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Extra resources for Between Resistance and Collaboration: Popular Protest in Northern France, 1940–45

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If supplies were especially tight, the non-essential special categories disappeared. Agricultural labourers received supplementary rations only during planting and harvesting seasons. The supplementary rations for children, pregnant women, those on special diets and others often decreased in size or disappeared for months at a time. On occasion, even the supplementary rations for miners and heavy 42 Between Resistance and Collaboration labourers were suspended. The very flexibility of the system made it a very useful economic and political tool, for it allowed the allocation of resources to be modified each month.

Such was the case with dairy products. Initially, in spite of the existence of a Comité de gestion laitier at the departmental level, the supply of milk and butter was left uncontrolled. By late May 1941, there were serious shortfalls. The deficit in milk was a serious problem because of the number of people (small children, pregnant and nursing mothers, the sick) for whom milk was an important part of their diet. The prefectoral authorities attempted to rectify the situation by imposing quotas upon the dairy farmers, requiring, initially, 3 litres of milk or 120 g of butter per dairy cow per day.

25 This policy of discrimination against women and single men was based on the assumption that the appropriate unit for allocation was the family, and that the acceptable family unit was a one-income, male-headed household. What this policy failed to recognize were the number of family units headed by a single parent, the mother, as the father was absent due to the war. 26 To worsen the situation, even before the war, many families in the north needed two wages to survive. So, for a significant part of the region’s population, the traditional male-dominated, one-income family unit was not and could not be the norm.

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