About the Episode
This episode is brought to you by the Museum’s Jenny Craig Institute for the Study of War and Democracy.
Today we are traveling back to August 20th, 2021, to a conversation with Dr. Jeffrey H. Jackson, Professor of History at Rhodes College, about his book, “Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis.”
The book and the program focused on the story of an audacious anti-Nazi resistance campaign conducted by a pair of unlikely women—Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe—whose love story and artistic sensibility made their daring actions possible even while living under Nazi occupation.
Topics Covered in this Episode
Dr. Jeffery H. Jackson
Jeffrey H. Jackson, PhD 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. Paper Bullets was longlisted for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction and selected as an Editor’s Choice “Best of the Best” for 2020 by Booklist.
In March 1942, a special exhibit opened in New York City of 14 pieces of art each contributed by 14 artists who had escaped Nazi-occupied Europe.
During World War II, the US government waged a constant battle for the hearts and minds of the public. “Rosie the Riveter” and many other wartime propaganda posters remain relevant 75 years later.
"World War II On Topic" is made possible by The Herzstein Foundation.
Welcome to World War II On Topic. I'm Jeremy Collins, the director of Conferences & Symposia at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. This episode is brought to you by the museum's Jenny Craig Institute for the Study of War and Democracy. Today we are traveling back to August 2021, where I had a conversation with Dr. Jeffrey H. Jackson, professor of history at Rhodes College, about his book Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis. The book and the program focused on the story of an audacious anti-Nazi resistance campaign conducted by a pair of unlikely women, Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe, whose love story and artistic sensibility made their daring actions possible even while living under Nazi occupation.
Hello, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Jeremy Collins. I'm the director of Conferences & Symposia here at the National World War II Museum's Institute for the Study of War Democracy. We've got a great show in store for us today, and it's my pleasure to give a brief introduction of our featured author and then lead him in a conversation and interview about this wonderful book, Paper Bullets. Dr. Jeffrey Jackson is professor of history at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. He received his BS with high honors from the University of Vanderbilt and a PhD in history from the University of Rochester. At Rhodes, he teaches modern European history, cultural history, French history, environmental studies, and interdisciplinary humanities. In 2011, Dr. Jackson won the prestigious Clarence Day Award for outstanding research, which is Rhodes' highest honor for the faculty. In addition to the book we're going to speak on today, he is the author of Paris Underwater: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910 and Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris, both of which have been received with high acclaim.
In addition to these titles, he has co-edited many books and written many articles, which I will omit for times sake today. His most recent book, Paper Bullets was long listed for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, and selected as an Editor's Choice for Best of the Best for 2020 by Booklist. He's received many other accolades and awards and long lists for this wonderful title. But, Dr. Jackson, thank you for joining us here. We wish we had you in New Orleans in-person, but we're delighted to have you on our virtual webinar today.
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
Well, thanks so much for inviting me. It's a real honor to be able to participate in an event through the National World War II Museum. So thank you so much for having me, and thanks to everyone who's tuned in today.
Well, let's get started. As I mentioned, a great book about two remarkable and unsung heroines. Before we get into the question and answer with the two of us, could you tell us a little bit about the book? How did you come across this story? Who are these two women, and what exactly are paper bullets?
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
Well, let me start with the last question sort of answering this question of what are paper bullets because it's a term that some folks might be familiar with, but others might not be. I actually took the term from Allied PSYOPS manuals and documents that I investigated as part of the research for this. So psychological operations by the allies during the war, there was a manual that they wrote. And in this manual referred to their own operations as paper bullets. And what they meant by that were leaflets, pamphlets, other kind of information that the allies would drop behind German lines, basically to try to convince the German soldiers to give up, to surrender, to stop the war effort. And I took that phrase, that term because it applied directly to what the women that I write about in this book to what they were doing.
Now, they came up with this on their own. They invented basically their own version of this, their own PSYOPS campaign on the island of Jersey where they were living at the time. Jersey is one of the Channel Islands right off the French Coast and the only bit of British soil that was conquered during World War II by the German army. So these two women basically decided to do their own psychological operations campaign, and they wrote their own notes. They wrote notes to the German soldiers in German because one of them was fluent in German. And the notes basically tried to demoralize. The German soldiers told them, "The war is meaningless. You should give up, you should go home. Your family is at home waiting for you." They often appeal to the feeling of family and to that sense of responsibility. And so, these notes took a lot of different forms. Sometimes they were songs, sometimes they were poems, sometimes they were little drawings, sometimes they were kind of more like manifestos, sometimes they were little bits of dialogue that they had invented.
But all of them were designed to basically get inside the minds of the German soldiers to convince them that the war wasn't worth fighting, that they should give up, go home, leave the island of Jersey where this was taking place, and go back to their families. So, this was essentially a creative campaign that really came out of. You asked me who these women were. Well, they were artists. I mean, they were creative people. They had spent a lot of their life in Paris amidst the avant-garde, the modern cutting-edge art scene in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. And so they knew how to create, they knew how to create messages, they knew how to communicate ideas.
Suzanne Malherbe, she was an illustrator, she was an artist. And Lucy Schwob, the other one, she was a writer. And so they had worked together for many years. They had collaborated for many years. Their lives were very much intertwined through this creative work and also through their own relationship. They were a couple. They were a lesbian couple, had fallen in love many years earlier when they were teenagers. They'd grown up together in the city of Naunnt, which is in the southern part of France and had known each other for a long time. So their lives were intertwined at a personal level, at a creative level. And then when they moved to Jersey and found themselves in this extraordinary situation of being under occupation, they put those skills to work by creating these notes that were designed to make the Germans think twice.
You also ask me about how I came to this project. I always say that I have to give my wife full credit for this. I always listen to my wife. That's good advice. And my wife is an art historian, actually. And so she knew about the work of Suzanne and Lucy under their artistic names. They took on new artistic names. Suzanne was known as Marcel Moore and Lucy Schwob was known as Claude Cahun. And these are the names they're famous for today if you ever see any of their work, and if you do know their work, if you have seen their work, it's their photography. They also collaborated on this really cutting-edge photography. And so, their work hangs in many very important and famous museums today.
But I came to it through their photography because my wife introduced me to that, and she knew a little bit about the wartime story, but not a whole lot. And actually a lot of people have known about their wartime story, but really haven't written about it in any great detail. So when I started to learn more about them and realized that very little had been written about the war experience, I thought this would be a great project to work on.
But we'll get to a few more of their propaganda pieces later in the conversation.
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
They had an Underwood typewriter that they kept in their house on Jersey. They would type these notes. Partly they typed it to obscure any handwriting. They also allowed them to type multiple copies so they would put several different sheets of paper through the typewriter and they would be able to type many different copies at once. So they were producing hundreds of these notes. Finally, not to skip too far ahead to the story, but when they're caught and they're put on trial, the Germans have somewhere on the order of 350 of their notes. But when they're asked about how many they actually produced, they can't come up with a number because there were so many, they weren't even counting how many there were. So they were just doing this on a pretty constant basis over the four years that they undertake this project.
One thing that you do notice from this note, a signature, it says [?] sprach Der Soldat ohne Namen, which means thus spoke The Soldier with No Name. And so, what they did there was they created a new identity, they created this fictional character, so to speak, and they called him The Soldier with No Name. And the reason that they did that was because they wanted to make it look like these notes were coming from within the German army itself. They felt that it added authenticity, it added realism. It had also kind of gave a different spin on it. If it was just two civilians writing a note to the soldiers, it might be easily dismissed. But if it was something coming from within the German mind, coming from within the German army, there was a sense that it would have a greater impact.
And I think, for me, part of the evidence of that impact is the fact that they were hunted for four years by the Secret Field Police on Jersey. They took it very seriously. They did not see this is something that was sort of a silly activity or something that they could easily ignore because at the end of the day, these were notes that were designed to demoralize the troops. And if they were in fact coming from within the army, as the notes implied through this signature of this fictional character that the women had created, then that suggested that maybe there was a conspiracy within the army. And that was something that the military leaders took gray seriously.
Thank you. Let's go into a little bit about their background before we get into their wartime experience. You had referenced their avant-garde, their artwork. We have couple images of them during, what are called the Crazy Years in Paris, the interwar years between 1919 and 1938, 1939, Paris, France. What in their experience here or in their childhoods helped form who they were and maybe established some political sensitivities and direction?
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
Well, I think one of the ways that I talk about them is that they really are resistors for their whole lives. In other words, they don't just wake up one day during the war and decide that they're going to resist. They've been involved in some kind of resistance activity pushing back for a long time. And some of that starts when their children, in particular for Lucy, so Lucy's father's family was Jewish. And even though Lucy herself was not observant, she didn't identify as Jewish or practice the faith. She understood essentially what you might say were the consequences of that because her father was a newspaper editor and publisher and writer. And there was a very famous episode, some folks may have heard of this. It's a very complicated story. We don't have time to go into it, but a very famous episode called the Dreyfus Affair. And the Dreyfus Affair was a very significant anti-Semitic episode in France where a Jewish army captain was basically accused of treason and giving military secrets to the German army, but really he was scapegoated because he was Jewish.
And that sparked this entire controversy that lasted for many years. And Lucy's father as an intellectual, as a newspaper author, he had sided with Dreyfus. He had written articles defending Dreyfus. In fact, he knew Dreyfus. Dreyfus was a school mate of his. And what that led to was in her hometown of Naunnt. And both of them grew up in the city of Naunnt, it led to crowds outside of the family's apartment shouting down with the Jews. And also Lucy herself had come under attack by schoolmates when she was a little bit older. They shouted anti-Semitic cons and pelted her with rocks in the schoolyard. So, she understood the power of hate, she'd been on the receiving end of that.
And when Hitler came to power, by that point they were living in Paris, they had seen the rise of Mussolini in 1922. And then by 1933, with the rise of Hitler to power, they understood the danger. They had at least the sense of the danger here. And so, in addition to being part of the avant-garde art scene, in addition to producing this cutting-edge work that they were doing, experimenting with new understandings about beauty and art and representation, they were also engaged in sort of activities on the political left. They became connected with communism. They were never doctrinaire or orthodox communists, but they joined and knew and had friends with a lot of people on the political left. In large part, that was because many politically engaged people of the day really believed that the only real bull work against fascism was communism. It was the only force that could really somehow rise to stop Hitler.
So they were engaged in politics certainly, but also they were engaged in what you might say was a kind of gender politics. A lot of the work that they produced, a lot of the images, the photographs that they produced really involved the kind of crossing of gender lines, these new names, for example, that they took on Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore that I referred to earlier. Claude is a name that can be used by both men and women in France. So it's kind of a gender-neutral name. And a lot of the work involves of playing with ideas about masculine and feminine, men and women, what that looks like, how that's represented. And so, in all of these different ways, whether it was in their personal relationship, whether it was in their artistic work, whether it was in their politics, they were very much engaged with those kinds of questions.
And I think that's really what led them later on in life to decide to stand up. Because as I said, most people don't wake up and decide to be a resistor, it's something that comes out of a lifelong pattern. And I think that's another reason why in the book I talk about, in this photography in particular, that they cross-gender lines. I think that becomes important for them, again, when they invent this new personality of The Soldier with No Name, because here are two women who are essentially masquerading or pretending to be a man, pretending to be a German soldier as they write these notes. So this was something that was also familiar to them, they had done that before. And so it really comes out of these larger patterns in their lives.
Then this last photo of their interwar years show is of Lucy posing as an homage to her father with a…
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
That's right. That's right. So Lucy, as I said, and in fact, her father was not either practicing Jew. They had assimilated, they had given up their faith, but there was still an understanding and an awareness of the Jewish heritage on her father's side of the family. Lucy's grandmother, her paternal grandmother had taught her about her Jewish heritage. There were some prominent rabbis in the family, there was some prominent scholars of Jewish history in the family. And so Lucy really embraced elements of her Jewish heritage, not so much because she believed in the particular tenants of the faith, but rather because it allowed her to embrace a kind of outsider identity. I mean, as I just described, this Dreyfus Affair was an example of the ways in which Jews were marginalized in France at this period.
And so, Lucy saw herself, I think, in many ways, partly because of she was a lesbian, partly because of her artistic work, partly because of her politics, and then also because of her family heritage saw herself in so many ways as an outsider. So, that's what you see her doing here is comparing herself to her father, thinking about her Jewishness, and really embracing at least elements of that. And as I say, I think that will go on to inform and to really motivate them as they resist the Nazis.
So they vacation in the Channel Islands, the island of Jersey before the war comes, but they make their way to Jersey on the eve of the war as they know things are going to go from bad to worse. Can you tell us a little bit about the Channel Islands, but also talk to us about the June 28th, 1940 Operation Green Arrow where the Germans decide that they do need a presence in the Channel Islands?
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
Right. So they go to Jersey because as you say, they'd been there many times over the years, it was a vacation spot. Lucy suffered from chronic health problems. And so having a sort of peaceful respite, a place where they could go that was familiar to them was really important. By the mid-'30s, Paris is becoming very polarized politically. I mean, we think that our politics now are polarized as nothing like Paris in the '30s, because people were literally on a regular basis. People were literally clashing in the streets over political questions. And there was a co attempt at one point in the mid-1930s in Paris, there were a number of things that really were just ramping up as in addition to the fear of what was going to happen with the Germans, was there going to be another war? People really didn't know at this point, but they certainly saw the signs pointing towards some kind of conflict.
So Lucy and Suzanne decided to go to Jersey to move there permanently in 1937. As I've said, it's a place they knew well. They bought a house there and set up, and basically it was essentially sort of retirement for them in a way, you might say, early retirement. By this point, they were in their late 40s. They had money that they had inherited from their families. As I talk about them in their Paris days, they were never starving artists, they didn't really have to work hard to make a living as artists because they did have resources that they could draw on. So moving to Jersey then is kind of an escape for them. And it also allows Lucy to relax and to deal with her chronic health issues. The islands are beautiful.
Let me say a quick word about the Channel Islands, and then I'll mention Operation Green Arrow. If you've never been to the Channel Islands, you should go. It's a beautiful and wonderful place. It's a series of seven islands. It's just off the coast of Normandy, much closer to France than it is to Britain, but they are British crown dependencies, so they are connected to the British crown, they're loyal to the British monarch. They're self-governing.
So the British crown appointed a lieutenant governor, but otherwise each island or the two main islands at least elected their own parliaments and were self-governing. Jersey has, for a long time, also been a tax haven. So I've always wondered if that was part of the decision to move there. I can't quite prove that with Lucy and Suzanne, but certainly it was well known at that point already as a tax haven. When they get there, they settle in. They think they're going to live a very peaceful life until June 1940 when the German army arrives. Before that, basically the British say, "We can't defend these islands. They're part of our territory, but we're not able to defend them." So the British Army withdraws and leaving the islands essentially defenseless.
Their one hope is that by leaving them defenseless, that the Germans, if they do come to take over the islands, that they won't do it violently because the hope is that the German army will say, "Well, there's no need for us to bomb, or there's no need for us to engage in any military activity here because there's no threat here." Unfortunately, the British forget to tell the Germans this. And so the Germans are unaware that the islands are defenseless. They've been doing reconnaissance. Basically, what they see from the air, they see trucks moving around the island not realizing that these trucks are participating in the potato and tomato harvest, the jersey grows a lot of potatoes and tomatoes. So they think that they're military trucks.
So, when they do come to the islands, they come violently. They bomb the two major cities, St. Helier on Jersey and St. Peter Port on Guernsey, one of the other islands. They stray with bullets, and a number of people do die, local Jersey folks do die in this raid. But eventually the military shows up at the airport, they land in a plane, and the bailiff, who's the main elected leader, it's the Bailiwick of Jersey, and the leader is the bailiff. All he can really do is show up to the airport and shake hands and surrender the island.
Very quickly, you start to see then the introduction of hundreds and even thousands of troops onto the islands because the islands come to be the leading edge of what the Germans would call their Atlantic Wall. So this idea of the Atlantic Wall that stretches from Scandinavia through the Channel Islands down the French Coast, it was essentially seen as a barrier to Allied invasion to protect the conquered continent from any allied attack. And the Channel Islands are really on the front lines of that. As I said, it's the only piece of British soil that the Germans conquered during the war, but it has this really strategic value for them. And so as a result, they see this as a place where they use it for defensive purpose, they also launch aircraft for the Battle of Britain from the Channel Islands. They see it as really important, and so they can't tolerate any dissent there. And so they police it very heavily.
Now, there's not a lot of violence that takes place on the islands, but it is definitely something that they are heavily policing because they don't want there to be any kind of dissent. They certainly don't want local population passing messages to the British or to the allies or the local newspaper, very heavily censored. And actually, I begin the book with a episode of Lucy and Suzanne distributing notes, sticking them on the windows of German staff cars parked outside of the offices of the newspaper, the Jersey Evening Post, because they knew that there were soldiers there. And again, they were hoping that these notes would get to the soldiers and that they would read them, and they knew that that was a place where they could find German staff cars to put their notes.
So the Channel Islands, on the one hand, there is a kind of cooperation that the local population engages with. They really have very little choice if they want to continue to go about their lives. An awful lot of the local population ends up working for the German military, either directly or indirectly. But at the same time, there's also a kind of homegrown grassroots resistance. And Lucy and Suzanne are not alone. Now, they're not connected with these other folks who are resisting. They don't really even realize it until much later that there are other people on the island who start to resist. But there is this it's kind of two things happening at once. On the one hand, the local population is cooperating, but there's a significant part of the population that's also finding some way to push back, it might be sabotage, it might be stealing from the Germans, it might be just ignoring them, refusing to shake hands with them. There are different levels of that kind of resistance, but it's something that Lucy and Suzanne are not alone on the island
In the portion on the Atlantic Wall, this gets into Lucy and Suzanne's proximity to what the Germans were doing in their once peaceful life on Jersey. The two prominent buildings in this slide, you identified it. Could you tell us a little bit about them and what the hotel was for?
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
First of all, it was a hotel that was very important in Lucy and Suzanne's life. That's where they stayed on vacation over the years, whenever they would come before they moved there permanently. So they knew that well, they knew the area well, this is the beach where they would've swam, where they would've walked and strolled along and relaxed. The house there on the left, which I've identified with a arrow is the house that they will end up purchasing in 1937. So when they move to Jersey, they move to this part of the island that's very familiar to them. Lucy describes it. She nicknames the house just jokingly. She nicknames it... I'm forgetting the name exactly now, but it's something, it's like the farm. It's like the farm without a name or something like that, because when they move there, it's overgrown and they have to kind of tame it.
But it's also this kind of big house that's made out of big Jersey stone, this brown local stone. So it kind of feels safe. It feels like a fortress for them. But it's something that would've been very familiar, they would've seen it for all those years as they were walking along the beach. This hotel though, during the war will become important for them because this is where the German officers had a club, this was the German officers club. So it's literally across the street from their house. And sometimes they would hear German officers, they would hear them talking, they would hear them shooting off rounds in the night. They'd get drunk and shoot their pistols.
Sometimes Lucy and Suzanne would find bullets on their property the next morning. So, here they are going about this clean desk and operation of writing and hiding these notes around the island. But there were literally officers right across the street. And on the other side of them, just down the road from their house was an Organisation Todt camp, so a forced labour camp, men who had been brought in from the east to help to build the fortifications that were part of this Atlantic Wall. And then also nearby was the cemetery where German soldiers who died on Jersey were buried in the church cemetery within a stones throw of their house. So there was a real intimacy that they had, you might say, with the soldiers. They were surrounded by German officers at the club, by the German dead in the cemetery, and by soldiers and forced labor just down the road.
This is a small island, after all. It's only 45 square miles. So there was always going to be an intimacy, but that's particularly true, even right there at their house, because they did have a lot to lose. These were two women who had a lot to lose. They didn't have to do this work, they didn't have to do this resistance work. This was something that they could have just shut the doors of this big farmhouse that they had and closed themselves off. But instead they did chose to actively resist. This is a photo they took from their window. And there you see a group of German soldiers out there doing reconnaissance on the beach. So you get, again, the feeling of intimacy, of the experience of the proximity of soldiers in their lives.
Jeff, being lesbians, Lucy having Jewish heritage, how did they maneuver? How did they live amongst their neighbors who presumably had suspicions as to their relationship? But more importantly, how did they live amongst the Germans and the occupiers?
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
It's a great question. I think that they had become very practiced at hiding a lot of things, hiding aspects of their relationship, certainly. I mean, Paris in the 1920s, there was a kind of openness to gay and lesbian community, but at the same time it was not certainly accepted by everyone. So I think they had already learned how to hide aspects of who they were and their relationship. When they moved to Jersey, they told everyone the truth, and I've forgotten to mention this detail earlier. The truth was that, in addition to being a lesbian couple, they were also stepsisters. Lucy's divorced father had married Suzanne's widowed mother in 1917. So from the time that they were teenagers, had already begun their own relationship, they were also stepsisters as well. So when they moved to Jersey, they just told everyone we're sisters.
And that was actually not a lie. That was something that was essentially true. And so, that gave them another way to deflect any doubts that people might have had. They mostly kept to themselves. I mean, Lucy was very introverted, didn't want to talk to a lot of people or connect with a lot of people. Suzanne was much more social and much more extroverted. But with Lucy's ill health, Suzanne was really taking care of her. They have a live-in maid in their house, and her husband also, or the man she would marry, moved into the house as well. But as far as I can tell, the maid and her husband did not know anything about what they were doing with writing the notes. They were somehow able to keep that secret. And my guess is that Lucy's response, if she was asked about it, she would say, "Well, I'm a writer." Which she was, right? So she of course had a typewriter.
There was only one person who knew what they were up to with writing these notes and distributing them around. And that was a friend that they had made many years ago, and she was the only person that they took into their confidence. So they did a lot of things to obscure what they were doing. And a lot of this work was also done in secret. So they would write the notes at home alone, close the doors, write these notes, type them up, and then what they would do is they would wear these big Burberry overcoats, and they would stuff them down in the pockets, or they would have a shopping bag, and they would put the notes in the shopping bag and just go around their regular routine, run some errands, go to the store, whatever.
And on the way, they would pull out a note and they would leave it on a cafe table, or they would pin it to a fence post, or they would stick it in a mail slot, or they would put it inside of a German car, as I mentioned. Or in some cases, they would slip it into the pocket of a German soldier as they were walking past on the busy street, and so, he would not realize that someone had put something in his pocket, he would later reach in, find the note and look at it, and then be confronted with the message of the note. So they found these ways to be very clever and very secret about their work and otherwise just keeping to themselves, and it allowed them to go on this for four years until eventually someone does rat them out, someone does turn them in, and then the story gets much darker at that point.
And we won't reveal who that was. I'll speak for the author. You got to buy the book for that one. Our next few slides show the Atlantic Wall, and here are some of the POWs that were captured, Eastern Front North Africa, and sent as the Organisation Todt to build portions of the Atlantic Wall. Tell us a little bit about this before we get into some of the paper bullet examples.
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
The forced labour camps around Jersey. So there were several forced labour camps is not just the one that was near their home, but there were a number of people who were coming being brought from the east. So as I said, there ended up being thousands of German soldiers and also hundreds of forced laborers. Just think about the presence of these men who've been brought or who've arrived from elsewhere is just phenomenal in terms of thinking about just the small island. On the right hand side, you see the orders of the commandant. These are the kind of initial, and it's published in the Jersey Evening Post, that's what you see there, it's the mass head of the Evening Post.
These are the list of initial regulations at the beginning of the war. Curfews, things like everyone has to set their clock an hour ahead so they'll be on Berlin time, using occupation marks instead of local currency or British pounds, which is what they were using before. They have to stop driving on the left hand side of the road as you would have in Britain, instead start driving on the right hand side of the road. So all of these kind of regulations that begin that process of creating this as an occupied territory, that's what you see on the right hand side.
And that last regulation doesn't sound too abnormal for me, the driving on the right side of the road. I've been to Guernsey once, and it really is a whole nother world. It's beautiful. It's unique. And these two images on the left side, the top left corner, and the bottom left corner are parts of the Atlantic Wall on Jersey, but they have the same on Guernsey. And just these huge concrete structures that are meant for observation posts or the artillery, and for the men who are billeted behind the coastline. So it's just beautiful quaint, sort of other world place, and then it is still dotted and scarred with remnants of occupation.
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
So tell us about their campaign. Tell us about who their targets were. We have a few of them listed here and how they tried to appeal, as you mentioned, to the average soldier not to the officers or Berlin.
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
Right. So when they make this decision to write the notes and to invent this persona of The Soldier with No Name, it's really for them a strategy that's designed to not only to get inside the minds of the ordinary soldier, but also to try to drive a wedge between the troops and the officers, but also the leaders back in Berlin. So a lot of the notes are really directly speaking to this kind of gap, this gap between officers and men. I mean, this note right here, it's like Hitler leads us, Goebbels speaks for us, Göring [?] for us, all these other things, but no one dies for us. So they kind of getting them in to think about who's speaking for you, who's helping you, who's working for you, nobody, certainly not the leaders, so you should start thinking of your own safety, you should start thinking of your own family, your own life, rather than thinking about what these people are telling you to do.
This banner at the church that says, sorry, I'm skipping ahead, but that says, "Jesus is great, but Hitler is greater because Jesus died for people, but people died for Hitler." And I always think that's a good example of their humor. They use a lot of sarcastic humor, and it's sort of a way of really being extremely provocative. It's forcing people to think about, "Okay, how can Hitler be greater than Jesus while people are dying for Hitler." Meaning you, the soldiers, you, average soldiers, Hitler's not dying for you, you're dying for him. So again, getting them to question the idea behind the war, question the leadership and who's really working for them. To me, this is also part of something that is really, I think, powerful and provocative about the notes that they write. They come into it with a kind of sense and a kind of way of talking about the ordinary German soldiers to convince them that they are victims too.
We're not used to thinking about it that way. We're not used to thinking about the idea of German soldiers as somehow being victims. But Lucy and Suzanne in the notes were essentially saying, "You have been fooled. You have been duped. And so give up the cause because the cause is not worthy, because you've been fooled into this." So I think they approach this with a lot of empathy for these soldiers. They actually almost see writing these notes as a form of rescue. I think they really see that they're trying to rescue these soldiers from the lie that Hitler has propagated. And using every way that they can, humor, poetry, anything that they can come up with to try to prick the conscience of ordinary soldiers and getting them to think about what they were doing. And here in this slide, you see that they're drawing on something that was so famous and so popular of the day.
This poem called Die Lorelei. It's a very, very famous German poem. It's turned into a song. Everybody in Germany would know it. It's one of those things that everybody would've learned in school. Everybody would've sung the song. And it's basically, the poem is about sailors who are lured to their deaths by a siren song. So they hear a siren like the mythical siren singing on the rocks, and the boat goes over to her, they're lured to her, and then the boat crashes and sinks. So Lucy and Suzanne take this very famous poem, and they put their own spin on it.
So here, they turn Hitler into the siren. So Hitler, this version, instead of him singing a beautiful song to lure the sailors, he's screaming like a madman. And yet what they're saying is, "You've been lured to this. You've been lured to the rocky schuls, and your boat is going to crash and sink too." So this would've been a kind of funny retelling of the story that again, would've been something that everybody would've known. And their hope was that it would've forced the men reading it to say, "Well, maybe I should stop and reflect on what I'm doing here."
And we'll forward back. This was a large banner that was unfurled at the church on an important day, right?
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
I can't remember exactly what day they put it up. You may be thinking of the funeral of the particular officer. I'm not sure it was exactly on that day. There was a very important funeral that took place in which one of the German officers, it was actually a very large funeral. And later that day, Lucy snuck out and planted on his grave across a wooden cross that they had made that said, "For him, the war is over." And they did this several times, in subsequent funerals as well. And again, it was a way when people would come to pay their respects to their fallen comrade, they would see this little cross that said, "For him, the war is over." And the idea was to make the other soldiers think that he was the lucky one. Somehow he got out of this but the rest of us are still stuck here. I don't think the banner was done on that day, but it was in the same space, or it was in the same church.
So every story that has heroines or heroes has to also have the other side. And here we have three of them. But the gentleman on the left, inter Captain Bode, who is the chief of the Secret Field Police, explain him and what his actions were to counter not just Lucy and Suzanne's resistance, but throughout the island.
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
Right. So Captain Bode of the Secret Field Police, he was the one in charge of the police force, the men who were there to keep order. The Secret Field Police operated throughout occupied territories across Europe. On the Eastern Front, they were involved sometimes in rounding up Jews and in the Holocaust itself. But on Jersey, they were there to keep ordering to defend this Atlantic Wall. So Bode, you see him there, he was kind of short, he was kind of stocky. He would often smoke a cigar. He was very much a kind of menacing presence to people on the island. He very much touted his good Nazi ideology, and he was a strong Nazi. He would even sometimes bully even more senior officers who were just there. Maybe they weren't as ideological as him or they were just there doing their service, but he was a bully figure.
His men, his officers, his agents would find these notes. He would find Lucy and Suzanne's notes around the island, and he started to collect them. And he started to look to find out who was distributing these notes. If they were in fact coming from a soldier, The Soldier with No Name, if they were in fact being created by a German soldier, he certainly wanted to know. And so, for four years, he looked for them, he hunted for them to try to find who was writing these notes. And eventually, once he finds out, then... Well, first, they encounter the man. If you go back for one second, the man in the middle, they first encounter him on the bus.
But then later, these three men Bode, Lohse and Wolfle, along with two other men, come at around dinner time, they bang on the door and they basically say, "We've come to search your house." And they begin to pull the house apart. And eventually it takes them a little while, but they eventually find the typewriter, they find the illegal radio that Lucy and Susanna bought on the black market, and they find many examples of their notes along with other incriminating documents. And then they arrest them and they take them to prison.
And this is the prison, you mentioned they're arrested. I'll flip through some of the pieces from your book while they are under arrest, while they are imprisoned. But if you could tell us about their imprisonment, and then we'll get to the audience Q&A here.
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
Okay, great. So they're arrested in 1944 in August and they are immediately questioned. Eventually their court marshal sentenced to death. But even during this time in prison, whether it was before the trial or after the trial, the prison experience is very different than I think a lot of people think or expect from a story about a World War II German prison. Because the soldiers that they encounter, the guards that they encounter are not brutal, they're not even professional soldiers. And Lucy and Suzanne talk about this. They reflect on the men that they meet and basically say, "These guys are there doing their duty." Again, it's part of that kind of way that they empathize with the soldiers. They also say, "We know what soldiers are like because our brothers and our cousins served in World War I so we're not afraid of soldiers."
So, in a way, they saw these men as reminding them of their brothers and their cousins. By this point, I should also add, I mean, Lucy and Suzanne are in their early 50s by this point. And so the men are much younger, many of them are much younger, and so there's also an age thing going on. I don't want to say they make friends with these guards that would be too strong of a word, but they find a way to coexist and to have a kind of relationship with these guards. They get to know them. The guards end up helping them at times, taking care of them, bringing them Lucy extra food, because again of her medical conditions, the guards end up allowing them to talk to other prisoners and to help and to pass notes.
And Lucy and Suzanne actually pass notes back and forth to one another while they're in prison. This large figure you see here in this drawing that probably Suzanne did, I can't prove this, I don't know this for a fact, but my guess is that that's their main jailer. His name was Otto. That's all they ever referred to him as. I don't know anything more about him, and I can't say for sure that that's him, but that's my guess. And Otto actually, he's a daily presence in their lives. And as I say, he ends up helping them in many ways and taking care of them at times. And yet at the same time, these guards that are being reasonably kind to them and reasonably merciful to them, they are also taking out German soldiers who have been arrested for mutiny, and they're executing them.
And Lucy and Suzanne watch these men being taken out and executed. So even though Lucy and Suzanne, they're not being beaten by these guards, there's not a brutality of physical brutality, there is definitely a psychological torture that they go through because they wake up every day in prison thinking, "Okay, today is the day. We're going to be either executed today or we're going to be sent off to who knows where, a prison camp on the continent." They really don't know. So for them, every day is a day of anxiety because they don't know what that day will hold, and yet they are able to communicate. I mean, you see here on the right, one of the notes that Suzanne wrote to Lucy in prison, and on the left is a letter that a fellow prisoner wrote to them. So they were able to form some community with other people in the prison. In fact, it's really once they get to jail that they realize how many other people were resisting on Jersey that they weren't, in fact, the only ones.
So, they had four years on the island of Jersey operating as passive resistors. Then they spend about the last year, 10 months in prison. And then in May '45, here's an image of the celebration of liberation. Can you talk about the liberation of Jersey and their liberation?
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
So the liberation happens in May '45. Lucy and Suzanne basically watch the prison. The Germans, once they realize that the end is coming, they start to release prisoners. But Lucy and Suzanne don't get released until just moments before the German surrender. I mean, they really end up getting held right until the very end. And I don't know why that is exactly, I don't know why they were the very last prisoners to be released. But once they are released, they come out of the prison into the streets, they see the throngs of people, they hear Winston Churchill on the speakers giving his speech, talking about the liberation, talking about the end of the war, there are overcome with emotion. But then they have to figure out how to rebuild their lives because, obviously, they have survived the war. They're not executed after all their sentence had been commuted, but they have to figure out how to make sense of it all and how to rebuild.
Their home had been confiscated by, the German army had been loot, everything had been taken out. So they go on what they call the furniture hunt, where they go around looking all over the island for their belongings, their furniture, old books, things that belong to them. They recover a lot of it, not all of it. But they're also confronted with questions about how did the local population comport themselves during the war. Lucy even says something like the people who are now cheering the allies on the day of liberation, they were the same people cheering the arrival of the German soldiers and not literally not cheering them because they were glad that they'd taken over the island, but coming down to the water, welcoming them because when the Germans arrived, they had to figure out how to live this new life, how to live under occupation.
So now, on the end of it, Lucy and Suzanne kind of point out, there's some hypocrisy there, there's been a lot of local looting, there's been a lot of people who have collaborated with the Germans, there were a lot of women who took up with German soldiers during the occupation. So they try to sort through a lot of these things, and it gets hard. And eventually, Lucy succumbs to her many illnesses, and she dies in 1954, and Suzanne lives almost 20 years longer and dies in the early 1970s or commits suicide in the early 1970s.
And I put this quote on here that they encourage that the way she puts it is, "I wrote to encourage men, including the German soldiers to liberate themselves." And I always like to point to the fact that there's at least a little bit of evidence that happens because not long after the war ends, they get a letter from one of their former guards, one of the men who guarded them in prison. He writes them a letter from a British POW camp. Basically it says to them, "Greetings. I'm doing well. My family is safe." And I always think that's a remarkable thing that somebody who had guarded them and who was tasked with keeping them in prison as the enemy, then somehow after the war wants to write them a letter just to say hello. And to me, that's a sense of this sort of liberation maybe, that guard had liberated himself to a certain extent.
And I think I erroneously said a passive resistance, the resistance collaboration, occupiers occupied, there is no fine line, it's all just a gray, murky area for those who lived there. And certainly what Lucy and Suzanne did was a great personal risk. The first question leads into this, are there any monuments or statues and recognition of Lucy or Suzanne on Jersey? Could you tell us about this here?
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
So this is a monument to the liberation more generally in Liberation Square in Jersey, which is right there at the port in St. Helier. There's not anything specific to them other than there is a plaque on their house. So the house that they own, it's really more of a historical marker that says, "Here lived." I don't remember exactly the wording of it. It's funny, after the war, people on the Channel Islands really didn't want to talk about the war experience, even things like resistance. They really wanted to suppress that memory.
So it's only been more recently, I mean, as you see here, this monument didn't get unveiled in 1995, it took a long time for folks to work through the legacy and the memory of the war. And so, I think in the last 10, 15, 20 years, there's been a lot more talk about that, including a lot more talk about what Lucy and Suzanne did. Although usually it's talked about as part of a larger story about resistance on the island. My book, I think, is really the only book that really talks specifically about them and really tells their story. But in terms of any other specific monument, there's not one that I know of to them directly.
We have a few questions that are similarly theme. Were you able to document any instance in which a German soldier reacted to a note in a supportive manner? Were there desertions? Did any disappearances take place? Can you tell us about any effect that this actually had a proven effect on the German occupiers?
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
Right. It's a great question. And there's not a lot of evidence simply because those documents don't exist, there's not Germans who are saying, "Oh, I've read this note and I realized I needed to do something different." There is one though, one that they talk about that Lucy and Suzanne talk about, where they meet a man named Kurt Gunter, and they actually meet him in prison, and he talks to them about the notes, he's read their notes, he's inspired by them, and he wants to dessert. In fact, he does. And he goes and stays in their house, this granite farmhouse that they have bought. He goes and stays there for a while, and the maid, even though it's been confiscated, their maid is able to continue to live in the house. And she shelters him secretly for a while, and he continues to write to them and say, "I'm at your house." And then later on, he leaves and goes elsewhere.
Lucy references herself another soldier as well, although I don't have any documentation from his side of things, just her brief mention that there was another soldier that was inspired by their work. To me though, the best evidence of the fact that this was either having an effect or the fear of it having an effect was that they were chased down for four years. I mean, the Secret Field Police wouldn't have put the time and energy into it, I don't think, if they thought that this was a meaningless activity. So the fact that they were hunting them for four years, or whoever the author, they didn't know at first who the author was. But the fact that they continued to look for so many years, to me, suggests that this was something that they were taking seriously, either because of the fear that men might read the notes and react, or that maybe they were seeing something. But that just doesn't show up because those documents don't remain to be able to truly document that.
And let's go a little more into that. A few of the questions had to do with your research process. Archives, is there a library that covers Lucy and Suzanne's work, wartime work, not necessarily their artistic work. And what was your process? How did you bring this story to life?
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
Right. Well, there were three major sources for looking at this. First of all, was the archive on Jersey. And so I spent some time there. A lot of that archive has also been digitized, and so I was able to do some of that at a distance but other documents were not digitized. So I was able to go there and spend some time. And the folks there were extremely helpful and it's a great archive to work in. There's also a big collection of documents at Yale University, and so I spent some time at Yale in their special collections library. They have basically all of Suzanne's surviving material is at Yale. And exactly how it got there, I'm not entirely sure, other than it was purchased somehow, but it's ended up as part of their special collection. And then there's also a book that was published.
So their artistic work gets rediscovered in the 1980s basically by a French philosopher who then writes a biography of Lucy. Really gives her the credit for the work, even though I would argue it's really both of them doing this provocative artwork. But he ends up this philosopher in France, publishes many of Lucy's writings posthumously. So many of those writings are letters that she wrote after the war in which she describes what happened during the war. So those are kind of the three major sources, two archives, and then one sort of published work that really I took from all of those and pieced together. And in many cases, it did actually take a literal piecing together of this because a lot of those documents were very fragmentary, scattered. I mean, all research is like putting a puzzle together, but in some ways this work, I think, was even more so than previous books that I had written.
I have a few questions again that meld into one. That's so fascinating story, untold or relatively unknown, maybe some folks on Jersey know of it. Are there any plans to make it into a movie or a series or anything?
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
Well, that would be great. I'm hoping that someone will pick it up. My literate agent handles that end of things and I know that they put feelers out and have conversations with producers all the time. I continue from time to time to get emails from people who say, "Oh, I'm really interested. Are the film rights available?" So far, we don't have any concrete plans, but every time I talk to folks about it, I get this question. People say, "Wow, this really should be a movie or a Netflix series or something." So hopefully one day that would be great.
Hopefully somebody today that's watching has a phone call they can make.
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
I'm going to reserve the right for the last question. What was it all for? One of the questions came up from the audience, did this have any real effect? Was it really an attempt to undermine the occupation and the overall war efforts? Lucy stated, "I can't possibly tell you what it meant to me. The work was at least something that was mine and open door a hope, and at the same time, in obsession." Not to diminish it or the risk they took, was this a way for them to pass the time, or was this really ingrained in their spirit to try to do right?
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
That's a great question. In some ways I think it's both. I don't think they went into this naively, somehow thinking that, "Oh, we can write a few notes and the Germans will leave." I don't think that they thought about it that way. They understood that if they were going to do this, that they were going to play the long game, that this might take years, but they didn't know how long the war would go on. It was certainly something that played to their strengths as artists, as creative people, as writers. This was what they could bring to the table, these were the tools that they had with which to resist. They couldn't do it through violence, they couldn't do it through other means, this was what they had. They also, again, to kind of go back to that idea, saw this as a kind of act of empathy, a kind of active rescue that even if there's one mind that we can change, even if there's one heart that we can reach, then it's worth it.
But I do think, as your question implies, that at least in part, it's also about them. Lucy in particular, because of her physical health, because of mental health issues, her childhood, I talk about this more in the book, very troubled childhood, she really had suffered for a long time and I think was always trying to make sense of herself, "Who am I." I think a lot of the artwork that they did was around this question of, who am I supposed to be? Trying to understand herself as a person. And what I have, I think, learned through writing the book was that this was the way that I think that Lucy in particular, but really both of them came to make sense of themselves through this work. I think that this was the moment where all of these threads of their lives came together and they were able to finally say, "Okay, this is who we are. This is what we stand for. And it's meaningful in this moment because it's trying to make a difference in this extraordinary circumstance that we find ourselves in."
So for me, I say it's sort of both, it's on the one hand, these are our tools that we can use to fight, but at the same time, this is helping us to be the people that we finally want to be and to become. And it is passing the time. It is helping us to make sense of the experience, but it had a very personal meaning for them in that way.
Great. Well, thank you for bringing these to people to life for our audience today, but also in this wonderful book, Paper Bullets by Dr. Jeffrey Jackson. It's great to find a book that's submitted to us by an author, a publisher, or a friend of the museum. And it really does open the staff's eyes that there are still many stories to be told. You've told two of them wonderfully, Dr. Jackson, and thank you very much for telling it today with our audience. But I also hope you take a look at Dr. Jackson's web page. And also you can go to his web and find out how you can get a signed copy of his book, and it's a great read. I read it a couple times in preparation for this, and it's a remarkable story of two remarkable women and you've done a remarkable job. So thank you very much, Dr. Jackson.
Dr. Jeffery Jackson
Welcome. Thank you so much for having me today. It's great fun to talk to you. I appreciate it.
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