Literature – Fashion and Resistance: “Miss Dior” – Culture

Berlin (AFP) – Christian Dior is a legend. After the dark war years, he revolutionized fashion with his new look, which was all about luxury, luxury and the joy of life. The glittering world of high fashion was his home.

Princesses, movie stars and wives of industrialists all demanded his designs. To this day, the name Dior symbolizes elegance and Parisian elegance. In addition to evening dresses, cocktail dresses and suits, the fashion designer also created a rose-scented perfume called “Miss Dior”.

What no one knows: This perfume was dedicated to his favorite sister Catherine (1917-2008), who had a heroic destiny as much as it was cruel. During the German occupation, when her brother presented his first creations, Catherine Dior joined the resistance. She was captured by the Gestapo and taken to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. As if by a miracle, she survived the ordeal, about which she hardly said a word later. Even her famous brother did not address the past.

Careful search book

So her tragic story remained largely hidden until journalist Justin Picardie knew her name. She gave up her original project of writing another biography of Christian Dior in favor of “Miss Dior”. The result is a meticulously researched and elegantly written nonfiction book in Filiton, which admirably manages the near-impossible balancing act between haute couture and Parisian social life as well as the Gestapo and concentration camps.

Readers closely accompany the writer on her extensive research trips through France and Germany to secret country estates and elegant fashion salons, but also to oppressive memorial sites and historical archives.

There is hardly anything left

From the very beginning there was a big problem for the author: Catherine Dior, a strong-willed and courageous character, but also very modest and reserved, left little about her life. So the author had to infer everything indirectly, for example from reports from contemporary witnesses who, like Catherine, were in the custody of the Gestapo in Paris or in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

In this way, in addition to an individual biography, a dense panorama of the period of occupation was created. Catherine Dior started as a saleswoman in a fashion store. She contacted the resistance through her lover, Hervé de Charbonniere, an early resistance activist. He recruited Catherine into the F2 organization, which worked for British intelligence. As Agent “Caro”, she was tasked with collecting and transmitting information about German troop movements.

This secret activity was extremely dangerous. Of the approximately 2,000 clients, 900 were arrested, deported, and eventually killed. On July 6, 1944, Catherine Dior was arrested by her kidnappers. She was taken to the Gestapo prison in Paris, where she heroically escaped torture: “I told them as many lies as possible.” A little later – the Germans were already retreating – she was taken to the women’s concentration camp at Ravensbrück in one of the last French transports. Other camps followed.

A woman with amazing flexibility

Picardie describes these horrific months based on the memories of other fellow prisoners struggling with the resistance. When Catherine Dior returned to Paris at the end of May 1945 and her brother was so happy to receive her at the train station, he hardly recognized her, she was very emaciated.

Nevertheless, she has proven to be a woman of amazing resilience. She was to outlive her brother, who died young, by more than half a century and was honored with many medals for her bravery in the resistance.

She spent her second life as a rose breeder in her country house in the south of France – more beauty, peace and harmony is not really possible. Justin Picardie’s book is not only a powerful historical document, but also a beautiful tribute to an extraordinary brotherly love in disastrous times. Due to their difference in nature and lifestyle, Christian and Catherine remained the two most important people for each other.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220607-99-571733 / 4

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