Sigrid Schultz Outsmarted Hermann Goering
Sigrid Schultz worked in Berlin as the Chicago Tribune’s first female Bureau Chief in Central Europe and reported the growth of the Nazi state with insider’s knowledge. As the Chicago Tribune’s ace woman reporter, she beat Hermann Goering at his own game.
Sigrid Schultz’s china doll appearance hid the razor sharp mind that she needed to conceal her animosity for the new Nazi regime in Germany and present a friendly enough face and attitude to get accurate, inside information for her newspaper stories.
Sigrid had an insider’s understanding of the workings of the Nazi machine. Although she had been born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1893, Sigrid’s father who was a well known portrait painter opened a studio in Paris. Sigrid graduated from the Sorbonne in 1914, and then she joined her parents in Berlin where they had settled. They remained in Berlin throughout World War I, protected by their American citizenship, and Sigrid studied history and international law at Berlin University
In 1919, the Berlin office of the Chicago Tribune hired Sigrid as an interpreter, a job that suited her well since she spoke English, French, Dutch, German, and Polish. Her command of the German language helped her report German politics from an insider’s perspective. In 1926, the Tribune made her its Bureau Chief for Central Europe, the first time a media organization had ever promoted a woman to such a position.
Sigrid Schultz Interviewed Hitler Several Times and Documented Nazi Germany
Although Nazism repelled Sigrid, she cultivated her connection with World War I ace pilot Captain Hermann Goering. She made such a good impression that Goering introduced her to Hitler. Sigrid joined the small group of correspondents who interviewed Hitler several times in the early 1930s. Her intimate knowledge of Germany’s leaders helped her accurately report their goals as Nazi Germany became a looming threat to world peace.
Berlin had changed since Sigrid had first come to Germany. Now it was hard to stroll down the Unter den Linden without running into goose stepping, saluting soldiers. Neighbors who had been once been friendly would no longer speak to Sigrid because her anti-Nazi views were well known. Eventually Hermann Goering decided to eliminate Sigrid Schultz.
Hermann Goering Plotted to Eliminate Sigrid Schultz
One day while Sigrid was at her office, a man arrived at the apartment that she and her mother shared with a large sealed envelope . He handed it to her mother with the instructions that Fraulein Schultz was to open it when she returned that evening. Frau Schultz phoned Sigrid and Sigrid rushed home. She took one look at the design for an airplane engine inside the envelope and burned it to ashes in the fireplace.
On her way back to her office she passed a man she knew heading toward her apartment with two criminal types behind him. She planted herself squarely in their path and told them that it would be a waste of time to continue because she had already burned the envelope. Then she flagged down a taxi and loudly ordered the driver to take her to the American embassy.
Sigrid Schultz Confronted Hermann Goering
Sigrid decided that the time had come to protest directly to Goering. In April 1935,she approached him at a luncheon that the Foreign Press Association gave to honor him and his new bride, Emmy Sonnemann.. Goering scowled down the long banquet table and said that it was time that reporters began respecting the new Germany instead of constantly writing about concentration camps, which were needed to teach discipline to people who had forgotten about it during the days of the weak Weimar Republic.
Ignoring his belligerent speech, Sigrid spoke quietly about the agents that he had sent to trap her and told him that she had informed the American embassy. Goering lost his temper. He called Sigrid Schultz the “Dragon Lady from Chicago,” and he said that she didn’t have enough respect for the authority of the state since she was from “the crime ridden city of Chicago.”
Mutual Broadcaster and "John Dickson"
In 1938, Sigrid began to report for the Mutual Broadcasting System as well as the Chicago Tribune. During 1938 and 1939, Sigrid filed some of her dispatches under an assumed name so she could continue to work in Germany without being jailed or expelled. Many of her stories were published in the Tribune’s weekly magazine under the fictitious name of “John Dickson.”
She also filed her dispatches outside of Germany, usually from Oslo or Copenhagen with false datelines. Her articles reported the German government attacks on churches, and exposed the concentration camps and the persecution of the Jews. Under her Dickson byline, Sigrid forecast the Munich Agreement, and the 1939 non-aggression pact between German and the Soviet Union. Sigrid’s colleague William L. Shirer wrote that “No other American correspondent in Berlin knew so much of what was going on behind the scenes as did Sigrid Schultz.”
Normandy, Buchenwald, and Beyond
During the first year of World War II, Sigrid reported the progress of the German Army, but she couldn’t travel to the front because she was a woman. After she was injured in an Allied air raid on Berlin, she went to Spain where she caught typhus. She returned to the United States in early 1941 and spent the next three years convalescing from the disease. During her convalescence, Sigrid wrote a book about Germany titled Germany Will Try It Again and lectured nationwide about her 25 years in Germany.
Finally returning to Europe in 1944, Sigrid landed in Normandy with the United States Army, and reported the liberation of France and the conquest of Germany. She was one of the first journalists to visit Buchenwald and covered the Nuremberg trials.
Back in the United States Sigrid continued reporting and wrote several books. She died in 1980 before she could complete her history of Anti-Semitism in Germany.
William L. Shirer, Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, 1934-1941, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002
Nancy Caldwell Sorel, The Women Who Wrote the War, Harper Collins, 1999