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Amidst the danger of Nazi-occupied Island of Jersey in the British Channel, two French women, Lucy Shwob and Suzanne Malherbe, drew on their skills as Parisian avant-garde artists to write and distribute “paper bullets”—wicked insults against Hitler, calls to rebel, and subservie fictional dialogues designed to demoralize Nazi troops. History professor Jeffrey Jackson joins us with the history of the audacious anti-Nazi campaign undertaken by this unlikely pair.
In this livestreamed presentation, Jackson draws on his book Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis to weave a timeline of Lucy and Suzanne’s resistance. Better remembered today by their artist names, Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, he explores how their 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 would come to call “degenerate art.” They also had communist affiliations in Paris, where they attended political rallies with Surrealists. He shares how they were betrayed in 1944, tried, and sentenced to death, ultimately surviving and continuing their fight even in jail by spreading a message of hope to other prisoners. Jackson invites us to a compelling story that has not been told before, about the galvanizing power of art, and of resistance.
Jeffrey H. Jackson is Professor of History at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. An expert on European history and culture, he is the author of Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910 and Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris. He has appeared in documentary films and helped develop “Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story” for PBS’s Great Performances.