Served as the foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and the International News Service.
The same Nazi circles which last August said that Britain and France wouldn't fight after the first Nazi-Soviet accord, tonight were sure that the two democracies would agree to stop the war now. They .may be wrong again, though I'm not quite sure.
I went to the State Opera tonight before my broadcast, George Kidd of U .P. suggesting it would be good for our nerves. It was the opening night of the season and the piece an old favourite, Weber's Freischiitz. I was a little surprised at the state of my nerves. I could not sit through it. I could not stand the sight of all the satisfied burghers, men and women, many of them in evening dress, and even the music didn't sound right. Amusing only was a special sheet of paper in the program instructing what to do in case of an air-raid alarm. Since there is no cellar in the Opera, a map showed me how to get to my cellar, which was Number One Keller. The alarm, the instructions said, would be announced from the stage. I was then to keep calm, call for my hat and coat at the Garderobe, and proceed to the cellar. At the all-clear I was to return to the Opera, check my hat and coat, and the opera would go on from where it left off. There was no alarm. Ribbentrop is in Moscow and we wonder what he's up to.
They buried General von Fritsch here this morning. It rained, it was cold and dark - one of the dreariest days I can remember in Berlin. Hitler did not show up, nor Ribbentrop, nor Himmler, though they all returned to Berlin from the front this afternoon. The official death notices in the papers omitted the usual "Died for Fuhrer" and said only: "Died for the Fatherland." See more
Yesterday after Goebbels had finished fuming, some of us correspondents gathered in the street outside and concluded that Fritsch was either shot by order of Himmler, his mortal enemy, or was so disgusted with life and the state to which Hitler had led Germany (disgusted perhaps too at the senseless slaughter by German bombs and shells of the women and children in Warsaw?) that he deliberately sought to be killed; that is, committed suicide. What, we asked, was a general of his rank doing in the front line outside of Warsaw, where the snipers have been picking off German troops at an alarming rate? Actually, I hear, he was killed while advancing with a small detachment of scouts up a street in a suburb across the Vistula from the capital. A curious thing for Germany's greatest modern military figure to be doing.
Dr. GoebbelsGerman Minister of Propaganda convoked a special press conference this morning. We piled over to the Propaganda Ministry thinking maybe peace had come, or something. The little Doktor stalked in, snorting like a bull, and proceeded to devote his entire time to an attack on Knickerbocker, whom he called "an international liar and counterfeiter." The Doc said that he himself, as a journalist, had never defamed anyone in his life!
Seems Knick published a story saying the top Nazis had deposited gold abroad to guard against a rainy day in case they lost the war. This made Doktor G . furious . He revealed he had broadcast from the German shortwave stations Thursday night (September 21) a call to Knick offering him ten per cent of any sum he could prove the Nazis had salted abroad. A curious offer. He said he gave him until . Saturday night (last night) to prove it. Apparently Knick was at sea, bound for New York. The story around here is that Knick radioed back that as with all German ultimatums the time limit had expired before he received it .
Starting day after tomorrow, new ration cards for food. The German people will now get per week: one pound of meat, five pounds of bread, three quarters of a pound of fats, three quarters of a pound of sugar, and a pound of ersatz coffee made of roasted barley seeds. Heavy labourers are to get double rations, and Dr. Goebbels - clever man! - has decided to classify us foreign correspondents as heavy labourers.
Two bomb explosions in Berlin last Sunday night, one in front of the Air Ministry, the other in the entryway of secret-police headquarters in the Alexanderplatz. No mention of them, of course, in the press or on the radio. The perpetrators got away in the black-out.
If the war goes on, it is still a question in my mind whether the mass of the people won't swing behind the regime.
I have still to find a German, even among those who don't like the regime, who sees anything wrong in the German destruction of Poland. All the moral attitudes of the outside world regarding the aggression against Poland find little echo among the people here. See more
People of all classes, women as well as men, have gathered in front of the windows in Berlin for a fortnight and approvingly gazed at the maps in which little red pins showed the victorious advance of the German troops in Poland. As long as the Germans are successful and do not have to pull in their belts too much, this will not be an unpopular war.
In the Saar village of Ottweiler yesterday the Germans buried with full military honours Lieutenant Louis Paul Dechanel of the French army. His father had been President of France. He was killed leading a detachment against the Westwall. At his burial a German military band played the Marseillaise. The Germans took a news-reel of the ceremony and will use it in their propaganda to show the French they haven't anything against France.
Today I have had a glimpse of an actual battle, one of the last of the Polish war, which is as good as over. It was going on two miles north of Gdynia on a ridge that stretched for seven miles inland from the sea. There was something about it that was very tragic and at the same time grotesque.
We stood on a hill called the Sternberg in the midst of the city of Gdynia under a huge - irony! - cross. It was a German observation post. Officers stood about, peering through field-glasses. Across the city over the roofs of the modern buildings of this model new town that was the hope of Poland we watched the battle going on two miles to the north. See more
The Germans were using everything in the way of weapons, big guns, small guns, tanks, and airplanes. The Poles had nothing but machine-guns, rifles, and two anti-aircraft pieces which they were trying desperately to use as artillery against German machine-gun posts and German tanks. You could hear the deep roar of the German artillery and the rat-tat-tat of the machine-guns on both sides. The Poles - we gathered from the sound of their fire, because you could see very little, even through glasses - not only were defending themselves from trenches and behind clumps of bushes but were using every building they held as machinegun nests.
After a half-hour, a German shell struck the roof of the school and set it on fire. Then German infantry, supported - or through the glasses, it looked as though they were led - by tanks, charged up the hill and surrounded the building. But they did not take it. The Poles kept machine-gunning them from the basement windows of the burning building.
Directly below us in Gdynia's streets, women and children stood about, sullen and silent, watching the unequal battle. Before some of the buildings, long lines of Poles stood waiting for food. Before mounting the hill I had noted the terrible bitterness in their faces, especially in those of the women.
Drove all day long from Berlin through Pomerania and the Corridor to here. The roads full of motorized columns of German troops returning from Poland. In the woods in the Corridor the sickening sweet smell of dead horses and the sweeter smell of dead men. Here, the Germans say, a whole division of Polish cavalry charged against hundreds of German tanks and was annihilated. On the pier of this summer resort where just five weeks ago John Gunther and I sat far into the peaceful night arguing whether the guns would go off or not in Europe, we watched tonight the battle raging around Gdynia. Far off across the sea you could see the sky light up when the big guns went. See more
Dr. Boehmer, press chief of the Propaganda Ministry in charge of this trip, insisted that I share a double room in the hotel here with Phillip Johnson, an American fascist who says he represents Father Coughlin's Social Justice. None of us can stand the fellow and suspect he is spying on us for the Nazis. For the last hour in our room here he has been posing as anti-Nazi and trying to pump me for my attitude. I have given him no more than a few bored grunts.
I heard today on very good authority that Russia may attack Poland.
A few words on a dry subject. How does the Allied blockade affect Germany? It cuts her off from about 50 per cent of her normal imports. Chief products of which Germany is deprived are: cotton, tin, nickel, oil, and rubber. Russia might supply some cotton, but her total exports last year were only 2.5 per cent of Germany's annual needs. On the other hand Russia could probably supply Germany all the manganese and timber she needs, and - with Rumania - enough oil for military purposes at least. Iron? Last year Germany got about 45 per cent of her iron ore from France, Morocco, or other places from which she is now cut off. But Sweden, Norway, and Luxemburg provided her with eleven million tons. These supplies are still open. All in all, Germany is certainly hard hit by losing the sources of 50 per cent of her imports. But with the possibilities open to her in Scandinavia, the Balkans, and Russia she is not hit nearly so badly as she was in 1914.
One week after the Anglo-French declaration of a state of war the average German is beginning to wonder if it's a world war after all. He sees it this way. England and France, it is true, are formally fulfilling their obligations to Poland. For a week they have been formally at war with Germany. But has it been war? they ask. The British, it is true, sent over twenty-five planes to bomb Wilhelmshaven. But if it is war, why only twenty-five? And if it is war, why only a few leaflets over the Rhineland? The industrial heart of Germany lies along the Rhine close to France. From there come most of the munitions that are blowing up Poland with such deadly effect. Yet not a bomb has fallen on a Rhineland factory. Is that war? they ask. The long laces I saw a week ago today are not so long this Sunday.
Life here is still quite normal . The operas, the theatres, the movies, all open and jammed . Tannhauser and Madame Butterfly playing at the Opera. Goethe's Iphigenie at the State Theatre. The Metropol, Hitler's favourite show-house, announces a new revue Wednesday. The papers tonight say two hundred football matches were played in Germany today.
Have heard much talk today about peace! Idea is that after Germany's victory over Poland Hitler will offer the West peace. I wrote this rather carefully for my broadcast this evening, but the censor wouldn't allow a word of it.
It's just a week since the "counter-attack" began and tonight I learn from an army friend that the Germans are within twenty miles of Warsaw. A new decree today providing the death penalty for anyone "endangering the defensive power of the German people" - a term which will give Gestapo chief Himmler plenty of leeway. Another decree forces workers to accept new jobs even if they pay lower wages than jobs previously held.
The war is starting to hurt the average man. Tonight a decree providing for a surtax on the income tax of a straight fifty per cent and a big increase in the tax on beer and tobacco. Also a decree fixing prices and wages.
After midnight and no air-raid, even with the British and French in the war. Can it be that in this new World War they're not going to bomb the big cities, the capitals, the civilians, the women and children at home, after all? The people here breathing easier already. They didn't sleep much the first couple of nights.
On the feedback from New York tonight I heard the story of the sinking of the Athenia with 1,400 passengers, including 240 Americans, aboard. The English said it was a German U-boat. The Germans promptly denied it, though the German press and radio have been forbidden to mention the matter until tomorrow. I felt lousy talking from here at all tonight after that story and went out of my way to explain my personal position as an American broadcaster-that I had been assigned to give the news from Germany, that official statements such as the denial that a German submarine had torpedoed the Athena were part of that news, and that my orders from home were to refrain from expressing my personal opinions. The High Command has installed military censorship of everything I say, but fortunately the chief censor is a naval officer, an honourable and decent man. I have had some warm words with him the last couple of days, but within the limits of his job he has been reasonable.
I was standing in the Wilhelmplatz about noon when the loud-speakers suddenly announced that England had declared herself at war with Germany. Some 250 people were standing there in the sun. They listened attentively to the announcement. When it was finished, there was not a murmur. They just stood there as they were before. Stunned. The people cannot realize yet that Hitler has led them into a world war. No issue has been created for them yet, though as this day wears on, it is plain that "Albion's perfidy" will become the issue as it did in 1914. In Mein Kampf Hitler says the greatest mistake the Kaiser made was to fight England, and Germany must never repeat that mistake .
Hitler's "counter-attack" on Poland has on this Sabbath day become a world war! To record the date: September 3, 1939. The time: eleven a.m. At nine o'clock this morning Sir Nevile Henderson called on the German Foreign Minister and handed him a note giving Germany until eleven o'clock to accept the British demand that Germany withdraw her troops from Poland. He returned to the Wilhelmstrasse shortly after eleven and was handed the German reply in the form of a memorandum.