Stein, who was Jewish, supported the puppet Vichy regime in France in the Second World War through her friend, historian and Nazi collaborator Bernard Fay. The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently agreed to update an exhibition of Stein's work with a reference to her Nazi connections.
The White House claimed that the inclusion of Stein had been a mistake, the result of an earlier draft of the proclamation released in error. However, Algemeiner preserved a screen shot of the original proclamation, which remained on the White House website after the new press release had been drafted.
Writing in Algemeiner on May 1, addressing the museum controversy, Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz summarized Stein's efforts for the Nazis:
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.
Stein's closest friend, and a man who greatly influenced her turn toward fascism was Bernard Fay, who the Vichy government put in charge of hunting down Masons, Jews and other perceived enemies of the State. Fay was more than a mere collaborator as suggested by the Met exhibit. He was a full blown Nazi operative, responsible for the deaths of many people. After the war, when the horrendous results were known to all, Gertrude wrote in support of Fay when he was placed on trial for his Nazi war crimes.
No apology from the White House has yet been reported.