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Today Sardines Are Not for Sale

A Street Protest in Occupied Paris

Paula Schwartz

Publication Date - April 2022

ISBN: 9780197648292

256 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches

In Stock

An in-depth look at the women's demonstration on the rue de Buci during the Occupation and its repercussions over time


On Mother's Day, 31 May 1942, a group of women stormed a small grocery store at the intersection of two Parisian market streets, the rue de Buci and the rue de Seine, to protest the food shortages that had become a chronic feature of daily life. The then-outlawed French Communist party aimed to channel the frustrations of hungry Parisians by organizing such actions throughout the capital and beyond. The so-called "women's demonstration on the rue de Buci" was one such protest, part of a larger, overarching resistance movement against the collaborationist Vichy regime and the German occupiers. The Buci affair became a cause célèbre, in no small part owing to its tragic consequences: the imprisonment, deportation, and execution of some of the protagonists.

This book takes an in-depth look at this singular event, its dramatic repercussions, and its rich postwar afterlife. An extraordinary documentary record, together with the oral testimony of surviving resisters, reveal the minute intricacies of an underground partisan operation; the lives and deaths of the protesters, both women and men; the deployment of gender difference as a weapon of war, and the ways in which the incident was remembered, commemorated, or forgotten. This book is also a meditation on the writing of history itself. Just as the author turns the event inside out to reveal the internal workings of a clandestine action that were hidden from public view, she turns her own project inside out, exposing the story behind the story that readers rarely see.


  • Winner of the Philippe Viannay-Défense de la France Prize 2020
  • Named a "coup de coeur" by the American Library in Paris
  • Based on a rich documentary record, together with the oral testimony of surviving participants and witnesses
  • Uses a microhistorical approach to probe multiple dimensions of a single short-lived event and its repercussions over time
  • Shows how gender shaped an illegal public protest action under a French collaboration government and German occupation

About the Author(s)

Paula Schwartz is the Lois B. Watson Professor Emerita of French Studies at Middlebury College in Vermont. She holds a doctorate in French Studies from the Institute of French Studies at New York University and has published widely on women and gender in the French Resistance.


"Schwartz has succeeded in bringing the event at the rue de Buci back into public consciousness and commemorating...the men and women who took part in the demonstration. This is vital reading for anyone with an interest in France during the Second World War; an exemplary micro-history with wider implications for our understanding of French experiences of the dark years." -- Modern & Contemporary France

"Through her meticulous research, Paula Schwartz has painstakingly reconstructed these lives and the ways they were changed by a single, fleeting event. Her engaging writing and the dramatic story allow us to enter the daily lives of Parisians and to explore one aspect of the Communist Resistance during the war. She expertly weaves together the multiple threads of war and its legacy, one that has been shaped by competing and overlapping memories." --Shannon L Fogg, French History

"A scholarly and gripping microhistory ... Schwartz has done a remarkable job of documenting the inner workings of the partisan underground, with a focus on gender, and the complex series of events leading up to the demonstration. She set about her research with the zeal of a detective, following leads, interviewing participants and witnesses and searching out documents." --Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal

"[A] fascinating and original account." --Dennis Broe, The Morning Star

"The book emphasizes the importance of the event being led by women; the firsthand account of its lead organizer, Madeleine Marzin, informs its research ... Today Sardines Are Not for Sale draws upon one wartime protest event to tell a far bigger story." --Jeff Fleischer, Foreword Reviews

"It is exciting to read ... To be consumed in one sitting, the book is an accumulation of the author's research efforts which include both official archival records and testimonials of surviving participants and witnesses." --The Connexion

"A detailed account of grassroots resistance set in hungry Paris during the German occupation. Thanks to Paula Schwartz's relentless, years-long pursuit of a story buried in difficult to access archives, we have this stirring primer for activists in grim times, with some surprising outcomes for the reader. An exceptional addition to a people's history of World War II." --Bonnie Smith, Distinguished Professor Emerita of History, Rutgers

"Paula Schwartz has pieced together information from a rich collection of sources to create a fascinating narrative. Her microhistory of the demonstration over food shortages in a Paris street market in 1942, which lasted only twenty minutes, shows how ripples from an event both inspirational and tragic spread in ever-widening circles, distorting memories and creating myths. A historical detective story of the best kind, and a very moving read." --Siân Reynolds, Emerita Professor of French, University of Stirling

"Paula Schwartz has written a compelling, dramatic, Roshomon-like history, using an event, a food protest turned riot in German-occupied Paris, to tell a multitude of stories. Setting the protest into the broader context of the German occupation, the collaborationist Vichy regime, food shortages, the Resistance, and the Communist Party, Schwartz draws the reader in to the real lives of real women and men facing a life and death situation." --Sarah Fishman, Professor of History, University of Houston

Table of Contents

    1. The Event
    2. Hunger and Scarcity
    3. Protesting Women, Partisan Men
    4. Acts of War
    5. The Teacher and the Truant
    6. The Economy of Memory
    7. From Sardines to Smoked Salmon