March 28, 2017

1939. William L. Shirer Reports from Germany in the First Week of War

William L. Shirer on the News in Berlin

William L. Shirer

CBS Berlin

September 7, 1939

This is Berlin, William L. Shirer.

There is not much news in Berlin tonight. The evening papers play up exclusively accounts of the big victories against Poland. If Britain and France are doing anything in this war, we certainly don't hear about it here. Not a line in the press this evening about any British or French military action. At the evening press conference at the Wilhelmstraße an hour or so ago we were told nothing new from the Western Front; no confirmation of any fighting there.

To the east, the huge German armies seem to be rolling onward in this one-sided war. I understand tonight that they are only twenty miles from Warsaw, coming from the north, though the press has not published this yet.

The newspaper headlines are all about the same tonight. Here's one from the Nachtausgabe, the biggest of the afternoon papers. Quote: "The Rest of the Polish Corridor Army Destroyed"; "Our Troops Before Toruń and Łódź"; "Westerplatte Garrison Surrenders."

That last item interested me. The Westerplatte is a small island adjoining Danzig where the Polish had a few troops. I thought it surrendered the first day. I remember the first day seeing photographs of it being bombarded by a German warship. But it held out until today, and the official German communiqué speaks of the heroic stand of the Polish garrison.

Now, I get the impression here in Berlin that the people have pretty well recovered from the first shock of Britain and France coming into this war. People thought that, with the two big Western powers in, they would see terrible air raids and relent. But with the best part of the week gone by, at least those in Berlin have seen neither enemy planes nor bombs nor even leaflets, nor have they heard anything about an attack on the West Front. The only war news they've had is about the victorious counterattack—as it's called here—against Poland. I thought the faces of those on the streets were therefore a little bit brighter today. As to the blockade, I don't think the average German has thought about it yet.

There were new decrees today invoking the death penalty or lifelong imprisonment for those guilty of acts endangering the defensive power of the German people. The German Admiralty tonight issued another denial that a German submarine had sunk the Athenia. It stated: "No German submarines were in the vicinity at the time." The press here today, as yet today, continues to accuse Mr. Churchill of sinking the Athenia himself.

The Minister of Interior tonight ordered all of British citizens to report to the police within twenty-four hours, and after that they may not leave town without police permission. But note that the order does not apply to the French. The Germans still seem to put the French on a different footing from the British. I don't know why, but they do.

This is William L. Shirer in Berlin returning you to Columbia in New York.