US journalist and historian. A columnist and commentator for the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), from 1937 to 1941 he covered the events leading up to World War II. He remained with CBS until 1947 and worked for the Mutual Broadcasting System 1947–49. His book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich 1960 provides a graphic account of Hitler's rise to power.
Print journalist Shirer was born in Chicago, Illinois, and educated at Coe College. Intent on a career in European journalism, he worked his way across the Atlantic on a cattle boat after graduating 1925, and joined the Paris bureau of the Chicago Tribune 1926. For the next 12 years he covered events in Europe. During this period he also visited India, where he interviewed and won the confidence of Mahatma Gandhi.
World War II In 1937 Shirer was appointed CBS correspondent in Vienna, in time to report on Hitler's seizure of Austria March 1938. Moving to Geneva and later Berlin, he covered, in characteristically calm, clearly worded reports, Hitler's rapid advance into Eastern Europe, including the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the Blitzkrieg against Poland. His greatest scoop came with the signing of the Armistice in Compiègne June 1940 when, owing to an engineer's error, Shirer's report went on the air before the Führer had himself announced the event. Six months later, frustrated by Nazi censorship, he returned to the USA. From 1942 to 1948 he wrote for the Herald Tribune, returning to Germany to cover the Nürnberg trials. Later blacklisted by the right-wing senator Joe McCarthy, he left broadcasting to dedicate himself to lecturing and writing.
Books His minutely observed diary records were published 1941 as Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934–41. Later, he set them in a historical context in his monumental study of Hitlerism The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. His other works include The Sinking of the Bismarck 1962, The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Enquiry into the Fall of France in 1940 1969, Gandhi: A Memoir 1980, and The Nightmare Years: 1930–1940 1984.
Radio Reports of William L Shirer from Berlin During World War II