by WILLIAM L. SHIRER
In 1941 Mr. Shirer published his uncensored chronicle, Berlin Diary, and in 1945 he went back to Berlin to dig among the ruins and to search through the captured German documents.
This is the third installment from Mr. Shirer’s forthcoming book. End of a Berlin Diary. In the earlier excerpts he quoted Ribbentrop’s amazing letter to Churchill; he described Hitler’s marriage and suicide as traced by Army Intelligence; he quoted Hitler’s will and political testament. He translated in full Thomas Mann’s memorable broadcast to Germany explaining his decision to remain in America; he showed how much of German industry has remained virtually intact despite the bombing, and finally he quoted the “Road to War" address which Hitler delivered in secret to his top military leaders in November, 1937. — THE EDITOR
Berlin, Wednesday, November 14 (continued). — On May 23, 1939, Hitler burns his bridges. The minutes of the Führer’s conference with his top generals and admirals show that peace is doomed. Further success cannot be obtained, he says, “without the shedding of blood.” Good, it will be shed against Poland “at the first suitable opportunity.”Danzig has nothing to do with the war at all. Germany needs living space in the East. While getting it, the Reich will settle with the West as well. England is the real enemy of Germany there. She must be forced to her knees.
“If there were an alliance of France, England, and Russia against Germany, Italy, and Japan,” Hitler declares, “I would be constrained to attack England and France with a few annihilating blows.” He “doubts the possibility of a peaceful settlement with England. We must prepare ourselves for the conflict. England sees in our development the foundation of a hegemony which would weaken England. England is therefore our enemy, and the conflict with England will be a life-anddeath struggle. What will this struggle be like? . . .
“The Dutch and Belgian air bases must be occupied by armed force. Declarations of neutrality must be ignored. If England and France intend the war between Germany and Poland to lead to a conflict, they will support Holland and Belgium in their neutrality and make them build fortifications, in order finally to force them to coöperate.
“Albeit under protest, Belgium and Holland will yield to pressure.
“Therefore, if England intends to intervene in the Polish war, we must occupy Holland with lightning speed. We must aim at securing a new defense line on Dutch soil up to the Zuider Zee.
“The war with England and France will be a life-and-death struggle.
“The idea that we can got off cheaply is dangerous; there is no such possibility. We must burn our boats, and it is no longer a question of justice or injustice, but of life or death for eighty million human beings.”
The whole plan for the war in the West is outlined by the mad Führer. (No matter that in London the complacent Chamberlain does not know it, does not suspect it, and that in Washington the venerable Senator Borah says he knows, from his own special sources of information in Europe, that there will be no war.)
All through the late spring and the summer, the finishing touches are put to the Nazi war machine. In Moscow the British and French representatives dawdle with the Russians. Do not Chamberlain and Daladier still hope that German aggression may yet be turned on Russia so that the civilized West will be saved? Before June is up, General Keitel, chief of the Supreme Command of the armed forces, submits the timetable for “Operation White” — against Poland.
August, the fateful month, arrives. It is time to let the ally, Italy, in on the secret, for she has a role to play in Hitler’s calculations. Count Ciano is summoned to Bcrchtesgaden. Stunned at what he hears from the Führer’s lips, he remains there two days, August 12 and 13.
We have the German records of the two-day meeting. They are remarkable on several counts. They show that Hitler has now picked his date for the attack on Poland, that he is ready for war with the West, that he has Russia in the bag (though the world will not learn of it for ten days), and that Ciano and Mussolini are taken completely by surprise. They obviously had no idea that war was so near.
Ciano comes out in this meeting better than I expected. He talks up to Hitler. He tells him bluntly that Italy is not ready for war. And he stands up to the Führer and argues for peace — proposing instead of war a peace conference!
Ciano, the frightened playboy, now hurries back to Rome to tell the Duce that Hitler is going to war in a fortnight. The magnificent German war machine is poised for the blow, supremely confident it can smash Poland in a fortnight.
There is one little sour note, the German documents show. On August 17, Admiral Canaris, Chief of German Counter Intelligence (strangled to death for treason in the last months of the war), sees General Keitel. The Admiral is worried about the Western powers coming into the war. He finds Keitel supremely confident that Britain will stay out of the war. Canaris tries to argue to the contrary, pointing out especially the dangers of a British blockade. But Keitel is cocky this day. Canaris gets nowhere.
On August 22, Hitler convokes his Commandersin-Chief to Berchtesgaden for a final war conference. It is a date to remember. The newspapers around the globe are telling in screaming headlines the ominous news from Moscow that Germany and Russia have decided to conclude a non-aggression pact. Hitler knows that in a day or two a virtual alliance with Russia to destroy Poland and frighten the West from coming into the war will be signed at Moscow. He is in even a more swaggering mood than usual. He is carried away by his own success, his own personality.
THE FÜHRER’S SPEECH
August 22, 1939
I have called you together to give you a picture of the political situation, in order that you may have insight into the individual elements on which I have based my decision to act, and in order to strengthen your confidence. . . .
It was clear to me that a conflict, with Poland had to come sooner or later. I had already made this decision in the spring, but I thought that I would first turn against the West in a few years, and only afterwards against the East. But the sequence cannot be fixed. One cannot close one’s eyes ever before a threatening situation. I wanted to establish an acceptable relationship with Poland in order to fight first against the West. But this plan, which was agreeable to me, could not be executed, since essential points have changed.
It became clear to me that Poland would attack us in case of a conflict with the West. Poland wants access to the sea. The further development became obvious after the occupation of the Memel region, and I realized that under the circumstances a conflict with Poland could arise at an inopportune moment. I enumerate as reasons for this reflection, first of all, two personal constitutions: my own personality and that of Mussolini.
Essentially it depends on me, my existence, because of my political activities. Furthermore, the fact that probably no one will ever again have the confidence of the whole German people as I do. There will probably never again be a man in the future with more authority than I have. My existence is therefore a factor of great value. But I can be eliminated at any time by a criminal or an idiot.
The second personal factor is the Duce. His existence is also decisive. If something happens to him, Italy’s loyalty to the alliance will no longer be certain. The basic attitude of the Italian court is against the Duce. Above all, the court sees in the expansion of the empire a burden. The Duce is the man with the strongest nerves in Italy.
The third factor favorable for us is Franco. We can ask only benevolent neutrality from Spain. But this depends on Franco’s personality. He guarantees a certain uniformity and steadiness of the present system in Spain. We must take into account the fact that Spain does not as yet have a Fascist Party of our inlernal unity.
On the other side a negative picture as far as decisive personalities are concerned. There is no outstanding personality in England or France.
For us it is easy to make a decision. We have nothing to lose; we can only gain. Our economic situation is such, because of our restrictions, that we cannot hold out more than a few years. Göring can confirm this. We have no other choice, we must act. Our opponents risk much and can gain only a little. England’s stake in n war is unimaginably great. Our enemies have men who are below average. No personalities. No masters, no men of action. . . . Our enemies are little worms. I saw them in Munich.
I was convinced that Stalin would never accept the English offer. Russia has no interest in maintaining Poland, and Stalin knows that it is the end of his regime no matter whether his soldiers come out of a war victorious or beaten. Litvinov’s replacement was decisive. I brought about the change toward Russia gradually. In connection with the commercial treaty we got into a political conversation. Proposal of a non-aggression pact. Then came a general proposal from Russia. Four days ago I took a special step, which brought it about that Russia answered yesterday that she is ready to sign. The personal contract with Stalin is established. The day after tomorrow von Ribbentrop will conclude the treaty. Now Poland is in the position in which I wanted her.
We need not be afraid of a blockade. The East will supply us with grain, cattle, coal, lead, and zinc. It is a big arm, which demands great efforts. I am only afraid that at the last minute some Schweinhund [literally, swineherd’s dog; figuratively, filthy person] 1 will make a proposal for mediation.
The political arm is set farther. A beginning has been made for the destruction of England’s hegemony. The way is open for the soldier, after I have made the political preparations.
Today’s publication of the non-aggression pact with Russia hit like a shell. The consequences cannot be overlooked. Stalin also said that this course will be of benefit to both countries. The effect on Poland will be tremendous.
FROM the documents it is plain that Hitler meant Saturday, August 26, “for the start,” and that he postponed it until the following Friday in order, as he told Göring, “to see whether we can eliminate British intervention.” On August 23, Nevile Henderson, the British Ambassador, flies down to Berchtesgaden to inform Hitler that the British government will honor its pledge to Poland if Germany attacks her, regardless of the German deal with Russia. The Führer gives him a contemptuous answer, but Henderson, who has staked his all on appeasement, keeps on trying, calling on the mad dictator in Berlin twice during August 25 and flying off to London on August 26 to confer with Chamberlain.
It is of no use. At dawn on Friday, September 1, the German armies pour into Poland. On Sunday, September 3, Great Britain and France come into the war against Germany. Hitler has his World War!
For two years there is not the faintest shadow of defeat. Hitler goes from one fantastic victory to another. In the spring, Denmark and Norway are overrun. In early summer, Holland, Belgium, and France. The invasion of Britain has to be postponed in the fall. But all during the winter of 1940-1941 the cities and towns of England, which is now standing alone against the Axis might, are battered unmercifully from the air by German bombers.
During this winter, Hitler is feverishly pushing his secret plans to fall upon Russia. The confidential German documents show he decided to turn against the Soviet Union before the six weeks’ war in the West was scarcely finished — “during the Western campaign,” according to General Jodl. By October 1, 1940, the General Staff is back in Zossen and “working intensively on the problem,” General Franz Halder, chief of the Army General Staff, will later reveal.
The problem is called “Operation Barbarossa,” which becomes the code word for the plan of attack against Russia. Hitler and his generals can think of nothing else. “Operation Sea Lion” — for the invasion of Britain — is all but forgotten. By December 5, the German documents show, General Haider has given Hitler the General Staff’s plan for the Russian campaign. On December 18, Hitler issues his “Directive 21—Operation Barbarossa,” which begins: “The German Armed Forces must be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign before the end of the war against England.” Hitler orders all preparations completed by May 13, 1941. The unexpected resistance of Yugoslavia to being swallowed up by the Germans postpones the dale by five weeks, the documents make plain — and probably thereby saves Russia.
General Halder, whom Hitler hates but whose brilliance he cannot dispense with, warns that “Russia’s strength in military personnel is completely unknown.” But the Führer has no patience with such warnings. He calls in his top generals on February 3, 1941, and, according to the captured minutes of the meeting, exclaims; “When Barbarossa commences, the world will hold its breath and make no comment.”
In the early morning of June 22, 1941, it commences. The German armies hurtle through Russia. It seems that nothing can stop them. In Washington, General Marshall calls in ihe editors and correspondents to warn them that Russian collapse is only a matter of a few weeks. Hitler is sure it will come before winter. By the end of September the Nazi hordes are deep in Russia. Kiev, capital of ihe Ukraine, has fallen. Von Rundstedt’s southern group of armies is pressing toward Rostov and Kharkov. On October 2, Hitler launches his great offensive on Moscow. On October 4 he is in Berlin for a speech. “The enemy is already broken and will never rise again,” he proclaims.
A few days later, on October 9, he sends his press chief, Dr. Otto Dietrich, pell-mell back to Berlin to tell the correspondents, hastily convened in the Propaganda Ministry, that the last fully effective remnants of the Red Army are trapped in two German pockets before Moscow and “undergoing swift, merciless annihilation,”and that “for all military purposes Soviet Russia is done with.'
Hitler believes it himself, as General Halder later will confirm. In fact Halder, in a report written after the end of the war, makes the sensational revelation that Hitler secretly ordered the “dissolution of about forty army divisions, the manpower to return to industry.”So sure was he that Russia was finished, says Halder, that he also ordered a halt in munitions production.
The Russians, as the Germans soon learned, were far from finished. In the South, Timoshenko had taken over from Budenny at the end of October and within a month had driven von Kleist’s victorious armies out of Rostov. But the crucial battle of the war was being fought before Moscow. Though Hitler and Dr. Dietrich had “destroyed" the last remnants of the Red armies on this front early in October, ferocious fighting, with heavy losses on both sides, continued all through October and November.
On December 5 and 6, the tide turned. On December 5, a German armored column from Istra fought its way into the outskirts of the Russian capital. It was the nearest the Germans ever got to Moscow. The next day, the Russian counteroffensive was in full swing, the Germans in retreat. The greatest army the world had ever seen had al last been stopped. It would never recover from the blow. December 6 was the turning point of the war.
Where did the German plans to finish Russia, before the winter snows, go wrong?
I think I have found the answers in a report drawn up after the end of hostilities by General Halder, chief of the Army General Staff at the time and, in my opinion, the greatest German strategist of the war. (He was dismissed by Hitler in the midst of the Russian campaign, and in 1944 arrested and placed in solitary confinement.) His comments on the turning point of the war, taken from his lengthy report, destroy, once and for all, the Nazi myth that Hitler was a military genius.
At the start of operations, Hitler’s belief in his own infallibility and the omnipotence of his will had grown. So had his nervous irritability. His interference in the directing of the Army, even in small matters, increased, and tense debates about strategical and even tactical questions . . . became more and more frequent in the course of the Russian campaign.
There was no doubt that Hiller was under considerable pressure because of the advanced season. . . . I am firmly convinced that he entered the Russian campaign with the preconceived idea, which was not shared, still less encouraged, by the Army General Staff, that Russia could be forced to make peace even in 1941, and that thus the further prosecution of the war would be hopeless for the Allies.
Spoiled by the quick successes of the previous campaigns, he expected operations to be earned through in a space of time which ignored completely the conditions of terrain and roads in the East. He obstinately refused to take notice of the results obtained from st tidying ihe map and working with a compass. The advance on Russian territory could never be fast enough for his impatience. . . .
The number of divisions employed for the initial attack on Russia was sufficient for ihe frontier battles, but was not enough to cover later needs which were going to arise when the front advanced further to the East. . . .
Hitler was continually dominated by the illusion that there was a continuous front. . . .
A series of military reverses set in soon after the early and unusually severe beginning of the winter. The main causes were: the results of the strategically wrong decision taken before the battle at Kiev: the tired condition of troops who, in full confidence in their leaders, had exerted their full strength without hesitation in unsuccessful attempts to accomplish the tasks set them; and the enemy countermeasures, which could be foreseen by the expert eye, but which Hitler in blind arrogance refused to see. Mistakes made by the local German commanders did the rest.
The reverse suffered at Rostov was sufficient to induce sensible German leaders to withdraw the front to the Mius. When this decision was reported by Army Group South, Hitler vetoed its execution and, from his command post in East Prussia and working only from a map, fixed a line in the Eastern Ukraine which had to be held “to the last man.” Rundstedt asked for and was granted his retirement. The Commander-in-Chief of the Army was never consulted. . . .
The first heavy Russian counterattacks around Moscow were soon followed by further German reverses further south (Orel, Kursk). . . . The
enemy appeared with strong and fresh, if frequently only improvised, forces. He was filled with the impetus of new confidence. The German troops, on the other hand, had reached the limit of endurance. The equipment was worn out, and communications with the homeland were threatened by a transport crisis which caused much worry. The morale of the Army had deteriorated. . . .
THE myth of the invincibility of German arms was broken, then, in the Russian snows before Moscow, and it was never restored — even in the German Army, as General Halder makes clear. There would be more German victories to be sure — battles won here and there — but they did not recreate the myth, and each triumph on this front or that weakened the German armies more than it did those of the Allies, which, now that America, the world’s greatest arsenal, was in the war, were rapidly growing in strength.
By the end of October, 1942, the British had smashed Rommel’s bid for Suez, and the shattered African Corps was in disorderly retreat toward Libya. On November 8, an Anglo-American army under Eisenhower had landed in North Africa. In the Mediterranean, as in Russia, the tide had turned against the hitherto invincible Axis arms.
The summer of 1942 had, indeed, seen crushing German victories deep in Russia. By the end of August, Hitler’s armies had smashed into the Caucasus and appeared to have the Soviet’s richest oil fields within their grasp. Worse, they had driven to the outskirts of Stalingrad on the Volga. But again the final, decisive victory eluded the Germans. In November the Russians hit back, and as the year ended, the Nazi armies in the south of Russia were in retreat and the massive Sixth Army was surrounded and doomed at Stalingrad.
The situation did not improve for the Germans in 1943. How did the war look at the end of four years to the German Command? One of the most remarkable documents I have seen gives us a good picture. It consists of a lengthy lecture delivered by General Alfred Jodl to the provincial political leaders at Munich on November 7, 1943 — in celebration of Hitler’s Beer House Putsch.
It is entitled “The Strategic Position in the Beginning of the Fifth Year of the War.” It is no mere pep speech such as was usually given at Munich on this anniversary. General Jodl admits that defeatism in Germany is rife, that the “devil of subversion” strides the Reich. It is obvious that on Hitler’s orders he intends, for once, to tell the Nazi political authorities the stark truth — or at least more of it than they have ever heard. The seriousness of the situation can no longer be hidden.
We have here no ordinary “lecture.” We have indeed a document, prepared with typical Teutonic thoroughness, which is in effect a Short History of the War, as experienced and analyzed by the German Supreme Command. Here we can see in broad but specific outline the Nazi military and political objectives and why they were not always reached. The detail is almost overwhelming. The document is full of figures on the disposition of German troops all over Europe and of the Allied forces all over the world. The disposition of American divisions is given, not only for Europe, but for the Pacific and for the home front. The length of coastlines to be defended, the position and the state of fortifications, the nature of German and enemy armament, the probable strategy of the Allies — all these and many other matters are gone into with an array of figures, charts, and maps.
It was General Jodl’s lecture, but it is obvious from the captured documents we have that it was Hitler himself who supervised its preparation. We have dozens of memoranda marked “Top Secret" or “Very Secret” and stamped “Fiihrer’s GlIQ.”On each is a notation: “Material for the lecture of the Chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff on November 7, 1943.”
It is evident that in General Jodl’s lecture we really are getting the picture of the war as Hitler saw it at the beginning of the fifth year.
Nothing seemingly is forgotten by this Teuton general. One memorandum is marked: “List of Italian Booty.” It is an exhaustive list of everything grabbed from the Italians after their collapse, from artillery to destroyers, trousers, and tallow.
One document shows how clearly the German Command realized the danger of an Anglo-American invasion in the West seven months before it actually took place.
Jodl reveals German strength in the West at 1,374,000 men. British and American forces are given in detail. But in the East, Jodl states, the Germans have 200 divisions amounting to 4,183,000 men. The Russians, it is plain, are still bearing the brunt of the war on the Allied side.
A “top secret” memorandum prepared at the Führer’s GHQ on October 31, 1943, for Jodi’s lecture provides fascinating material on how the Russian front looked to the German Command. It notes a “large-scale building up of Russian artillery.” It finds “specially unpleasant for our troops . . . the new Russian battle airplane now appearing in large numbers.” It refers, no doubt, to the Stormovik.
General Jodl concludes his lecture with the following declaration of faith that all will end well for Germany: —
When, at the end of my considerations, I come to sum up the general situation in a few words, I am bound to describe it. quite candidly as difficult. Moreover, I cannot gloss over the fact that I expect further Severe crises. . . .
In particular, however, our confidence is built up on a series of points of view to be set forth objectively. At the head comes the ethical and moral foundation of our struggle, which leaves its mark upon the general attitude of the German people and makes our armed forces a definitely reliable instrument in the hands of its Command. The force of the revolutionary idea has not only made possible a series of unprecedented successes: il also enables our brave troops to achieve feats in defense and in retreat according to plan, such perhaps as the Russians, but certainly no other people, could achieve, and which drive off into the realm of Utopia any hope on the part of our opponents for a military breakdown.
As against this the moral, political, and military tendencies of our opponents by no means form a closed, uniformly directed whole. This shows most clearly in the fighting morale of the English and Americans, whose successes in Africa, Sicily, and Italy are solely ascribable to the weakness and treachery of our Italian ally. Where they have met. German forces in battle, they have shown themselves inferior throughout and obtained the advantage only as a result of multiple numerical advantage. This shows particularly clearly from the point of view of their conduct of the war, for according to our ideas it is totally incomprehensible that the Anglo-Americans should have avoided forming the Second Front in the West which their Russian allies have been demanding for over two years, and they have by no means extracted from their opportunities in the Mediterranean that which, according to the true state of affairs and by German standards of activity, they might have extracted.
Well, whatever comes, any further attack by our opponents — whether in the North or West, in Italy or in the Balkans — will put their readiness for action to a hard test. . . .
My most, profound confidence is based upon the fact that at the head of Germany there stands a man who by his entire development, desires, and st riving can only have been destined by fate, to lead our people into a brighter future. In defiance of all views to the contrary, I must here testify that he is the soul not only of the political but also of the military conduct of the war, and that the force of his will power and the creative riches of his thought animate and hold together the whole of the German armed forces, with respect to strategy, organization, and munitions of war. Similarly the unity of political and military command which is so important is personified by him in a way such as has never been known since the days of Frederick the Great.
That no command is free of errors has often been said by the Fiihrer himself. Moreover, the history of war — to use an aphorism of Schlieffen’s — consists in general only of a serif’s of errors; and every war situation, naturally, can only he the product of errors.
What matters ultimately is constant readiness to art, the determination never to let oneself be beaten and always to stick to the enemy. That is so now, I assure you from the bottom of my heart. . .
It behooves us all, therefore, to crush down within ourselves all faintheartedness and, by so doing, to create within ourselves the foundations of that confidence out of which alone victory can grow. After all, the other fellow is just a bit more frightened still, and a war is only lost when it is given up.
How this war will end, that no man can foretell. What imponderables it may yet bring with it, how many hopes may be disappointed, and how many troubles may turn to the contrary, lie hidden in the darkness of the future. All that is sure is that we shall never cease to fight; for through the history of the world there run, like a bronze law, progress and advance upward. In these Europe has led, and at the head of Europe — Germany. A Europe under the whip of American Jews or Bolshevik commissars is unthinkable.
Berlin, Thursdny, November 15, Though my time has been much too short, I have found out some of the things I came here to find out: what happened after I left — indeed, first of all, what went on in secret during the tumultuous years I was here — and then what the physical damage has been, and the moral damage, and finally the state of the German spirit after defeat and collapse.
There is so much more I could learn if I could linger on. The picture is so black. Are there no shadings? Gould I not find some? Arc theie no “good Germans,” for instance, on which to build one’s hopes? Ah, surely! Was there not the poet Adam Kuckhoff, who did not give in? Who was convicted of “high treason”? Who was hanged on the gallows at Plötzensee on the morning of August 5, 1943? Who, before he was led away, wrote his wife, Greta, one of the most moving poems and one of the most courageous letters ever penned by man? Yes, there was Kuckhoff and the poet Bonhoeffer and others in this sad land who gave their lives in the name of human decency.
But amid these ruins I do not hear their names. Was the sacrifice of these few of no account? Is it not rather the spirit of Hitler and Himmler which is rising again from the debris? Is it not their deaths, their deeds, which count among these I ragic people? And are the Germans not already waiting to follow another diabolical Führer to still another destruction? Alas, so it seems to me.
Tomorrow, I shall leave Berlin — perhaps for the last time. I am weary of the Berlin story I started to chronicle so long ago and which has been the core of my life for more than a decade. It turned out to be the most important story of my generation, starting almost unnoticed here in this city, and in the end engulfing the world, uprooting the lives of the mechanic in Stalingrad, the farmer near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the sheep-grower in Australia on the other side of the planet.
I am weary and have had enough of it. Surely there must be something less ugly, not so brutal and evil, that I can concentrate on in the remaining years. The sprawling, crazy, wonderful land of America, certainly. My family, which I hardly know; the children whom I have scarcely seen. And perhaps poetry and music and the theater and, above all, Peace.
At home, maybe, they will say the German story is not finished, the German problem still unresolved, a third German war not too far off, and that one must not abandon thinking of it and writing of it. They will be right. The German story will never be finished.
Tomorrow I shall set out for Nuremberg there to see justice try to catch up with some of the vile little men who have brought this awful destruction to the human race. Will it — can it — overtake them?
Nuremberg, Sunday, November 18. — It is gone! The lovely old medieval town behind the moat is utterly destroyed. It is a vast heap of rubble, beyond description and beyond hope of rebuilding. As the prosaic U.S. Army puts it, Nuremberg is “91 per cent dead.” The old town — the old Nuremberg of Albrecht Dürer and Hans Sachs and the Meistersingers, the three venerable churches of St. Lorenz and St. Sebald and Our Lady, the old Rathaus, and my favorite inn, the Bratwurstglöcklein is, I should say, 99 per cent “dead.”
I crawled for hours today in the debris looking for familiar landmarks. Few were left, and none intact. The façade of the Gothic Frauenkirche on the Market Place (known as Adolf Hitler Platz when I was last here in 1937) stands precariously, supported by two side walls. The rest of the church has been smashed into dust. St. Lorenz, one of the oldest, and most beautiful Protestant churches in Germany, probably can still be saved, though it has been badly smashed. Half the wonderful old frame dwellings along the river Pegnitz have caved into the little stream. Most of old Nuremberg’s winding little streets are completely blotted out. The Deutscher Hof, where Hitler always stayed during the annual Nazi Party rallies in September, I could not find at all. The whole block was gone.
What had happened? I asked some of the burghers. The first big bombings had come in October, 1943, they said. The last one, the biggest of all, the one that really completed the destruction of Nuremberg, had come, they recalled, the day after New Year’s in 1945. That was the day the medieval city finally died and was buried in its own ruins.
The gripping beauty, the great charm, the very soul of the ancient city, though, had departed — I always felt — when the Nazis came. Spiritually, Nuremberg had died then. The Nazis had made of it ihe city of their annual Party rallies — those obscene orgies of the Teutonic herd in which the German man and woman had joyously shed their individuality, their decency, their dignity as human beings and become merged into the putrid, inhuman mass that Hitler was shaping.
Oh, I had seen it with my own eyes! In 1934 and again in 1937 I had been sent here as an American newspaperman to describe the foul performance. Night after night under the arc of searchlights (which really had been built for the approaching war), by the glare of the barbarian torchlights, and between the bloodcurdling shouting ("We are strong, and will get stronger,” they kept yelling in the night), I had heard Hitler rave and Göring rant, and watched the miserable Jew-baiter, Streicher, brandishing his short whip. Was it not proof of its utter degradation and final death that in this great center of European culture, where the incomparable Dürer had lived and created, the repulsive, debauched Julius Streicher, who boasted of his pornographic publications and his pornographic “library” and his own lecherous fornications, had become supreme political boss and indeed the first citizen of Nuremberg?
In this town, I had heard the frenzied shouting of the madmen when, on September 5, 1934, Hitler had made the ridiculous “announcement” that “the German form of life is definitely determined for the next thousand years. There will be no revolution in Germany,” he had told them, “for the next one thousand years!”
The once-sturdy burghers of Nuremberg, like all the rest of the Germans, had become intoxicated by the evil Nazi gospel and they were proud that their beautiful city had become the scene of the monstrous annual Party rally.
Now in their grotesque ruins did they recall it all? What was in their minds this Sunday afternoon? It was difficult to tell. They seemed a bit more dignified, a little more cool toward us in enemy uniform than the Berliners or the people of Frankfurt. Resentful they were, naturally, and sullen. Oh, they had applauded wildly the dire threats against the foreign lands that Hitler had uttered from this place. They had hurrahed and tossed flowers at the SA Brown Shirts and the SS Black Coats and the gray-clad soldiers parading through their ancient, winding streets. But, like everyone else throughout the German wasteland, they had never wanted to face the consequences of all that had been hatched and nurtured here.
The consequences had come late and sudden and with terrible fury. All that loving, knowing hands had wrought here in stone and wood, in shape and color, for nine hundred years, had been pulverized into dust and ashes in a brief, fiery moment by a flick of the hand of Anglo-Saxon youths whose short lives, probably, had never been touched by this particular flowering of civilization. Their bombsights, at any rate, had been aimed not at it, but at a deadly arsenal near-by which was helping to keep Hitler’s Germany in the war and which therefore had to be destroyed.
It was a fearful consequence. Saturation bombing, which the Germans had originated over London and Coventry, had never been an ideal solution for the Allies, and an American could feel sick in the stomach and the heart and the mind at the contemplation of its inaccuracy here. But was it not a fate of war, the fate that Warsaw and Rotterdam and so many other innocent non-German cities had first experienced, a fate determined by those who bred the war in the German places such as Nuremberg?
A bit dazed, I went over late in the afternoon to the Court House to do my Sunday broadcast. The tiny radio “studio” looked directly on the courtroom. It was cold and bare. Raucous GI’s were testing the lights and shoving furniture about, making ready for the trial of Göring, Hess, Ribbentrop, Rosenberg, and the seventeen other Nazi leaders whom I had seen strut so arrogantly about this town and who, day after tomorrow, will face the consequences of all the blood of this world they helped to spill.
Thursday, November 22. — Thanksgiving. A raw, cold day, and I spent most of it in bed trying to lick the flu. Got up about dusk, which comes a little after 4.00 P.M. here now, and wandered up to the “castle’s” bar. Ed Morgan of the Chicago Daily News, one of the most thoughtful of the new generation of correspondents, was there. We had a long talk. We tried, as newspapermen in a bar will do, to find an answer to a question: Why the disintegration (as General Marshall called it the other day in his speech to the Herald Tribune Forum) of the U.S. Army so soon after its mighty conquests?
Fundamentally, we wondered, was it not a reflection of a disintegration at home in America, of our headlong rush to forget the war, got the boys back home, and return hell-bent to “normalcy”? It was, of course, a very human and natural thing for an American to want to get back home, now that the war was over. But who would stay on in Germany then — at least until he could be replaced to do an unpleasant but necessary job if we did not want to have a third German war? (The Germans might win the third.)
Ed thought there were several reasons why we are doing such a lousy job of occupation.
1. American officers especially (but also GI’s) think first of creature comforts. (Ah, but is that not characteristic of all of us Americans with our mania for the material things?) Now, Ed said, our officers were busy holing up for the winter, expending most of their energies on getting a comfortable billet, plenty of heat for it, good food and drink, and a girl, of course.
2. A typical American has a natural and healthy yen to get his immediate job done. Thus, if the Germans in his town are not getting enough food or fuel, his first inclination is to try to see that they get it. If there is a factory silent in his town, he wants to get it humming. It would scarcely occur to him to adjust his inclinations to the larger political picture of how Germany is to be treated — for instance, whether the additional food he may get for his Germans or the coal for his factory should not go to the Dutch or the Belgians or other victims of the Germans. He has no idea of what the victims in Europe went through under the hideous German occupation. Nor is he curious to learn.
This leads to point 3: our weird lack of political sense. Ed described a German motor-truck factory he visited the other day. It makes Daimler-Benz trucks. An American captain is in charge, but a young sergeant is the real American driving force in the plant. He has a knack “for getting things done.” His factory is consequently turning out more than its quota of trucks.
There is only one drawback, but he does not want to hear of it. The German manager of the plant is an out-and-out Nazi, a Party member. General Eisenhower has issued strict military orders that no Party members can remain in managerial positions. But our captain and sergeant pay no attention to Eisenhower, supreme chief though he may be. They will be judged by their immediate superiors, they say, on the number of trucks they turn out. It fills them with pride to turn them out ahead of schedule.
The German workers protest. They threaten to strike unless the Nazi manager is turned out. The captain and sergeant crack down on the workers. No nonsense, no strikes, from them. And so the workers, Ed concludes, come to the conclusion that the Americans are either political idiots or conquered Germany to save it for the Nazis.
In miniature, I’m afraid, this is the true picture of our occupation of Germany.
Friday, November 23. — Certainly no other trial in history can have been like this. The Nazi defendants are going to be convicted by their own words, their own records of their own foul deeds. The idiots wrote everything down, and in the chaos of the collapse were unable to destroy the damaging evidence.
This afternoon the American prosecution unloaded on the court (and on us) 91,000 words of secret Nazi documents tracing the road to aggressive war which the Nazis deliberately took. The defendants in the dock appeared flabbergasted. All the skeletons in all the dark closets were showing up. Here was not what Hitler or Göring or Ribbentrop or Hess said for public consumption — the propaganda lies about wanting peace. Here was what they said at their secret meetings at which war was plotted and planned. Here at last was the truth for the world to see.
Most of the material I had seen in Berlin, but there was some new stuff today about a preliminary understanding reached in Berlin on April 4, 1941, between Hitler and the then Japanese Foreign Minister, Yosuke Matsuoka, for war against the United States. Hitler, we learn, on that day promised that Germany would go to war against the United States without, delay in case Japan became involved in a conflict with America.
This then — April 4, 1941 — was the date on which America’s involvement in the war became certain; and it is a terrible irony, I think, and a terrible indictment of the United States and its lack of political sense, that our destiny in this instance was decided, not by ourselves, but by a German and a Jap sitting in an ornate room in Berlin. The two men had a very interesting conversation that day, and as usual the German government preserved in its secret archives complete notes on the talk. The pertinent part reads as follows: —
“The Eiihrer pointed out [to Matsuoka] that Germany would immediately take the consequences if Japan got involved with the United States. . . . Therefore Germany would strike without delay in case of a conflict between Japan and America.”
Matsuoka, for his part, left no doubt in Hitler’s mind l hat Japan intended soon lo at lack the United Slates. The secret German minutes of the meeting make this very clear.
“As regards Japnnese-Ameriean relations,” they state, “Matsuoka explained that . . . sooner or later a war with the United States would be unavoidable. ... In his opinion this conflict would happen rather sooner than later. His argument was: Why should Japan not decisively strike at the right moment and take the risk upon herself of a light against America?”
At this point the wily little Japanese Foreign Minister admitted to the Eiihrer that there were some in Japan who “hesitate to follow these trends of thought” and who considered him “a dangerous man.” Hitler apparently lelt the need of bucking him up a lift le on the subject of the Americans. The German minutes continue: —
“Germany [Hiller said] had made her preparations so that no American could land in Europe. Germany would conduct a most energetic tight against America with her U-boats and her Luftwaffe, and due to her superior experience . . . she would be vastly superior, and that quite apart from the fact that the German soldier naturally ranks high above the American.”
We know from previous notes that Hitler had already decided to attack Russia and that, in fact, the date for the beginning of the war with the Soviet Union was but a couple of months off at the time of his talk with the Japanese Foreign Minister. Naturally he did not disclose his plans to his Japanese ally. But he did throw out a hint. “He would not hesitate a moment,” the secret minutes quote him as telling Matsuoka, “to reply instantly to any widening of the war, be it by Russia, be it by America.”
How much did Russia know of Hitler’s real intentions? There is an interesting document here in that connection which undoubtedly will not be admitted into evidence at this trial since we have both a Russian judge and a Russian prosecutor. It is a secret German memorandum on the conversation between Hitler, Ribbentrop, and Molotov in Berlin on November 12, 1940. Nazi Germany and Communist Russia were allies then and though even the German minutes of the meeting show that a definite coolness had developed in their relations, they also show the Soviet Union begging to be allowed to become a partner in the tripartite alliance of Germany, Italy, and Japan, which, in reality, was directed mainly against the United States! The German memorandum on that point reads as follows: —
“Then he [Molotov] spoke of the significance of the three-power pact. What was t he meaning of t he New Order in Europe and Asia, and in what respect could the U.S.S.R. be a participant? Questions with regard to Russia’s interests in the Balkans and the Black Sea would have to be cleared up. In relation to Rumania, Bulgaria, and Turkey it would be easier for the Russian government to take a definite position if it. were given explanations. It was interested in the New Order in Europe, particularly in the tempo and form of this New Order. It would also like to have some idea of the New Order in Asia.
“Hitler answered that the three-power pact would arrange matters in Europe in relation to the natural interests of the European states and that Germany would consult the Soviet Union before a settlement was reached. This was also true for Asia, where Russia would take part. Hitler thought it possible, in conjunction with Russia, to raise the question of the Black Sea, the Balkans, and Turkey. The crux of the matter was to prevent all attempts of America to dominate Europe. The U.S.A. had nothing to look for in Europe or Africa or Asia.
“Molotov said that he was fully in agreement with Hitler’s remarks about the roles of the U.S.A. and England. He thought that Russia could take part in a three-power pact on the condition that she came in as a partner.”
It is something to contemplate that, but for Hitler’s foolish decision to attack Russia, the Soviet Union, the citadel of socialism, the paradise of the workers, would in all probability have become an active partner of the Nazi-Fascist regimes of Germany, Italy, and Japan! The United States would have been in the soup then. But no doubt the Party comrades at home would have found some means of justifying and even defending such a foul alliance.
[I also learned at Nuremberg that the Nazi-Soviet pact signed at Moscow on August 23, 1939, a week before Germany attacked Poland, contained a secret appendix providing for the division of Eastern Europe into Russian and German spheres of influence. The State Department, which has a copy of this interesting document, declined to release it for publication in my book. But we know from the testimony of Baron Ernst von Weizsäcker, former Secretary of the German Foreign Office, its main provisions.
[On May 21, 1946, Weizsacker made the following statement to the tribunal in Nuremberg: “I know this document well. It was a comprehensive, extensive secret appendix to the non-aggression pact and portioned spheres of influence and put in lines between areas that would come under the control of Russia and Germany. To the Soviet sphere went Finland, Estonia, Latvia, the eastern part of Poland, and certain areas of Rumania, while anything west of this area belonged to the German sphere. In September or October  a vital amendment gave Lithuania to the Soviet sphere and moved the demarcation line in Poland westward.”]
Sunday, November 25. — Waiting to go on the air this evening, had time to wade through some more secret German documents.
General Halder, in the memorandum he has drawn up at the request of the Allied High Command, claims that had Neville Chamberlain delayed his famous flight to .Munich during the Czech crisis in 1938, a group of German generals would have carried out a well-planned attempt to depose Hitler and thus saved, as he puts it, the world from war. He contends that all arrangements had been made for General von Witzleben (who was later hanged for his part in the attempted assassination of the Führer on July 20, 1944) to march on Berlin with a Panzer division and arrest Hitler. The fact that the dictator remained in Berehtesgaden longer than expected held up the plan.
When he finally arrived in Berlin, the conspirators met in von Witzleben’s office and decided to act immediately. Just as they were about to give the signal to set the plan in operation the radio flashed the news that Chamberlain had agreed to fly to Munich the next day. The plot was postponed and after Chamberlain’s capitulation at Munich — forgotten.
The former chief of the Army General Staff also speaks of a similar attempt by his predecessor, General Beck, and by Gœrdeler (both of whom lost their lives in the abortive 1944 plot against Hitlers life) in 1939-1940. General Halder then raises and answers a question most of us have pondered often.
“The question has frequently been asked — and particularly by the enemy — why the German Officers’ Corps, and especially the generals, watched developments in Germany without interfering.
“The first answer is that any attempt at interference could only have been made by the Army. No support could have been expected from the Air Force or Navy; rather the contrary. . . . The fight against the Supreme Commander [Hitler] had therefore to be carried out by single [Army] personalities. . . . The number of these personalities was very small. . . . A single farsighted personality [had] to take the consequences as far as his own person was concerned.”
Alas, there was none willing to take the consequences, and Haider gives various not very convincing excuses for this. Finally, he says, when the generals realized the Army “was going to its doom, it was too late for collective measures by the military leaders, even if they had overcome their aversion to such a step, which, according to German conceptions, would be mutiny. Such an atmosphere explains July 20, 1944, when personalit ies who were willing to sacrifice themselves in their despair used means which cannot be approved. . . . But [otherwise] the clear will and determined leaders were lacking, [so the generals] did their military duty silently to the bitter end.
“The prediction,” General Haider concludes, “made by General von Fritsch [former Commanderin-Chief of the German Army, who committed suicide before Warsaw in September, 1939] has been fulfilled. In 1937 Fritsch said resignedly, in reply to my impassioned demand for a fight against Hitler: ‘It is useless. This man is Germany’s destiny, and this destiny must run its course to the end.”’
In other words, the German military went along. Not a single general, until it was too late, had the guts really to stand up to Hitler.
Monday, December 3. — In bed all day with fever and a chest cold but got up this evening. Ran into David Low, the genius of the British cartoon world. He looks exactly as he often portrays himself in a stray corner of one of his, masterly drawings. Until today he had never actually seen the Nazi culprits whom he had so often caricatured.
“Did they look different from what you expected?” I asked him.
“ Very much,” he said. “ They seemed much more ordinary little men than I had suspected.”
Good talk with him and with some of the Russian correspondents about the sad state of the world so soon after the glorious Allied victory.
It’s rather interesting how well the Russian and American correspondents get along in this “castle” press headquarters, where journalists from a score of nations are housed under one roof. Despite the gulf between our two worlds, a lot of us Americans find much in common with our Soviet confreres. For one thing, they are hard drinkers. For another, they like to sit up all night talking. And most of them are extremely intelligent and well-informed fellows. They keep asking me, for instance, to tell them what our major American writers have been up to since the war began. They have a surprising knowledge of the pre-war works of most of our important authors. What has Steinbeck written, and Hemingway and Faulkner and Upton Sinclair and Sinclair Lewis and Dos Passos, they ask? What have your composers been doing in music?
The other night one of the Soviet correspondents — who, I’m told, is also a poet — proposed that we have a Russian-American banquet.
“You fellows can tell us what your writers and musicians have been producing during the war and we’ll try to tell you what our writers and musicians have done,” he suggested. “Maybe I can show you on the piano some new things of Prokofiev and Shostakovich.”
He had one other suggestion. “Let’s make it a real banquet,” he said. “You fellows bring a dozen bottlets of whiskey and we’ll bring two dozen bottles of vodka — and we can talk all night.”
Tuesday, December 4. — It turned bitterly cold today and in the afternoon it started to snow. Strange the beauty of the ruined old city under the cold, white mantle of snow!
The Nazi thugs on trial for their life here, or rather those who were military men, received comfort and encouragement from a strange source today — from the U.S. Army and Navy Journal. Its curious remarks, quoted here in the Stars and Stripes, that Jackson was trying to discredit the “profession of arms” by bringing men like Keitel and Jodi to justice because of their service on the German High Command, did not escape the notice of the culprits, who, through their lawyers, have access to what is published in Stars and Stripes.
Naturally the view of the U.S. Army and Navy Journal was pleasing to the Nazis, but it shocked the Allied prosecutors and drew a quick retort from Justice Jackson. He pointed out that the Nazi generals are not being prosecuted because they are soldiers but because they helped start a war that almost destroyed the world — something that you might have thought would be self-evident even to our brass hats.
Wednesday, December 5. — Historians will now have to revise their judgment of the infamous pact at Munich which destroyed the first. Czechoslovak Republic and staved off the World War for one year. A mass of secret German documents introduced in the trial last week show beyond a shadow of doubt that the mad Fiihrer was not bluffing during the “Munich crisis.” He was quite ready to go to war.
I myself had believed, after personally covering the crucial meetings at Godesberg and Munich in the tense September days of 1938, that Hitler had pulled a gigantic bluff. But the confidential pages reveal that until the Sudetenland was handed to him on a platter at Munich with the connivance of Chamberlain and Daladier, Hitler and the German High Command were ready, and indeed intended,to attack Czechoslovakia with an overwhelming land and air force on or about October 1, 1938. What is more, the documents make clear that Hitler and his generals fully realized that an attack on the Czechs would engender a world war, and that they (with the exception of a few generals) were determined to risk that too.
Hitler was ready to go to war and would have, had not Chamberlain and Daladier surrendered. Some may think this vindicates the bungling British Prime Minister. But I take the opposite view. Aside from the dishonorableness of his action in sacrificing Czechoslovakia so sordidly, he only postponed the World War by eleven months. Had Germany started it in 1938, I think we are justified in concluding from these German documents themselves that it would not have lasted long, that Germany would have been easily and quickly beaten, and that the world would have been spared the terrible devastation and suffering of the long war which began a year later. We see from these German archives that in the opinion of most of the German military experts themselves, the Third Reich was not powerful enough in 1938 to take on Britain, France, Russia, Czechoslovakia, and probably Poland at one time. In 1938, it is fair to assume, this powerful coalition would have reacted to the German threat at: once. When the World War actually came in 1939, Czechoslovakia, which a year earlier had had an excellent, army defending formidable fortifications, was no more, and Hitler was able to attack the others one at a time, since Russia had fallen out of the potential coalition.
Sunday, December 9. — A strange feeling of relief to be leaving this tortuous, tragic land again — perhaps for the last time. There are, of course, one or two things that one can take with him: the love and appreciation of German music — of Bach and Beethoven and. the Austrians, Haydn, Mozart, and Schubert — and the beautiful things that a few Germans wrote: Schiller and Goethe and Heine and Thomas Mann and the wonderful lyric poet, Rilke, who was born in Prague, and Kafka, who was a Czech but wrote in German. Theirs was a German spirit one can live with.
It is almost five years to a day since my last, going-away from Germany. It seemed then that the evil in the German had triumphed over himself and was about to triumph over the world. One’s soul turned sick and black at the prospect. The bleakness, the loneliness, the injustices of life, one could always support. But not this. Not this outrageous cruelty, this lust to destroy, this monstrous tyranny over a man’s life and, worst of all, over his spirit.
What seemed like such a certain doom when last I left did not come off. Those who sought to destroy the world are themselves destroyed. One does not rejoice at that either. But it is better than the other way around. The realization of it makes this last departure a different experience. The heart is less hurt and a man’s hope for man begins to rise again.
- The official translator speaks here in the brackets, but with some awkwardness. The word Schweinhund, a great favorite with the Nazis, simply means “damned pig.” — W. I. S.↩