Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941

About ten o’clock tonight I got caught in a mob of ten thousand hysterics who jammed the moat in front of Hitler’s hotel, shouting: “We want our Führer.” I was a little shocked at the faces, especially those of the women, when Hitler finally appeared on the balcony for a moment. They reminded me of the crazed expressions I saw once in the back country of Louisiana on the faces of some Holy Rollers who were about to hit the trail. They looked up at him as if he were a Messiah, their faces transformed into something positively inhuman. If he had remained in sight for more than a few moments, I think many of the women would have swooned from excitement. Later

A curious communiqué from the German navy today: “The High Command of the Navy announces: The commander of the Graf Spee, Captain Hans Langsdorff, did not want to survive the sinking of his ship. True to old traditions and in the spirit of the training of the Officers Corps of which he was a member for thirty years, he made this decision. Having brought his crew to safety he considered his duty fulfilled, and followed his ship. The navy understands and praises this step. Captain Langsdorff has in this way fulfilled like a fighter and a hero the expectations of his Führer, the German people, and the navy.

After December 1, horses, cows, and pigs not residing on regular farms are to get food cards too.

After midnight and no air-raid,

BERLIN, June 18 It’s in the bag, signed today in London. The Wilhelmstrasse quite elated. Germany gets a U-boat tonnage equal to Britain’s. Why the British have agreed to this is beyond me. German submarines almost beat them in the last war, and may in the next.

BERLIN, October 29 I’ve been looking into what Germans are reading these dark days. Among novels the three best-sellers are: (1) Gone with the Wind, translated as Vom Winde Verweht—literally “From the Wind Blown About”; (2) Cronin’s Citadel; (3) Beyond Sing the Woods, by Trygve Gulbranssen, a young Norwegian author. Note that all three novels are by foreign authors, one by an Englishman. Most sought-after non-fiction books are: (1) The Coloured Front, an anonymous study of the white-versus-Negro problem; (2) Look Up the Subject of England, a propaganda book about England; (3) Der totale Krieg, Ludendorff’s famous book about the Total War—very timely now; (4) Fifty Years of Germany, by Sven Hedin, the Swedish explorer and friend of Hitler; (5) So This is Poland, by von Oertzen, data on Poland, first published in 1928. Three


But Germany is stronger than her enemies realize. True, it is a poor country in raw materials and agriculture; but it is making up for this poverty in aggressiveness of spirit, ruthless state planning, concentrated direction of effort, and the building up of a mighty military machine with which it can back up its aggressive spirit. True, too, that this past winter we have seen long lines of sullen people before the food shops, that there is a shortage of meat and butter and fruit and fats, that whipped cream is verboten, that men’s suits and women’s dresses are increasingly being made out of wood pulp, gasoline out of coal, rubber out of coal and lime; that there is no gold coverage for the Reichsmark or for anything else, not even for vital imports. Weaknesses, most of them, certainly, and in our dispatches we have advertised them. It

Fascinating to watch the reactions of people suddenly seized by fear. Some can’t take it. They let themselves go to a point of hysteria, then in panic flee to—God knows where. Most take it, with various degrees of courage and coolness. In the lobby tonight: the newspapermen milling around trying to get telephone calls through the one lone operator. Jews excitedly trying to book on the last plane or train. The wildest rumours coming in with every new person that steps through the revolving door from outside, all of us gathering around to listen, believing or disbelieving according to our feelings.

For a time I stood against the rail watching the lights recede on a Europe in which I had spent all fifteen of my adult years, which had given me all of my experience and what little knowledge I had. It had been a long time, but they had been happy years, personally, and for all people in Europe they had had meaning and borne hope until the war came and the Nazi blight and the hatred and the fraud and the political gangsterism and the murder and the massacre and the incredible intolerance and all the suffering and the starving and cold and the thud of a bomb blowing the people in a house to pieces, the thud of all the bombs blasting man's hope and decency.

GENEVA, July 5 Avenol, Secretary-General of the League, apparently thinks he’ll have a job in Hitler’s United States of Europe. Yesterday he fired all the British secretaries and packed them off on a bus to France, where they’ll probably be arrested by the Germans or the French. Tonight in the sunset the great white marble of the League building showed through the trees. It had a noble look, and the League has stood in the minds of many as a noble hope. But it has not tried to fulfil it. Tonight it was a shell, the building, the institution, the hope—dead.

Have we not reached a stage in history where no small nation is safe any longer, where they all must live on sufferance from the dictators? Gone are those pleasant nineteenth-century days when a country could remain neutral and at peace just by saying it wanted to.

Heinrich Himmler is such a mild little fellow when you talk to him, reminding you of a country school-teacher, which he once was—pince-nez and all. Freud, I believe, has told us why the mild little fellows or those with a trace of effeminacy in them, like Hitler, can be so cruel at times. I guess I would prefer my cruelty from great thundering hulks like Göring.

Himmler announced today that a Polish farm labourer had been hanged for sleeping with a German woman. No race pollution is to be permitted. Another

I miss the old Berlin of the Republic, the care-free, emancipated, civilized air, the snubnosed young women with short-bobbed hair and the young men with either cropped or long hair—it made no difference—who sat up all night with you and discussed anything with intelligence and passion. The constant Heil Hitler’s, clicking of heels, and brown-shirted storm troopers or black-coated S.S. guards marching up and down the street grate me, though the old-timers say there are not nearly so many brown-shirts about since the purge.

irregularly as though it were farm land.

I suppose every government that has ever gone to war has tried to convince its people of three things: (1) that right is on its side; (2) that it is fighting purely in defence of the nation; (3) that it is sure to win.

It seems that along the Rhine front the French broadcast some recordings which the Germans say constituted a personal insult to the Führer. “The French did not realize,” says the DNB with that complete lack of humour which makes the Germans so funny,

LATER.—After seven days of almost ceaseless goose-stepping, speech-making, and pageantry, the party rally came to an end tonight. And though dead tired and rapidly developing a bad case of crowd-phobia, I’m glad I came. You have to go through one of these to understand Hitler’s hold on the people, to feel the dynamic in the movement he’s unleashed and the sheer, disciplined strength the Germans possess. And now—as Hitler told the correspondents yesterday in explaining his technique—the half-million men who’ve been here during the week will go back to their towns and villages and preach the new gospel with new fanaticism. Shall sleep late tomorrow and take the night train back to Berlin.

LATER.—I must go to Germany. At midnight Murrow phoned from London with the news. The British and French have decided they will not fight for Czechoslovakia and are asking Prague to surrender unconditionally to Hitler and turn over Sudetenland to Germany. I protested to Ed that the Czechs wouldn’t accept it, that they’d fight alone…. “Maybe so. I hope you’re right. But in the meantime Mr. Chamberlain is meeting Hitler at Godesberg on Wednesday and we want you to cover that. If there’s a war, then you can go back to Prague.

LONDON, March 16 Ed telephoned from Vienna. He said Major Emil Fey has committed suicide after putting bullets through his wife and nineteen-year-old son. He was a sinister man. Undoubtedly he feared the Nazis would murder him for having double-crossed them in 1934 when Dollfuss was shot. I return to Vienna day after tomorrow. The crisis is over. I think we’ve found something, though, for radio with these round-ups.

Marvin found that German clergymen had taken to wearing clerical collars made of paper. They cost eight cents, can be worn inside out the second day, and are then thrown away….

moment of declaration of war, if there

Much of what is going on and will go on could be learned by the outside world from Mein Kampf, the Bible and Koran together of the Third Reich. But—amazingly—there is no decent translation of it in English or French, and Hitler will not allow one to be made, which is understandable, for it would shock many in the West. How many visiting butter-and-egg men have I told that the Nazi goal is domination! They laughed.

NUREMBERG, September 5 I’m beginning to comprehend, I think, some of the reasons for Hitler’s astounding success. Borrowing a chapter from the Roman church, he is restoring pageantry and colour and mysticism to the drab lives of twentieth-century Germans.

obvious they had not heard the

On the streets today gangs of Jews, with jeering storm troopers standing over them and taunting crowds around them, on their hands and knees scrubbing the Schuschnigg signs off the sidewalks. Many Jews killing themselves. All sorts of reports of Nazi sadism, and from the Austrians it surprises me. Jewish men and women made to clean latrines. Hundreds of them just picked at random off the streets to clean the toilets of the Nazi boys. The lucky ones get off with merely cleaning cars—the thousands of automobiles which have been stolen from the Jews

People are talking about the action of the British yesterday in sinking three French battleships in Oran to save them from falling into the hands of the Germans. The French, who have sunk to a depth below your imagination, say they will break relations with Britain. They say they trusted Hitler’s word not to use the French fleet against Britain. Pitiful. And yet there will be great bitterness throughout France. The Entente Cordiale is dead. We

This is bad luck for radio. Berlin reports Hitler has demanded—and Chamberlain more or less accepted—a plebiscite for the Sudeteners. The government here says it is out of the question. But they are afraid that is what happened at Berchtesgaden. In other words that Mr. Chamberlain has sold them down the river.

To sum up these three years: Personally, they have not been unhappy ones, though the shadow of Nazi fanaticism, sadism, persecution, regimentation, terror, brutality, suppression, militarism, and preparation for war has hung over all our lives, like a dark, brooding cloud that never clears.