Monday 26 July 2021

Never Easy Choices


Again reading some fiction has made me realise that choices are not always easy. Neither was everything conveniently black and white  

The Paris Library, mentioned in my previous post, showed some of the difficulties of living in occupied France.  A mixed bunch of people visited, borrowed from and studied in the American Library.

Margaret, an English woman and a diplomat’s wife, was arrested because she had not been reporting to the police every day as an enemy alien must. She had a novel in her bag and read to the other women.  This so enchanted one of the guards that he let her and some of the other women go.  He eventually became her lover and supplied her with many goods she wouldn’t normally have been able to obtain.  This included items that her friend was able to send to her brother, a prisoner of war.    

Professor Cohen studied in the library. Later, as a Jewess, she was no longer allowed to leave her apartment. Her books and papers were confiscated but the staff at the library continued to deliver books to her. This did happen: staff form the American Library in Paris did deliver books to Jewish people who were confined to their homes.

Protagonist Odile stole the “crow” letter – letters denouncing people of interest to the Nazis - but in doing so she put her father and fiancé in danger.  They were both policemen and this could harm their careers.

Odile’s fiancé Paul did not get called up as his job as policeman was considered important.  However, once Paris was occupied by the Nazis he has to do many things of which he is not so proud. He is instrumental in getting Professor Cohen transferred to a concentration camp. He and a colleague end up beating Margret up. On a lighter note he has to wear white gloves, which he detests, in order to direct traffic.   

The library was offered some protection by Dr Hermann Fuchs who regularly inspected. He already knew Miss Reeder, the director, and they shared a love of books. Though they must not distribute or display any of the banned books, he allowed the library a great amount of freedom. These two people really existed.

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