Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Berlin Diary?

In 1941 Knopf Publishers, NY, presented a book by William Shirer—it was titled Berlin Diary, the journal of a foreign correspondent, 1934-1941. More of you may remember Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a huge and wonderful history of this dark time in the history of the world. I read it when it first came out; I read Berlin Diary only a couple of years ago.

I was impressed by Shirer’s day-to-day record of events during those days. I’m a “journaler” and am always interested in what people record for “posterity.” Here was a man living, for better and worse, in some of the most remarkable years the modern era has known and keeping careful, often sparse record, of his observations. Comments that were more earthshaking than anyone might have guessed—at that time, now recorded with brevity:

1934 PARIS, August 2 Hindenburg died this morning. Who can be president now? What will Hitler do? PARIS, August 9 Hitler did what no one expected. He made himself both President and Chancellor. Any doubts about the loyalty of the army were done away with before the old field-marshal’s body was hardly cold. Hitler had the army swear an oath of unconditional obedience to him personally. The man is resourceful.
Well, I like what Shirer wrote in this diary, and I like the thoughtful brevity—and often sardonic nature—of his notes. I aspire to write such a journal.

I can’t resist, for example, adding the following reflection that connects with specific irony

Just a couple of days ago, I stood with friends and strangers on a non-descript parking lot and garden in the former East Berlin, on the site of the “FuhrerBunker.” No monument. No statues. No Evidence. Only a relatively small sign. The “resourceful” man who once strode across the world, seemingly invincible, wreaking havoc and atrocity wherever he walked. Gone and barely remarked. Yet, not too far away, in a vast network of monoliths—the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. We will remember the victims; we will not honor the perpetrators—so said our guide.

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