Berlin, Sept. 1, 1939

It’s a bit warmer than yesterday.

Self is devouring Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke.

It’s not so much a history as a panorama, a mosaic of human responses and attitudes, in the years leading up to the Second World War.

Here’s an excerpt from p. 136.  It’s September 1, 1939.  On that day, at ten in the morning, Hitler delivered a “war speech” at the Kroll Opera House in Berlin, where the Reichstag met.

“Joe Barnes, the Herald Tribune correspondent, remarked on the ‘amazingly small’ crowd that waited to watch Hitler return to the Chancellery afterward.  ‘The younger Germans shouted Sieg heil!’ Barnes wrote.  ‘Others stood silent and expressionless.’ ”

“At twilight . . .  the air raid sirens went off —  a long, wailing sound, invented especially for the end of the world.  Everyone ran for cover like ants whose anthill has been carelessly kicked.”  But no planes followed.

William Shirer, the CBS correspondent in Berlin, found himself thinking that “the planes would come eventually —  and when they did, he would, he said, ‘be in the by no means pleasing predicament of hoping they bomb the hell out of this town without getting me.’ ”

(Self had heard of William Shirer before, but never anything about Joe Barnes.  Never until today, that is.  She decided to google him.  Here’s a lengthy section about him, excerpted from another historian’s book.   The “Joseph F. Barnes” is the same Joe Barnes — self is 96.7% sure! — mentioned in Human Smoke)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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