112 gripes

    90. "The black market in France is disgraceful!"

     It is. Most Frenchmen think it is, too. The French newspapers are full of daily criticism of the black market.

     Why did the black market arise in France? The basic reason for any black market, in France or in any country at war, is that there is a great shortage of certain goods, which people need.

     Why were (and are) there great shortages in France? Largely because during four years of occupation, the Germans stripped France bare, picked her clean as a bone. (In Marseille, the food depot for the whole south of France, the Germans took 60% of the food that was being shipped in.) And when the Germans left they took along everything they could lay their hands on.

     There was another important reason for the black market During four years of occupation, thousands of French men and women who were fugitives from the Gestapo or members of the resistance, had no identification cards and no ration cards. They could only live through false papers. They could only live illegally. They could only live by getting food and supplies -- from the black market. So the black market took on a quality which we never had in the United States: it became patriotic for many people to patronize the black market. It was one way of continuing to fight German rule, one way of getting supplies with which to carry on resistance. It was a weapon against the Germans.

     The black market in France is not, as it was in America, a market for relative luxuries (gasoline, whiskey, steaks, butter.) In France, no city family could get enough food from the rations doled out by the Germans. (From 1941 to the liberation of Paris in 1944, the Parisians were getting between 1,067 and 1,325 calories of food per day. 2,400 calories a day is considered the necessary minimum for adults not engaged in heavy work. (The average consumption in the United States is 3,367 calories daily. Our army ration provides 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day.) Even with black market purchases, most Frenchmen have not had enough to eat for four years. Hence the story of two Frenchmen discussing the black market. One said "Would you be willing to stop buying anything on the black market for a week?" "Certainly not," was the reply, "Do you want my children to go hungry?"

     The black market in France will disappear when there is enough food and supplies in the ordinary stores, in sufficient quantity to be sold at reasonable prices. If the French had more transportation to bring the crops into the cities, the black market would do less business.

     The Germans, incidentally, were notorious traders on the black market - for personal profit.

     The German authorities did not try to stamp out the black market -- because they knew it would increase the bitterness of the French people toward their government and leaders. The Germans used every trick in the bag to disrupt the French economy and demoralize French people.

     Lastly, where did the French black market get American cigarettes, soap, candy, chocolate, razor blades, shoes? From American soldiers, who sold them - on the black market.