Sylvia Beach, the American owner of the Paris bookshop Shakespeare and Company, recalls life under Nazi occupation in 1941:
“My German customers were always rare, but of course after I was classified as ‘the enemy’ [when America entered the war], they stopped coming altogether – until a last outstanding visit ended the series. A high-ranking German officer, who had got out of a huge grey military car, stopped to look at a copy of Finnegans Wake that was in the window.” The officer came into the shop and said to Sylvia in fluent English, “I want that copy of Finnegans Wake you’ve got in the window.” She recalled the encounter in an interview: “‘Well,’ I said, ‘that’s the only copy left in Paris, and you can’t have it . . . You don’t understand that anyhow. You don’t know Joyce.’ And he said, ‘But we admire James Joyce very much in Germany.’ He was very angry, and he went out and got into his great car, his great military car, surrounded with other fellows in helmets, and drove away.” [. . .]
Then, just after Christmas, the Wehrmacht officer who had demanded Sylvia’s copy of Finnegans Wake returned.
“He came back in about ten days, and he said, ‘Your copy of Finnegans Wake is gone from the window. What did you do with it?’ I said, ‘I’ve put it away. It’s for me.’ He was so furious. He said, ‘Well, you know, we’re coming this afternoon to confiscate all your goods.’ I said, ‘Very well. Do so.’ And he said, ‘Now will you sell Finnegans Wake?’ And I said, ‘Not at all. Come along.’ So, he disappeared in a rage, booming down the street. [. . .] I immediately had everything removed from my shop. In about two hours, there wasn’t a book left in it, not only Finnegans Wake but everything else disappeared. [. . .] I had the name Shakespeare and Company painted off the front by the house painters, who lived in the house. And the carpenters took down the shelves even. Everything was removed. And the shutters were up. The Germans must have come and saw nothing, nothing left at all. And I retired upstairs.”from Charles Glass, Americans in Paris: Life and Death under Nazi Occupation 1940–1944 (2010), pp.205-6.
“Ten men, ton men, pen men, pun men, wont to rise a ladder. And den men, dun men, fen men, fun men, hen men, hun men wend to raze a leader.”
from Finnegans Wake, p.278 (a reference to Hitler)