, my spies tell me, for a dressing-down. It’s the first diplomatic blow the Germans have taken in a long time. They don’t like blows.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 238). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Even when things are going well for the Nazis, their brutishness shows through. How will they be in coming years as things begin to unravel for them?

Berlin, October 24

The German people who have been hoping for peace until the bitter end were finally told tonight by Ribbentrop in a speech at Danzig that the war will now have to be fought to a finish. I suppose every government that has ever gone to war has tried to convince its people of three things: (1) that right is on its side; (2) that it is fighting purely in defence of the nation; (3) that it is sure to win. The Nazis are certainly trying to pound these three points into the skins of the people. Modern propaganda technique, especially the radio, certainly helps them. Three youths in Hanover who snatched a lady’s handbag in the black-out have been sentenced to death.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 239). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The reality of a Germany cut off from the rest of the world becomes manifest just weeks in.

Berlin, October 28

I hear in business circles that severe rationing of clothing will begin next month. The truth is that, having no cotton and almost no wool, the German people must get along with what clothing they have until the end of the war.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 239). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Nazi Germany settles into its storied wartime routine, where brutality and arbitrary executions are aimed at keeping the population focused.

Berlin, October 31

The secret police announced that two men were shot for “resisting arrest” yesterday. One of them, it is stated, was trying to induce some German workers to lay down their tools in an important armament factory. Himmler now has power to shoot anyone he likes without trial.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 241). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The following installment will cover November 1939, with critical developments in the war.

Your Friend The Handgun

Number 210 of a Series

Four years of these. Who would imagine? The value of a handgun to the protection of your family is without dispute:

Man shot wife three times as she was heading to work, police say

SAN ANTONIO – A gunman who shot at his wife three times Thursday morning remains on the run. San Antonio police chief William McManus said the woman was on her way to work when the man, identified as 52-year-old Javier De Hoyos, drove up beside her and fired shots in 3500 block of S. Gen. McMullen Drive.

Thanks, Wayne, for helping us keep our families safe. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Your Friend The Handgun

Number 209 of a Series

0Observing the series number posted above, it appears I have been doing this column for four years. Here is a recent story, one with a religious theme:

Alabama pastor shot wife at church, killed himself after she preached powerful message, friends say

The Mobile Police Department said in a statement that at approximately 11:23 p.m. on Friday, they responded to the church on Halls Mill Road after receiving a report about a person being shot. When they got there, they saw a woman on the ground who had been shot.

The suspect involved reportedly fled the scene as police arrived. He was pursued by authorities and subsequently returned to the church. As officers approached his vehicle, however, the suspect shot himself. His car then crashed into the church. He was pronounced dead at the scene while his wife was taken to a local hospital where she is recovering.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, often requiring some help from the Second Amendment. If you ever wondered what gun Jesus would use, you missed your chance to ask.

Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing a review of William Shirer’s Berlin Diary

William Shirer’s book recounts his experiences and observations from close up during the years prior to the war and concluding when Adolf Hitler’s government expelled him in 1940. Prior installments recount the story, using extensive excerpts from the book. The previous installment tells of the rapidly developing story of the invasion of Poland and the German nation’s reaction to it.

German people start to come to grips with the fact this is going to be a real war.

BERLIN, September 16

An American woman I know bought a tin of sardines today. The grocer insisted on opening the can in the shop. Reason: you can’t hoard tinned food if your grocer opens it first.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 211). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

As I post this it is March 2020. Eighty years on we are appreciating what was going on in German society then. And the chickens came home to roost. The Soviets executed their side of the secret protocol.

BERLIN, September 17

At six o’clock this morning, Moscow time, the Red army began an invasion of Poland. Russia of course had a non-aggression pact with Poland. What ages ago it seems now—though it really wasn’t ages ago—that I sat in Geneva and other capitals and heard the Soviet statesmen talk about common fronts against the aggressor. Now Soviet Russia stabs Poland in the back, and the Red army joins the Nazi army in overrunning Poland. All this of course is heartily welcomed in Berlin this morning.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 211-212). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Poland was doomed. From this point forward nothing done from the western Allies was of any help to the Poles. They were to remain under the thumb of foreign or dictatorial powers for another 50 years.

The following day Shirer journeyed to the front to observe the story at close hand.

Zoppot, near Danzig, September 18

Drove all day long from Berlin through Pomerania and the Corridor to here. The roads full of motorized columns of German troops returning from Poland. In the woods in the Corridor the sickening sweet smell of dead horses and the sweeter smell of dead men. Here, the Germans say, a whole division of Polish cavalry charged against hundreds of German tanks and was annihilated. On the pier of this summer resort where just five weeks ago John [Gunther] and I sat far into the peaceful night arguing whether the guns would go off or not in Europe, we watched tonight the battle raging around Gdynia. Far off across the sea you could see the sky light up when the big guns went off.

Dr. Boehmer, press chief of the Propaganda Ministry in charge of this trip, insisted that I share a double room in the hotel here with Phillip Johnson, an American fascist who says he represents Father Coughlin’s Social Justice. None of us can stand the fellow and suspect he is spying on us for the Nazis. For the last hour in our room here he has been posing as anti-Nazi and trying to pump me for my attitude. I have given him no more than a few bored grunts.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 212-213). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

He recounts the efficiency of the revitalized German military.

DANZIG, September 19–20, two thirty a.m.

We watched the battle until noon. In that time the Germans must have advanced about a quarter of a mile. Their infantry, their tanks, their artillery, their signal corps, all seemed to work as a precise machine.

As we prepared to go, Joe [Barnes] turned to me. “Tragic and grotesque,” he said. It was, all right. The unequal battle, the dazed civilians in the streets below—tragic indeed. And grotesque the spectacle of us, with little danger to ourselves, standing there watching the killing as though it were a football game and we nicely placed in the grand-stand.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 215). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

In the afternoon we drove to the Danzig Guild Hall, a Gothic building of great beauty, to hear Hitler make his first speech since his Reichstag address of September 1 started off the war. I had a seat on the aisle, and as he strode past me to the rostrum I thought he looked more imperious than I had ever seen him. Also he was about as angry during his speech as I’ve ever seen him.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 216). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Same day—Shirer tells of his close encounters with the Nazi elite.

When Hitler brushed past me going down the aisle, he was followed by Himmler, Brückner, Keitel, and several others, all in dusty field-grey. Most of them were unshaven and I must say they looked like a pack of Chicago gangsters. Himmler, who is responsible for Hitler’s protection, kept shoving people back in the aisle, muttering at them. The army, I hear, would like to get rid of him, but fear to do so. The black-out was called off here tonight. It was good to see the lights again.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 216-217). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The foreign press corps got a ride back to Berlin in one of Hitler’s 32 passenger planes, and Shirer reports on the German press, long since a propaganda organ of the party.

BERLIN, September 20

Tonight the press talks openly of peace. Says the Frankfurter Zeitung: “Why should England and France waste their blood against our Westwall? Since the Polish state has ceased to exist, the treaties of alliance with it have no more sense.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 217). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Hitler’s long range plan was to attack the Soviet Union, but at this stage in the game the plan remained a mystery. This leaves Shirer and others wondering, “What is Hitler thinking?”

BERLIN, September 21

Great hopes here that Russia will help Germany to survive the blockade. First, I can’t understand Hitler’s putting himself in a position where his very existence depends upon the good graces of Stalin. Second, I can’t understand the Soviets pulling Nazi Germany’s chestnuts out of the fire.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 220). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The facts, now known, are that Stalin knew in 1939 he was vulnerable to a revitalized German military, having previously purged his own military of its leadership. He figured it would take several years before the Soviet’s would be able to hold off the new Germany, and his deal with Hitler was an arrangement for him to gain some time. Right up until the day German troops rolled over the Soviet frontier Stalin continued to supply Germany with the materials it needed to prosecute its war against the West.

Germany had friends in the West, one of them not being President Roosevelt. The United States President saw the danger of a resurgent German and was eager for America to tip the scales. Notable Americans are to this day in disfavor due to their displaced loyalties.

BERLIN, September 22

The D.A.Z., commenting on Roosevelt’s message asking for the repeal of the neutrality law, says tonight: “America is not Roosevelt, and Roosevelt must reckon with the American people.” Yesterday the B.Z. saw some hope in what it called the “Front of Reason” in America. In that front it put Senators Borah and Clark, Colonel Lindbergh, and Father Coughlin!

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 220). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

D.A.Z. = Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German newspaper. B.Z. = Börsen-Zeitung, the main German newspaper devoted to financial news. From Wikipedia:

Charles Edward Coughlin (/ˈkɒɡlɪn/ KOG-lin; October 25, 1891 – October 27, 1979) was a Canadian-American Roman Catholic priest based in the United States near Detroit. He was the founding priest of the National Shrine of the Little Flower church. Commonly known as Father Coughlin, he was one of the first political leaders to use radio to reach a mass audience: during the 1930s, an estimated 30 million listeners tuned to his weekly broadcasts. He was forced off the air in 1939 because of his pro-fascist and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Charles Lindbergh became an early 20th century American hero with his solo flight from Long Island to Paris in 1927, and the tragic kidnapping and killing of his infant son brought him much sympathy a few years later. Senator William Borah of Idaho was a noted isolationist until his death in 1940. Senator Bennett Champ Clark from Missouri is noted for being a “rabid isolationist.”

Shirer recounts the death of General von Fritsch, one of those who opposed Hitler from the beginning. It is worth reading about Werner von Fritsch’s life.

BERLIN, September 26

They buried General von Fritsch here this morning. It rained, it was cold and dark—one of the dreariest days I can remember in Berlin. Hitler did not show up, nor Ribbentrop, nor Himmler, though they all returned to Berlin from the front this afternoon. The official death notices in the papers omitted the usual “Died for Führer” and said only: “Died for the Fatherland.” Yesterday after Goebbels had finished fuming, some of us correspondents gathered in the street outside and concluded that Fritsch was either shot by order of Himmler, his mortal enemy, or was so disgusted with life and the state to which Hitler had led Germany (disgusted perhaps too at the senseless slaughter by German bombs and shells of the women and children in Warsaw?) that he deliberately sought to be killed; that is, committed suicide. What, we asked, was a general of his rank doing in the front line outside of Warsaw, where the snipers have been picking off German troops at an alarming rate? Actually, I hear, he was killed while advancing with a small detachment of scouts up a street in a suburb across the Vistula from the capital. A curious thing for Germany’s greatest modern military figure to be doing.

Hitler showed a typical smallness in declining to attend the funeral. He cannot forgive a man who has crossed him, even in death. He could not forgive von Kahr, who suppressed his beer-house Putsch in 1923, and so had him shot in the 1934 purge.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 222-223). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Same day—Americans who served with gallantry in those days.

LATER.—Seven members of the American consulate staff in Warsaw arrived here tonight and we had drinks in the Adlon bar. They told a terrible tale of the bombardment of the city and the slaughter of the civilian population. Some of them seemed still shell-shocked. They got out during a temporary truce between the Germans and the Poles. One German shell scored a direct hit on the consulate, but fortunately the staff had taken refuge in the cellars of the Embassy.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 223-224). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer reports on the days news and his feelings at being in the eye of a storm.

BERLIN, September 27

In the first battle between a naval fleet and airplanes (for years the admirals and air commanders have fought out on paper the question whether a fleet is vulnerable to air attack) the Germans today claim to have destroyed a British aircraft-carrier and damaged a battleship without losing a single plane.

I went to the State Opera tonight before my broadcast, George Kidd of U.P. suggesting it would be good for our nerves. It was the opening night of the season and the piece an old favourite, Weber’s Freischütz. I was a little surprised at the state of my nerves. I could not sit through it. I could not stand the sight of all the satisfied burghers, men and women, many of them in evening dress, and even the music didn’t sound right. Amusing only was a special sheet of paper in the program instructing what to do in case of an air-raid alarm. Since there is no cellar in the Opera, a map showed me how to get to my cellar, which was Number One Keller. The alarm, the instructions said, would be announced from the stage. I was then to keep calm, call for my hat and coat at the Garderobe, and proceed to the cellar. At the all-clear I was to return to the Opera, check my hat and coat, and the opera would go on from where it left off. There was no alarm.

Ribbentrop is in Moscow and we wonder what he’s up to.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 224-225). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Joachim von Ribbentrop was a German wine merchant who weaseled his way into the Nazi hierarchy, becoming the German foreign minister during the run-up to the war. He survived the war and was executed by the Allies in October 1946. Winston Churchill had this to say about him, recounting his last visit to England.

However, Herr von Ribbentrop and his wife did not seem at all conscious of this atmosphere. On the contrary, they tarried for nearly half an hour engaging their host and hostess in voluble conversation. At one moment I came in contact with Frau von Ribbentrop, and in a valedictory vein I said, “I hope England and Germany will preserve their friendship.” “Be careful you don’t spoil it,” was her graceful rejoinder. I am sure they both knew perfectly well what had happened, but thought it was a good manœuvre to keep the Prime Minister away from his work and the telephone. At length Mr. Chamberlain said to the Ambassador, “I am sorry I have to go now to attend to urgent business,” and without more ado he left the room. The Ribbentrops lingered on, so that most of us made our excuses and our way home. Eventually I suppose they left. This was the last time I saw Herr von Ribbentrop before he was hanged.

Churchill, Winston. The Gathering Storm: The Second World War, Volume 1 (Winston Churchill World War II Collection) . RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

September closed out with talk of a hopeful peace. However, “hopeful” is the only operative word. England and France had finished with Hitler’s groundless promises, and they would persist. France would be defeated, and England would prevail in the Battle of Britain the following year. Churchill’s unwillingness to accede to Hitler’s overtures would eventually spell the end of the Third Reich.

BERLIN, September 30

The talk of peace dominates all else here today. The Germans are sure of it, and one of the secretaries of the Soviet Embassy told me today Moscow was too. He said London and Paris would jump at the chance for peace now. The Völkische Beobachter observes today: “All Europe awaits the word of peace from London.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 228). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Future installments will continue with the development of World War 2 during the remainder of 1939 and into 1940. Keep reading.

Abusing Science

Number 63 of a series

Discovery Institute to the rescue again. Whenever I need some nonsense about science they are my reliable source. This is from Evolution News, their well-maintained blog site.

Neo-Darwinism and the Big Bang of Man’s Origin

Lönnig wants to invoke the late Phillip Johnson, former law professor at UC Berkeley. Johnson’s book Darwin on Trial reignited interest in the Intelligent Design concept. Previous creationists of the 20th century laid the creation argument totally upon a literal interpretation of the Bible. When courts threw out their arguments for teaching creationism in public schools, creationists saw Intelligent Design as a wedge for driving their entry into government-supported religious proselytizing. In fact, Johnson is credited as principal author of the so-called Wedge Document.

The Wedge Strategy is a creationist political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Institute, the hub of the pseudoscientific intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Institute manifesto known as the Wedge Document. Its goal is to change American culture by shaping public policy to reflect politically conservative fundamentalist evangelical Protestant values. The wedge metaphor is attributed to Phillip E. Johnson and depicts a metal wedge splitting a log.

Lönnig is recycling material from December 2011, which I addressed previously. At the center is a video featuring Johnson answering some setup questions. Lönnig recaps one of Johnson’s responses:

Well, if I am out of my element then Charles Darwin must also have been out of his element because his training was in medicine and theology3 although he was, in fact, a very good scientist, self-taught, a gentlemen amateur like others of his time. Charles Lyell, the father of modern geology, was a lawyer. But you know, the thing about Darwinian evolution today is that it is a general philosophical concept that connects many disparate fields of science. So that you see, a molecular biologist [is] relying on fossil experts, paleontologists, and vice versa. And they are all relying on geneticists and each one of these groups of scientists outside their own element is just a generalist, is just a layman like anyone else. So there aren’t really any specialists in evolution. It’s a generalist’s country.

Johnson is explaining why he, as a lawyer, is as qualified to speak on matters of human evolution as was Charles Darwin, who is given credit for the science. Of course the proper response from Johnson should have been to acknowledge Darwin’s extensive field work and his chain of reasoning leading him to propose natural selection as an explanation—a theory. Johnson could also acknowledge the accumulation of fact that continues to support both the evolution of living forms while never finding evidence that refutes the theory. In the video Johnson appears to dispute the fact of evolution—that living organisms have evolved. When I first posted on this in December 2011 I noted his duplicity:

In a rambling, oblique way Johnson seems to be saying he does not believe the basic fact of evolution-that current life forms share a common ancestry.

What is so puzzling about this is that just a few months prior to the interview Johnson was saying something else.

At the SMU symposium in March 1992 I had the opportunity to find Johnson in conversation with Jon Buell. Jon Buell heads up the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, the organization that produced the Pandas and People creationist text that was central to the Kitzmiller v. Board of Education trial in 2005. The FTE was also a co-sponsor of the symposium.

I put to Johnson my two burning questions: Do you believe the Earth is billions of years old and that current life forms share a common ancestry? Johnson blinked a couple of times and stated flatly yes to both parts. Amazingly, Buell answered affirmatively, as well.

I discussed this topic again with Johnson in subsequent correspondence, and he never used the occasion to repudiate that position. Watching his response in the interview you will not get the idea that Johnson believes in common ancestry.

Readers are invited to read the Lönnig piece on Evolution News and to watch the video. The whole business is a fabulous abuse of science.

Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing a review of William Shirer’s Berlin Diary

William Shirer’s book recounts his experiences and observations from close up during the years prior to the war and concluding when Adolf Hitler’s government expelled him in 1940. Prior installments  recount the story, using extensive excerpts from the book. The prior installment tells of the rapidly developing story of the invasion of Poland and the German nation’s reaction to it. Already people were being summarily executed for lack of enthusiasm, in this case a person who refused to engage in defense work.

An announcement the German army had already entered Warsaw turned out to be a bit of fluffery.

BERLIN, September 9

No more news of the German army’s entry into Warsaw and I begin to suspect yesterday’s announcement was premature. O. W., back from the front, told me this noon that he’d seen some of the horribly mutilated bodies of Germans killed by Poles. He described also how he’d seen the Germans rounding up Polish civilians—men, women, boys—and marching them into a building for a summary court-martial and then out into the back yard against a wall, where they were disposed of by German firing squads. Our military attaché says you can do that, that that’s the way cricket is played with franc-tireurs, but I don’t like it, even if they are snipers, and I doubt from what O. W. says that the court-martial makes any great effort to distinguish actual franc-tireurs from those whose only guilt is being Poles.

Göring broadcast today—from a local munitions factory. He warned the people it might be a long war. He threatened terrible revenge if the British and French bombed Germany.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (pp. 206-207). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

For “franc-tireurs” you can read “snipers.”

He portrays life in Germany as little affected by events on the eastern front.

BERLIN, September 10

Life here is still quite normal. The operas, the theatres, the movies, all open and jammed. Tannhäuser and Madame Butterfly playing at the Opera. Goethe’s Iphigenie at the State Theatre. The Metropol, Hitler’s favourite show-house, announces a new revue Wednesday. The papers tonight say two hundred football matches were played in Germany today.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 207). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The Brits and the French wee slow to ramp up their part of the war, the truth being actual fighting was going on over a thousand miles from the nearest Allied forces.

BERLIN, September 11

For the first time today the war communiqué mentions French artillery-fire on the western front. The Protectorate government in Prague announced today that any Czechs captured fighting with the enemy would be shot as traitors.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 208). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

It is presumed Czechs who fled their country after the German takeover have joined up with Allied forces in the west. Apparently Hitler considers subjugation of Czech territory brought all ethnic Czechs into their fold, no matter where they now resided.

The reality of the situation had yet to sink in, and the government propaganda machine continued to engage in a relentless campaign to control the German mindset.

They had been to the Opera and seemed oblivious of the fact that a war was on, that German bombs and shells were falling on the women and children in Warsaw. I doubt if anything short of an awful bombing or years of semi-starvation will bring home the war to the people here.

Classic headline in the D.A.Z. tonight: “POLES BOMBARD WARSAW!” The press full of the most fantastic lies.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 208). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer spent the early weeks of the war in Berlin. He reported on news received from others. This phase of the war is historical. France and Great Britain were slow to take action for months, and this portion came to be called sitzkrieg, in contrast to blitzkrieg. It was not the lightning war. It was the sitting war.

BERLIN, September 14

D. and H. and W., who were at the front for three days this week, say that almost every other town and village in Poland they saw was either half or totally destroyed by bombs or artillery.

All of us here still baffled by the inaction of Britain and France. It is obvious from the broadcasts of Ed and Tom from London and Paris that the Allies are exaggerating their action on the western front.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 209). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Conversations with Germans, whose thoughts had been shaped by years of government propaganda, exposed contradictions.

The maid came in tonight to say how terrible war was.

“Why do the French make war on us?” she asked.

“Why do you make war on the Poles?” I said.

“Hum,” she said, a blank over her face. “But the French, they’re human beings,” she said finally.

“But the Poles, maybe they’re human beings,” I said.

“Hum,” she said, blank again.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 209). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The German populace had been conditioned to think of people to the east as non-human.

Shirer analyzes Germany’s strategic position. It was a repeat of WWI. Supplies from outside had to pass mostly through antagonistic countries. The Soviet Union was, in fact, Germany’s worst enemy. But prior to the attack on Poland the two countries had formed a secret pact. That pact was about to be invoked, and Poland was doomed.

BERLIN, September 15

I heard today on very good authority that Russia may attack Poland.

A few words on a dry subject. How does the Allied blockade affect Germany? It cuts her off from about 50 per cent of her normal imports. Chief products of which Germany is deprived are: cotton, tin, nickel, oil, and rubber. Russia might supply some cotton, but her total exports last year were only 2.5 per cent of Germany’s annual needs. On the other hand Russia could probably supply Germany all the manganese and timber she needs, and—with Rumania—enough oil for military purposes at least. Iron? Last year Germany got about 45 per cent of her iron ore from France, Morocco, or other places from which she is now cut off. But Sweden, Norway, and Luxemburg provided her with eleven million tons. These supplies are still open. All in all, Germany is certainly hard hit by losing the sources of 50 per cent of her imports. But with the possibilities open to her in Scandinavia, the Balkans, and Russia she is not hit nearly so badly as she was in 1914.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 210). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Throughout September 1939 there were daily developments. More in future posts.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a Continuing Series

Two Blondes

Two blondes were walking through the woods and they came to some tracks. The first blonde said: “These look like deer tracks.” And the other one said: “No they look like moose tracks.”

They argued and argued for a while and they were still arguing when the train hit them