William Lawrence Shirer

William Lawrence Shirer

Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Death 28 Dec 1993 (aged 89)
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Burial Lenox, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, USA
Memorial ID 7316239 · View Source
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Newspaper Correspondent, Historian and Author. He is best remembered for his books on the rise of Nazi Germany and on World War II in Europe. He spoke French, German, Italian and Spanish fluently. Born in Chicago, Illinois, his father was US Attorney there and a populist in philosophy, which had great influence on young Shirer. When Shirer was nine, his father suddenly died, and the family moved to his maternal grandmother's house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Lacking much money, he attended Coe College, a small school in Cedar Rapids, graduating in 1925. Shirer then worked his way to Europe on a cattle boat, intending to stay for only the summer, but remained for the next 15 years. In 1925, he found work with the "Chicago Tribune," covering assignments all over Europe, the Near East and India, including his forming a deep friendship with Mohandas Gandhi. Starting in 1933, he covered the growth of the Nazi Party in Germany, including Hitler's peaceful triumphs of the return of the Saarland to Germany and the remilitarization of the Rhineland. In 1937, Edward R. Murrow recruited him to work for CBS Radio, reporting from Vienna. In March 1938, Shirer was first to report on the Austrian Anschluss, scooping all of the rival radio correspondents at the time, and beating Hitler's own announcement of the Anschluss. Shortly afterwards, CBS Radio set up a "European Roundup," a 30 minute broadcast from five European capitals: Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Rome and London, with Shirer anchoring the Berlin position. Shirer reported on the Munich Agreement, Germany's march into Czechoslovakia, the German invasion of Poland, and the start of World War II. In May 1940, he traveled with German troops in the invasion of France, and from Paris, reported the French capitulation on 22 June 1940 to the American public before the Germans or French announced the news. As German press censorship became increasingly more intense, he learned the Gestapo was about to arrest him, and so he escaped from Germany in December 1940. Using his notes that he smuggled out, he wrote "Berlin Diary" (1941), a chilling account of the Nazi rise to power and the start of the war. In 1945, Shirer returned to Germany to report on the Nuremberg War Crimes trials. This assignment resulted in his follow-on book, "End of a Berlin Diary" (1947). In 1947, he left CBS, over disagreement with Murrow on the role of journalism in broadcasting. During the McCarthy years, Shirer found himself blacklisted as "pro-communist" and was unable to find work; he used these years to write "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," (1960), perhaps his best work ever. Shirer's second of three memoirs, "The Nightmare Years, 1930-1940" (1984) gives his first hand account of a correspondent observing the coming World War. Of special note to historians was his excellent account of the fall of France in "The Collapse of the Third Republic" (1969). Near the end of his life, Shirer donated his diaries and notes to his alma mater, Coe College. He had just finished proofreading his last book, "A Native's Return" (1990), about the life of Leo Tolstoy, when he passed away. In his obituary, the "Times of London" perhaps best summed up his life in the statement, "William Shirer belongs to that select group of journalists who successfully made the transition from recording the news to the writing of history."

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 31 Mar 2003
  • Find A Grave Memorial 7316239
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Lawrence Shirer (23 Feb 1904–28 Dec 1993), Find A Grave Memorial no. 7316239, citing Mountain View Cemetery, Lenox, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .