Gertrude Stein’s collaboration with the fascist Vichy government was never a secret. But, until now, many have simply ignored it; or, to use the critic Frederic Jameson’s phrase, given over to the “innocence of intellectuals.” Stein’s avid support for Petain, the Nazi collaborator who headed the Vichy government, has often been written off as merely the tragic consequence of many a brilliant artists. What mattered was her prose, not her politics.
This week I wrote a review of the Hannah Senesh exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. A wealthy Jewish girl from Hungary, Senesh immigrated to Palestine in 1939, when she was 17. After a few years there, however, she felt isolated from world events: put simply, the war in Europe. So when the British organized a Jewish brigade in Palestine to help them rescue Allied forces caught behind enemy lines, she signed on.