Dior and the War

Christian Dior (back left) and his family in c. 1920 Catherine is sitting on the chair between her parents

An interesting tidbit about Christian Dior’s family re-surfaced recently when the C.E.O. of Christian Dior took the stage a few weeks ago before a Dior fashion show to talk a little about Dior’s family during the war. Dior’s sister, Catherine, had been in the Resistance. Although her wartime work had no direct bearing on today’s Dior fashion brand, this bit of history was obviously brought up in a continuing battle for damage control after Galliano’s unfortunate comments.

In late 1941, Catherine Dior became a member of the ‘Massif Central’, a Resistance network focused on gathering and transmitting intelligence about German troop movements and weapon production. In June 1944, Catherine had used Christian’s Paris apartment to meet with members of the Resistance while her brother was away. Some of Christian’s friends were staying at the apartment at the time and did not realize how dangerous the scene was until afterwards when they learned that Catherine had been arrested by the Gestapo.

Catherine Dior was put on one of the last trains out of Paris, which departed on August 15, just days before the liberation of the city. About 2,600 people were packed into the cattle cars of that train, the men destined for Buchenwald, the women for Ravensbruck. Only eight-hundred and thirty-eight survived – most of the rest died from Typhus.

Between the time of his sister’s arrest and her deportation, Christian used every contact he had to seek her release. Raoul Nordling, the Swedish consul-general who was expert at mediating on behalf of prisoners and the Red Cross secured a promise on August 18 that Catherine would be placed under the protection of Sweden if she was still in France, but the train was already in Germany.

Luckily, Catherine had been put to work in a munitions factory and survived the war. She was liberated in April, 1945 and returned to Paris the following month. Catherine was awarded the Croix de Guerre as well as the Combatant Volunteer Cross of the Resistance, the Combatant Cross and, in the U.K., the King’s Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom. She was also named a chevalière of the Legion of Honour. She died in 2008.

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