1 January: SNCF is created when five privately owned rail companies—Compagnie du Nord, Compagnie de l’Est, Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée, Paris-Orléans and Compagnie du Midi—merge with the network already owned by the French State in western France under the terms of the agreement signed on August 31, 1937.
23 August: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union sign a non-aggression pact.
1 September: Germany invades Poland.
1 September: France is put on a war footing.
3 September: Britain and France declare war on Germany.
6 October: A 60-hour working week is brought in for rail workers.
17 September: The Soviet Union invades Poland.
26 September: The French Communist party is disbanded.
9 April: Germany invades Denmark and Norway.
10 May: German forces move into Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and France.
14 May: The Germans break through Allied defences at Sedan.
June: Millions of French people flee their homes to escape the Nazi invasion.
10 June: Italy declares war on Britain and France.
14 June: German troops enter Paris.
18 June: General de Gaulle calls on the people of France to resist the Germans.
22 June: France signs an armistice with Germany at Compiègne. The agreement comes into effect on June 25, leaving part of France under Nazi occupation. Under Article 13, the French railways are placed at the “full and entire disposal” of the German Army.
10 July: The French Parliament meets in Vichy and vests Marshal Pétain with full powers. Eighty deputies and senators vote against the change.
11 July: Pétain establishes the French State, bringing the Third Republic to an end.
7 August: Alsace and Moselle are de facto annexed by Germany.
August: The Nazi authorities make two separate requests for a total of 3,000 locomotives and 85,000 wagons, adding to the 150,000 wagons seized during the fighting.
27 September: The Germans issue the first anti-Jewish order, requiring the identification of all Jews in the occupied zone.
3–4 October: The Vichy government adopts its first set of anti-Jewish legislative measures.
30 October: In a radio broadcast, Pétain announces that he has embarked on the “path of collaboration” with Germany and urges the French people to join him.
8 February: The Nazi authorities instruct SNCF to send 5,000 drivers and 6,000 metalworkers to Germany.
2 June: The Vichy government adopts its second set of anti-Jewish legislative measures.
22 June: Germany invades the Soviet Union.
25 July: The first convoy of so-called ‘political’ deportees from France arrives at Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, after departing on July 22. Among them are 244 striking mine workers from northern France.
22 October: The Nazis execute 48 prisoners, including 27 at Châteaubriant (near Nantes), in retaliation for an attack on a German officer in Nantes. Among them, the former head of the main railway Union, arrested in 1939 for “communist activities” after the party was dissolved.
7 December: The Imperial Japanese Navy attacks the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into the war.
27 March: The first convoy of Jewish deportees leaves France.
16 June: France and Germany adopt La Relève, a policy under which French POWs are repatriated in return for French workers volunteering to go to Germany as labourers.
6 July: The first large convoy of political prisoners and Resistance members to depart from Compiègne.
16–17 July: Thirteen thousands of foreign and stateless Jews are rounded up and held at the Vélodrome d’Hiver cycle track and stadium in Paris.
August: Thousands more foreign and stateless Jews are arrested in the unoccupied Free Zone and deported; most are held at Drancy transit camp en route to Auschwitz.
4 September: The Vichy government passes a law authorizing the forced enlistment and deportation of French workers to Nazi Germany.
13 October: Rail workers at SNCF’s workshops in Oullins, a suburb of Lyon, protest against the forced enlistment of labourers, sparking a series of strikes that sweep across southern France.
11 November: The Germany Army invades unoccupied France after Allied forces land in Vichy-controlled North Africa on November 8.
27 November: The French fleet is scuttled at Toulon and the French Army is disbanded.
December: The Nazi authorities order SNCF to send a further 10,000 employees to Germany.
1 January: A 60-hour work week is reintroduced for rail workers stationed at workshops and depots, following the August 1940 reduction to 48 hours. Other employee categories see their work week lengthened to 52 or 54 hours.
2 February: The Nazis surrender at Stalingrad.
16 February: The Vichy government sets up the Service du travail obligatoire (STO), a system under which young French workers aged 20-22 are sent to Germany as forced labourers. As spring wears on, the number of people refusing to be deported increases. Some objectors join the Maquis—rural bands of armed Resistance fighters.
April: The first group of civilians is enlisted to guard the railways, joining the Garde de communications—an official patrol corps established in January 1941.
27 May: The National Council of the Resistance holds its first meeting, chaired by Jean Moulin.
3 June: The French Committee of National Liberation (CFLN)—a temporary French government based in Algiers—is established. Generals de Gaulle and Giraud serve as its founding co-presidents. From November 9, the committee operates under the sole presidency of de Gaulle.
21 June: Moulin is arrested, a few days after the arrest of General Delestraint, commander of the Armée secrète (Secret Army), on 9 June.
10 July: The Allies storm the beaches of Sicily ahead of the September 3 landing in mainland Italy.
14 July (and November 11): People stage mass demonstrations and strikes in major towns and cities across France.
8 September: The Italian government, headed by General Pietro Badoglio following the fall of the Mussolini-led regime, signs an armistice with the Allies.
17 September: The Provisional Consultative Assembly is established by the CFLN in Algiers.
4 October: CFLN troops liberate Corsica.
1 February: The French Forces of the Interior (FFI) is created, unifying previously disparate units of Resistance fighters.
4 February: The Nazi authorities assign SNCF S-Betrieb status, preventing any further enlistment of employees as forced labourers under the STO system.
9 February: The Allied Forces embark on an intensive bombing campaign, targeting major railway towns and rail hubs throughout France.
15 March: The National Council of the Resistance approves its program of action.
2 April: An SS regiment massacres 86 men, including 22 rail workers, in the town of Ascq near Lille in northern France.
3 June: The CFLN becomes the Provisional Government of the French Republic (PGFR), the interim government of Free France.
6 June: The Allies land on the Normandy beaches (D-Day). Resistance fighters execute the Plan Vert (Green Plan: sabotaging railway lines) and the Plan Rouge (Red Plan: mobilizing guerrilla groups throughout France).
9–10 June: SS troops round up and execute hundreds of civilians in the central French towns of Tulle and Oradour-sur-Glane.
Late July: The Allied Forces push further into Normandy.
31 July: The last large convoy of Jews leaves Drancy transit camp.
10 August: The central strike committee orders rail workers in Paris to mount a disruptive strike.
15 August: French and American forces land in Provence, southern France.
17 August: The last large convoy of political deportees and Resistance members leaves Compiègne.
19–25 August: The Resistance launches an uprising in Paris. The 2nd French Armoured Division, led byGeneral Leclerc, enters the city on August 24.
25 August: Paris is liberated.
31 August: The Provisional Government, led by General de Gaulle, relocates from Algiers to Paris.
12 September: Allied troops moving south from Normandy join their counterparts heading north from Provence. A stable front is established in the Vosges mountain range in eastern France, near the present-day border with Germany
23 November: Strasbourg is liberated.
February: Alsace is liberated.
19 April: The Red Army storms Berlin.
8 May: Nazi Germany surrenders unconditionally to the Allies.
10–30 May: Deportees and prisoners of war return to France.