William L. Shirer was a heroic journalist covering the rise of the Third Reich amid increasing censorship of the press. He spent six years covering the events, atmosphere and politics of Nazi Germany for audiences elsewhere in Europe. He witnessed
“the Germans’ descent into madness and violence, and he possessed the reporters eye and ear for details that would have exposed the Nazis’ wickedness. Yet he lived under extreme censorship. Adolf Hitler’s propagandists suppressed all news except officially sanctioned messages that extolled the virtues of the Third Reich.” (Sweeney, 2012)
Now that the nature and intensity of Nazi anti-Semitism is fairly well established, it is interesting to study the Jewish perceptions on the phenomenon. Jewish assimilation into Christian dominated societies goes back several centuries starting from Babylonia. This sensitive and complex trend continued well into the modern era, with the German-Jew ‘symbiosis’, proving for a while to be a triumph of social integration. Indeed, German Jews themselves “touted their identification as Germans. Non-Jews like Gotthold Lessing and even Goethe wrote and spoke about their colleagues of ‘the Mosaic persuasion’”. (M, 2001, p. 138) But such a glorious communal bond had deteriorated into the Holocaust under the Nazis. It is fair to claim that the Jews were not a party to this grave decline in relationship. This stance is attested by German historians of the Alltaghistoriker tradition, whose focus is on recording the multitude of histories in quotidian life and by studying “the relationships between Jews and non-Jews in the German communities of Frankfurt am Main, Gießen, and Geisenheim, symbolized by the Hessian heraldic lion.” (M, 2001, p. 138)
In conclusion, it emerges that Engelmann’s description of the unfair treatment of his French language teacher Dr.Levy is typical of the Jewish experience during the rise of the Third Reich. Various other scholars on the subject, including Sidney M, Wick Steve and M.S. Sweeney have extended, enhanced or offered fresh perspectives to Engelmann’s account of the early 1930s. But no scholar has refuted Engelmann’s facts. In this respect, Engelmann’s autobiographical memoir, despite its personal tone, style and point of view, serves as an important historical scholarship.
- Kunath, R. C. (2012). Political Violence in the Weimar Republic, 1918-1933: Fight for the Streets and Fear of Civil War. The Historian, 74(2), 419+
- M, S. (2001). The Lion and the Star: Gentile-Jewish Relations in Three Hessian Communities 1919-1945. Shofar, 19(4), 138.
- Sweeney, M. S. (2012). The Long Night: William L. Shirer and the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Journalism History, 38(1), 59+.
- Wick, The Long Night: William L. Shirer and the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. NewYork: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 288 pp
- Extract from Bernt Engelmann’s autobiographical memoir, In Hitler’s Germany, (1986), pp.1-4