The Long Night: William L. Shir­er and the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

  • Review
By – October 31, 2011

Decades after its pub­li­ca­tion, Shirer’s mas­ter­work, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, remains the gold stan­dard in Holo­caust research, and now Steve Wick, an award-win­ning jour­nal­ist, has dug deeply into its cre­ation in this thought-pro­vok­ing and acces­si­ble expo­si­tion about the man, the times in which he worked, and the book itself. 

Wick did much of his volu­mi­nous research at the William L. Shir­er Col­lec­tion at the library at Coe Col­lege in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, sift­ing through Shirer’s let­ters, jour­nals, cables, telegrams, and mem­oirs, mate­r­i­al that enabled Wick to deduce Shirer’s moods and thoughts, his hopes and fears dur­ing the years between 1925 and 1940, when he lived and worked in Europe. 

Wick writes with wit and author­i­ty about how hor­ri­fied Shir­er felt stand­ing beside Hitler and hear­ing his threats and attend­ing par­ties thrown by high-rank­ing Nazis for for­eign cor­re­spon­dents. Yet he points out that Shir­er and the news peo­ple he worked with, along with even the high­est-rank­ing offi­cials in gov­ern­ment, were unable to pre­dict that by the mid­dle of 1941 the Ger­mans would have begun mur­der­ing Jews by the hun­dreds of thou­sands. Few for­eign cor­re­spon­dents, Shir­er includ­ed, wrote much about the Nazi efforts against the Jews. Still, his ded­i­ca­tion to uncov­er­ing the truth and his man­ner of report­ing per­ma­nent­ly changed the face of for­eign cor­re­spon­dence and sig­nif­i­cant­ly shaped the way in which Amer­i­cans back home expe­ri­enced the war. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index, notes.

Lin­da F. Burghardt is a New York-based jour­nal­ist and author who has con­tributed com­men­tary, break­ing news, and fea­tures to major news­pa­pers across the U.S., in addi­tion to hav­ing three non-fic­tion books pub­lished. She writes fre­quent­ly on Jew­ish top­ics and is now serv­ing as Schol­ar-in-Res­i­dence at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al & Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau County.

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