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How Strange that Stanley Marcus Would Embrace the Anti-Semitic Coco Chanel

An alert FrontBurnervian pointed me to a story titled “When Stanley Marcus Invited Nazi Collaborator Coco Chanel to Dallas.” It appears in Tablet, billed as “a new read on Jewish life.” It was written by a fellow named James McAuley, a Marshall Scholar at Oxford. He’s from Dallas. Ringing a bell? Yes, that McAuley. He wrote a recent essay in the New York Times about the JFK assassination with which some people took issue.

I knew about her liaisons with troubling characters (Hugh Grosvenor, an anti-Semite, and Hans Gunther von Dincklage, an operative of the Reich intelligence ministry who was 13 years her junior). But we’ve all made bad decisions driven by our pants, right? What I didn’t know was how anti-Semitic Chanel herself was. And how she benefited from the war. As McAuley writes about Chanel’s effort to drive her two Jewish partners out of the business:

[S]urvival was hardly the desired end of Chanel’s wartime opportunism. Quite the contrary. In fact, the abandoned orphan who had fought her way from the strictures of a Catholic convent to the upper echelons of Parisian society seems to have seen in the war yet another opportunity for profit and self-promotion. Now was a moment in which she could finally capitalize on an anti-Semitism that had long been part of her worldview but had only recently become acceptable to advertise in public.

Now that Métiers d’Art has come and gone, and we’ve all had a good time line-dancing, the entire McAuley piece is worth a read.

  • WmBTravis

    In 2008, the purposefully overlooked (by American thinkers, at least) French intellectual and artist “collaboration” with the Nazi occupation was thoroughly documented by Frederic Spotts in the “Shameful Peace.” To all you Cocteau fans, Chanel had a hot sports opinion of him; labeling him, in her words, the “snobbish little pederast.”

    As for Marcus and anti-Semitism, a better reference would be to the nez-a-nez between Marcus and the Merchant-Prince E.J. Kauffman as to Frank Lloyd Wright’s homebuilding mentioned by Toker in “Fallingwater Rising.”

    So quit building up this medium-talent local hero writer.

  • Jackson

    Perhaps the alliance between the Merchant Prince and Mademoiselle can best be summed up by Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock: “Business heals everything, Lemon. It’s like with Germany and Japan–who can remember what all the fuss was about?”

    (h/t to Alan Peppard)

  • Tim Rogers

    Easy, WmB. I wasn’t trying to “build up” McAuley. I was merely pointing to a source that filled a hole in my knowledge of fashion history. Or part of a hole, since I know almost nothing about fashion history. And in pointing, I figured I needed to bring up the recent JFK essay (which I had some problems with, by the way).

  • Jackson

    @WmBTravis, you write: “As for Marcus and anti-Semitism, a better reference would be to….Frank Lloyd Wright’s homebuilding…”

    Wright’s anti-Semitism is well known, and the book you cite nicely details how he played Marcus off of Kaufmann for a commission in the early ’30s, but it’s not a better reference for an article about Coco and Stanley. After all, it was The House of Chanel making a splash in Big D this week, not The House of Wright.

  • Dubious Brother

    The same misconception (sorry) exists today about Margaret Sanger the founder of planned parenthood. She was as anti-semitic as she was racist against Blacks and Latinos saying “more children from the fit, less from the unfit” and she wasn’t speaking of physically fit. Think of all the Jews as well as “liberals” that have embraced that organization that was formed to eliminate those of color. What companies today would have sponsored Sanger’s “Negro Project?” Chanel would have.

  • Jackson

    @Dubious Brother, you write: “Think of all the Jews as well as “liberals” that have embraced that organization that was formed to eliminate those of color.”

    Well, that dicey comment cannot go unremarked upon.

    You’re obviously not a Jew or a “liberal” (they get quotation marks, for some odd reason). The fact is, Planned Parenthood today is different from its founding, as the Republican Party is today different from its founding.

    Things you apparently don’t approve of (women’s reproductive rights) are somehow frozen in time from the founding views of its forebears, while other things you like that have changed get a pass. Sure, Margaret Sanger didn’t escape the racial attitudes of her late 19th-century era. Our more enlightened founders a century before had slaves, too. Is this news? Today, a full 98% of PP’s services are family planning for poor women and families (mammograms for pregnant women, birth control, etc). Only 2% of PP’s services are pregnancy-termination related, legally so and not paid for by public taxes. So it is different. It has evolved. Same with the Republican Party. It flipped from being the party of freeing the slaves to East Coast banker interests in 1877, with the presidential election of Rutherford B. Hayes. So it has evolved. It abdicated the South, and the Democrats inherited it and proceeded to promote racial segregation. The Democratic Party, too, has evolved from that time.

    We should view things as they are, with an appreciation of both hindsight and foresight, not as they were long ago. The world isn’t static, and we live in the now.

  • Dubious Brother

    I am not sure why you you feel, based on my dicey comment, that I am neither a Jew or a “liberal.” My comment was about the obvious hypocrisy of Jews embracing an organization founded with the intent to wipe out people based upon race and economics especially post Holocaust. Although I am not a Jew it doesn’t seem far fetched for a Jew to share that opinion.
    As far as putting quotation marks around the word liberal, the word has been hijacked by the left where today the term liberal in the US stands for large intrusive government, the exact opposite of the original meaning. I would have been a liberal at a point in history where the liberals were intent on setting people free from tyranical governments but today the “liberals” are intent on establishing a tyranical government.

  • Jackson

    Good grief. PP is not “an organization founded with the intent to wipe out people based upon race and economics especially post Holocaust.” That’s not just a gross mischaracterization, it’s a downright falsehood, a pernicious canard. You’re welcome to believe it, but it doesn’t make it so. Sanger shared some beliefs with intellectuals of her day regarding eugenics, but wrote that birth control should be voluntary and not race-based. It’s a shame that a hundred years on (in the 21st century, no less), some still float such nonsense in opposition to women’s reproductive rights.