A timeline of World War II in
The Paris Library
Real World Events
The Paris Library Events
February 1939
In 1938, with the Treaty of Munich, the German-speaking section of Czechoslovakia was surrendered to Hitler.

The Spanish Civil War continues.
Odile applies for a job at the Library. She begins to work at the ALP. She worries about her brother, who is obsessed with the tense political situation in Europe.
March 1939
Tension grows in Europe when Hitler marches into Czechoslovakia and occupies the entire country.
August 1939
Parisians prepare for war by covering their windows with brown paper, in case the glass shatters during an air raid. Everyone carries gas masks.
The ALP has piles of dirt in order to put out fires that might be caused by falling bombs. Signs are pasted on the Library walls to inform members where the closest air raid shelter is located, and the librarians conduct drills to prepare members for the worst. The American Embassy posts a sign encouraging all citizens to return to the safety of the States. Helen Fickweiler arrives from New England and becomes the reference librarian.
September 1939
Hitler invades Poland on September 1. France and England declare war on Germany on September 3.

On September 10, Canada declares war on Germany. Many Parisians feel that France will be safe from a German attack because of the Maginot line, a series of concrete fortifications and trenches. It is nearly 300 miles long.
At the Library, Miss Reeder starts the Soldiers Service three days after war is declared. She wants to show soldiers who are isolated and far from home that their friends at the Library care. From September 1939 to May 1940, 100,000 books are delivered to French, English, and Czechoslovakian troops, as well as to the Foreign Legion and to British headquarters in London.
May 1940
On May 10, Germany invades the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. On May 12, Hitler’s troops enter France.
At the Library, Miss Reeder urges her staff to flee, but she herself remains.
June 1940
On June 3, the Germans bomb Paris and the suburbs. Over 250 people are killed.

On June 4, 338,000 British troops as well as some French soldiers were evacuated at Dunkirk. There is much distrust and miscommunication between the French and British leaders.

On June 14, Nazis march into Paris. On June 21, France accepts German armistice terms, which establishes the Vichy Government under Marshal Petain.
At the Library, Odile is worried for her brother Rémy. In newspapers, war communiques give the impression that the Allies are winning the war.

On June 12, the Library staff prepares to travels by car to Angoulême, except for Miss Reeder, who remains at the Library. Evangeline Turnbull and her daughter Olivia decide to return to Canada from Angoulême. As Canadian citizens, and thus British subjects, they risk being arrested as alien enemies.

The ALP staff returns to Paris.
July 1940
On July 3, in faraway Oran, an Algerian port city, British battlecruisers opened fire on French ships. Overall, 1,297 French sailors were killed, and 350 were wounded.
At the Library, friends, too, begin to argue as political differences begin to erode relationships.
Summer 1940
In Paris, the Russian, Polish, and Ukrainian Library collections are seized by the Nazis.
Dr. Hermann Fuchs, the Bibliotheksschütz (the Nazi Library Protector), visits the Library for the first time. He and Miss Reeder have a meeting in which Fuchs tells the Directress that Jewish people may not enter the ALP. Librarians vow to deliver books to Jewish members.
September 1940
Parisians no longer fear bombs, and they deal with the German occupation the best they can.
Miss Reeder takes down the brown paper shrouding the windows.
October 1940
In Paris, children return to school.
January 1941
On January 29, Miss Reeder is worried about Peter Oustinoff and Helen Fickweiler. She asks them to return to the States.
May 1941
The trustees in New York fear that the United States will enter into war with Germany, and that Miss Reeder will be considered an enemy alien. They urge her to return home.
June 1941
Countess Clara de Chambrun takes over as the director of the Library.
December 1941
Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese on December 7. The following day, the United States declares war on Japan. On December 11, Italy and Germany declare war on the US.
Subscribers hope that America’s entry into the war will bring the fighting, and the German occupation, to an end.
June 1942
Jewish people in France are ordered to wear yellow Star of David badges.
On her way to the Library, Odile sees a Jewish woman wearing a badge on her lapel, and she doesn’t know how to react. Dr. Fuchs visits the Library and is stunned to learn that Miss Reeder has left. He interviews the Countess about everything from the collection to the Library’s insurance policy.
July 1943
Boris is shot by the Gestapo and taken to a dank cell in Pitié Hospital. The Countess informs Dr. Fuchs, who is eventually able to have Boris transferred to the American Hospital. Because the Gestapo refused to let a doctor treat him, Boris is in critical condition and must spend several weeks at the hospital.
June 1944
June 6 is D-Day. According to PBS.org, “The first of 24,000 paratroopers—flown over the Channel in more than 1,000 aircraft—are dropped behind enemy lines in Normandy. More than 5,300 ships, carrying 176,000 men are streaming across the Channel.”
August 1944
On August 19, there is an uprising in the City of Light as Parisians begin to fight back against the oppressor. According to historian Anthony Beevor, the liberation of Paris was low on Eisenhower’s list of priorities. Allied Forces originally intended to bypass the capital. Instead, the 2ème Division Blindée and the US 4th Infantry Division entered the city to a riotous welcome, interspersed with some fighting.

On August 25, Paris is liberated after four years of German occupation. Celebration and joy ensue.
At the Library, staff and subscribers celebrate on the lawn of the courtyard, dancing and drinking champagne.
September 1944
After the joy and celebration, comes retribution for perceived collaboration with the Germans. Women who are accused of “horizontal collaboration” have their heads shaved in public squares.
A devoted Library volunteer has her head shaved by bitter Frenchmen.

The Library remains open.