There's a bit of charming file footage of Christian Dior's niece Françoise that has been going quietly viral in France. Françoise Dior, you see, is a self-described Nazi. In this 1963 interview for French television, she discusses the importance of defending the Aryan race, the difference between "hating" Jews and merely preferring not to have them around, and why Hitler is her hero.
I took the liberty of editing the interview down to a few key exchanges, and adding these subtitles. (If any Francophones would like to weigh in on the translation, please feel free to email me or drop in the comments.)
Christian Dior had been dead for five years by the time this interview was recorded, and designer Marc Bohan had taken over the creative direction of the house. Although Françoise Dior claims in the full interview to have been a Nazi "for a number of years," it is not known how close Christian Dior was to his niece during his lifetime. She was 27 years his junior, and did not work for the fashion house he founded.
This interview took place on the occasion of Françoise Dior's engagement to Colin Jordan, a prominent Holocaust-denier and member of the British far-right. He led organizations with names like "The White Defence League," co-founded the British National Party (which still exists, though it has tried in recent years to downplay its extremist roots), and was imprisoned for trying to start up a paramilitary organization modeled on the Brownshirts of Nazi Germany. Jordan is silent throughout the video; Dior explains that he doesn't speak French. Dior, despite her fervor, seems to have little understanding of the beliefs she professes. She struggles to articulate what National Socialism even means, beyond "defending the race," and eventually falls back on the tautological explanation that National Socialism means "fighting for National Socialism." She also describes her and Jordan's planned "Nazi wedding," which will involve "rites" sacred to their "race." Those rites, which are "a little bit difficult to explain," include cutting each other's fingers, and mixing their blood over an open copy of Mein Kampf.
Dior's marriage to Jordan didn't take — she left him for a 19-year-old — but her Nazism did. She spent time in prison in Britain for participating in arson attacks against London synagogues, and in France for posting Swastika stickers on the walls of the British embassy. She eventually died of lung cancer at the age of 60.
Christian Dior — like many who lived through the Vichy government and the Nazi occupation of France — had to make troubling choices of his own during the Second World War. His family, once prominent (Françoise even briefly married a member Monaco's royal family) had already been ruined in the Depression, and so their formerly considerable fortune could offer no insulation from the war's privations. Dior was conscripted into military service, and, starting in 1942, he worked as an assistant designer at the house of Lucien Lelong. (Pierre Balmain was his coworker.)
In occupied Paris in 1942, the very small group of people who possessed both the means to afford and the need to wear new designer clothing would have necessarily included both Nazi officers' wives and girlfriends, and the wives and girlfriends of those wealthy French who had, by dint of their collaboration and their lack of Jewish blood, been permitted to retain control of their businesses. (One is reminded of this essay: In the same way that if Judge Sirica was a professional boxer in the 1920s, he must necessarily have been in contact with organized criminal elements, because professional boxing was then illegal and totally controlled by organized crime, the marketplace for Christian Dior's designs in Nazi-held Paris could only have included some persons associated with the Nazis.) Nonetheless, it seems likely that Dior was not a major collaborator. Dior's current C.E.O. is Sidney Toledano. Toledano is himself Jewish; his father was expelled from France by the Vichy government, and was very lucky under the circumstances to end up in Morocco. Toledano mentioned in his speech before Friday's Dior show that Christian Dior's sister was deported, for reasons Toledano did not explore, by the Nazis to Buchenwald. A prominent collaborator would have probably been able to save a family member from such a fate.
Whatever Christian Dior could have known of the Nazis' project in 1942 — and it would certainly have been clear by that point, least of all to anyone who'd lost a sibling to such a fate, that French Jews, Communists, homosexuals, and other undesirables were being interned at Drancy and deported en masse to the East — by 1963, the full extent of the Holocaust had been extensively documented.