Jackson, Jeffrey H. “Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis” , Algonquin, 2020.
Two French Women and Nazi Resistance
Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe were two French women who used their skills as Parisian avant-garde artists to write and distribute ““paper bullets”—wicked insults against Hitler, calls to rebel, and subversive fictional dialogues designed to demoralize Nazi troops occupying their adopted home on the British Channel Island of Jersey.” They devised their own PSYOPS campaign and managed to slip their notes into soldier’s pockets or put them inside newsstand magazines. In Jeffrey H. Jackson’s “Paper Bullets” we learn that they werehunted by the secret field police and were finally betrayed in 1944, when the Germans imprisoned them, and tried them in a court martial. They were sentenced to death for their actions but survived and even while in prison, continued to fight the Nazis by reaching out to other prisoners and spreading a message of hope.
Today they are remembered by their artist names, Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore and what makes them all the more courageous is that they were , the couple’s actions were even more courageous because of who they were— lesbian partners known for cross-dressing and creating the kind of gender-bending work that the Nazis regarded as “degenerate art.” Lucy was half Jewish, and they had communist affiliations in Paris, where they attended political rallies with Surrealists and socialized with artists like Gertrude Stein.
They were two unlikely heroines who risked their lives in their subversive and creative attempts to take down evil. As we read we examine the boundaries of art, love, gender, and politics and what courage means.
“Paper Bullets “reads like a novel, a WWII spy thriller but it is something more— a modern look at how two women “took society’s default tendency to underestimate women’s power and agency, especially during wartime, and used it to undermine the Nazis.” The women hid in plain sight as they fought the forces who were trying to exterminate who they really are and they survived to tell about it.
What they did was brave and foolish yet it caused a great deal of troublefor the German command. They are WWII’s unsung heroines and we gain a different perspective on resistance.