The New Look: Was Catherine Dior in a Concentration Camp?

In Apple TV+’s ‘The New Look,’ the Second World War is used as the background to explore the influence of fashion icons Christian Dior and Coco Chanel during and after the war. For Christian Dior, the time of war becomes even more dangerous after his beloved sister, Catherine, joins the French Resistance. He is constantly worried about her safety, and his worst fears come true when she is arrested by the Nazis. He does everything in his power, trying all sorts of connections and bribing all kinds of people to find out where his sister is and how he can get her out of there. Meanwhile, Catherine suffers the worst time of her life in the German prison camps. Which prison camps was she in, and what did her time in there look like? SPOILERS AHEAD

Catherine Dior Spent Months as Prisoner Under the Nazi Regime

Catherine Dior was arrested by the Nazis in July 1944 for being a member of the French Resistance. For a while, she was held captive in an abandoned house turned into a Nazi interrogation cell in Rue de la Pompe. Like every other member of the Resistance, she was tortured for days. According to an account in ‘Miss Dior: A Story of Courage and Couture’ by Justine Picardie, Catherine suffered physical torture, from punches, kicks, and slaps to being plunged into icy water repeatedly for hours. The only reprieve was to give up the names of other members of the Resistance. But even when offered freedom in return, Catherine didn’t give up anyone.

For a while, Catherine was sent to the prison in Fresnes but was later brought back to Rue de la Pompe and tortured for hours. When she refused to relent, she was sent to Ravensbrück, a concentration camp for women which was operational from 1939 to 1945. Meanwhile, her brother, Christian, had been trying to rescue her and even tried to blow up the tracks to stop the train she was on. But the plan failed, and Catherine was thrown into Ravensbrück.

Years later, when she was free again, Catherine was asked about her time in the concentration camp, but she refused to talk about it—only revealing bits and pieces of it. According to her godson, she was careful of her actions, especially in front of the SS officers, and knew never to pick up the food thrown by them because it would mean certain death. However, the atrocities didn’t stop her and others like her from keeping up the resistance, even if in their normal daily actions. She and the other prisoners stuck together and looked out for each other, knowing that any day could be their last.

Following her time in Ravensbrück, Catherine was transported to a munitions factory in Torgau, where she and other women would often tamper with the machinery to make it look like they’d broken down. After this, she was sent to another camp in Abteroda and then another in Markkleeberg. Eventually, orders were sent out to evacuate the prisoners, who were then forced to march forward. Sometime during the march, Catherine found her window and escaped her captors, eventually returning home at the end of the war.

While Catherine came out of this dark period of her life alive, she suffered permanent injuries to her body. Reportedly, due to the torture inflicted on her in Rue de la Pompe, she could not bear children anymore. She also struggled with chronic arthritis, rheumatism, and problems in her kidneys, apart from suffering pain in other parts of her body. But this was just the physical aspect of the damage done to her. She also struggled with depression, anxiety, insomnia, isolation, and memory loss, which haunted her for the rest of her life.

Her inability to talk about that time with anyone pushed her into her own mind even further, and she never opened up with anyone about it and suffered the mental strain of her experiences alone. What Catherine was lucky about was that she was loved and cared for by the people in her life, like her brother, Christian, and her partner, Herve, who helped her get back to a normal life and move on as much as possible.

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