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The Second World War in France

Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. In June 1940 Germany invaded France, and occupied Paris on 14 June. The French requested an armistice, and hostilities ceased on 24 June. The Germans occupied just over half of France, in the north and west of the country.

General Pétain established a French government in Vichy, which co-operated with the occupiers. General de Gaulle called for resistance to the Germans in a broadcast made from London on 18 June 1940. He formed a committee in London to lead the Resistance in France. The Germans invaded unoccupied France 11 November 1942. Admiral Darlan then formed a Committee of Resistance in Algeria, but was assassinated 24 December 1942. The two committees of London and Alger were united 3 June 1943 under the name Comité Français de la Libération Nationale, to work for the liberation of France. This committee became the provisional government of the French Republic 2 June 1944. The invasion of Normandy began 6 June 1944, known as "Jour J" in French. Paris was liberated between 18 and 25 August 1944, and other parts of France soon afterwards. German forces capitulated during the first week in May 1945.

The British Museum Library, the forerunner of the British Library, was unable to purchase books from France during the war. Some accounts of events in France published in Britain can be traced through the British Museum Subject Index 1941-1945, published in 1953, in which the heading is 'European War, 1939-1945'. The same heading is used in later subject indexes, published to cover books received up to 1975, which can be consulted in the Humanities - Floor 1 Reading Room. In the Subject index of modern books acquired 1946 - 1950, details are given of some war-time publications. La France libre, published in London from November 1940 to January 1947, is at P.P.3555.ahl. Georges Duhamel's Chronique des saisons amères, Paris, 1946 (Shelfmark: 09101.c.2) is one of a number of memoirs, and there are works issued by or about the Vichy government and about the Resistance. For books published after 1975, a subject search can be made in Explore the British Library using the terms 'World War 2 France'.

The Social Policy Information Service has the following among its official publications. Reports from France, issued by La France Combattante in London from 1943 are at S. 425. The Journal officiel de l'État Français, published in Vichy between 1 Jan 1941 and 30 June 1944 is at shelfmark O.G.F. 110/3. The Journal officiel de la République Française, which was first issued by the Comité Français de la Libération Nationale in Alger from 10 June 1943 is at shelfmark O.G.F. 110/5. A reprint of the numbers between 14 August 1943 and 24 June 1944 is at shelfmark O.G.F. 110/6(2).

The British Library’s newspaper collection holds some issues of war-time newspapers on microfilm. From Paris there is the Défense de la France, from 15 August 1941 to 21 August 1944, at shelfmark: M.misc.282. This was continued as D.F., with the subtitle France-soir from 8 November 1944 - 16 April 1945, when France-soir became the main title (shelfmark: M.F.290.M). Le Figaro runs from 1854 to 30 December 1942, and from 23 August 1944 to date, (shelfmark: M.F.39). Le jour - l'Écho de Paris, from May 1940 to March 1942 includes Marseilles, Clermont-Ferrand and Vichy editions, (shelfmark: M.F.249.W). Action; organe social de la France combattante, October 1943 to July 1944 (shelfmark: M.misc.275), is continued by Action; hebdomadaire de l'indépendance française, 9 September 1944 to 9 May 1952, at shelfmark M.F.220.A. From the period immediately after the Liberation we have, among other titles Gavroche, from 9 November 1944 to 8 November 1945, at shelfmark M.F.249.R. There are a few local newspapers from the south of France. Examples include Le Petit Var, published in Toulon, with some issues from the years 1940, 1941 and 1942 to 1944, (shelfmark: M.F.247.H), and from Toulouse, La Dépêche, published from 31 December 1940 to 3 July 1944, (shelfmark: M.F.186)and La Garonne, from 29 June 1940 to 10 July 1944, (shelfmark: M.F.249.M).


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