My husband, George, and I were married in August 2000 after dating for four years. Ten years, three kids and fourteen years of experiences later, we had so many blessings to celebrate. In 2010 we decided to honor the sanctity of our marriage by renewing our vows with Sofia, Giana and Lorenzo leading us proudly down the aisle. It was as though together, we vowed to love, honor and cherish each other.
My dreams of visiting Paris one day were realized as our second honeymoon. Parisians were lovely to us and the city was so charming. While staying in the Place Vendôme, we planned to visit our friends, Jim and Kat, who live in the 6th arrondissement. Kat graciously invited me to join her at the Yves Saint Laurent: Retrospective at the Petit Palais for a privately-guided tour of the collection by her friend and haute courtier, Dmitri. The exhibit touted 289 divine pieces from the mind of a designer who used his gifts to create and teach. YSL highly regarded a woman’s form and sought to liberate her from the confines of restricting garments and society. He was the first to create a women’s tuxedo (Le Smoking) and loosened the fit of evening gowns to flow, unlike those with a traditional bustier-type bodice. My feet seemed to take flight in the exhibit as my guide’s French accented explanations of the pieces and their purpose carried me through the rooms. Then I crashed into the ground as the purpose of a military print dress paired with fur from YSL’s most controversial 1971 collection was explained. While Europeans recognized the collection’s very direct reminder of the 1940’s, German Occupation and Parisian complacency, there was an underlying message. Dmitri went on to say YSL meant to throw in the face of the Parisians the source of their vast wealth built on that very gruesome complacency! Truly shocking; a history lesson from a fashion icon about the Holocaust, through a collection. As my heart raced, I learned the specifics of the Parisian secret many wanted to forget. It is said that many Parisians went further than complacency to aiding the Nazi’s in the capture of their long-time neighbors. They said the common theme became one where a non-Jewish Parisian would approach a neighbor and recommend they sign their homes over to them, hide in the country and return after the war. Instead, after signing, the non-Jewish Parisians would turn in their friends and claim all their possessions.
I had to know more about this secret and read Sarah’s Key for a broader picture. I read books on the perspective of a young man (Night), a Jewish woman married to a Nazi officer (Nazi Officer’s Wife) and so many more. I was so deeply touched by the voices and faces of the Holocaust. The concluding trip for me was an afternoon at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center where I sobbed for hours. I learned so much about the beautiful traditions of the Jewish religion, and sobbed knowing, “6 million Jews and millions of others” were viciously killed. At the museum I stood inside one of the actual rail cars that transported men, women and children, usually wearing their Yellow Star of David Badge, to concentration camps and ultimately their deaths. I saw the propaganda, and the shoes of the children sent to become angels too early.
My history lesson from Yves Saint Laurent moved my soul into a space of empathy and tragedy suffered by so many.
The key: Knowledge and peace are the only ways to ensure this type of history never repeats itself.
Trina M. Fresco, Vice President of Operations for the IT firmsmarTECHS.net since 2007 and NBCLatino Contributor, was named one of “50 Powerful Minority Women in Business” by MEA Magazine. Fresco is the Chair of the Chicago Foundation for Women Investment Subcommittee and serves on a number of additional boards & committees. Fresco resides Chicago with her husband, George and their three children Sofia, Giana and Lorenzo. You can contact her at FrescoRealTalk@gmail.com or on Twitter @trinafresco.