The Metropolitan Museum in New York, in its current exhibit on the collection of Gertrude Stein and her family, has made a decision to suppress the ugly truth about her collaboration with Nazism during the German occupation of France. Anyone walking through this beautiful exhibit of the Stein family’s exquisite tastes in art would learn nothing about Gertrude’s horrendous taste in politics and friends. Stein, a “racial” Jew according to Nazi ideology, managed to survive the Holocaust, while the vast majority of her co-religionists were deported and slaughtered. The exhibit says “remarkably, the two women [Stein and her companion Alice Toklas] survived the war with their possessions intact.” It adds that “Bernard Fay, a close friend…and influential Vichy collaborator is thought to have protected them.” That is an incomplete and distorted account of what actually happened. Stein and Toklas survived the Holocaust for one simple reason: Gertrude Stein was herself a major collaborator with the Vichy regime and a supporter of its pro-Nazi leadership.
According to a new book entitled Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Fay and the Vichy Dilemma, by Barbara Will, Stein publicly proclaimed her admiration for Hitler during the 1930s, proposing him for a Nobel Peace Prize. In the worst days of the Vichy regime, she volunteered to write an introduction to the speeches of General Phillipe Petain, the Nazi puppet leader who deported thousands of Jews, but who she regarded as a great French hero. She wanted his speeches translated into English, with her introduction, so that Americans would see the virtues of the Vichy regime. In that respect she was like other modernist writers, such as Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot who proudly proclaimed their pro-Fascist ideology, but Stein’s support for Fascism was more bizarre because she was Jewish.