Saturday, June 21, 2014


It all seems too impossible, too cloak-and-dagger to be true, but apparently it is.  As the idea for this book was forming in Mazzeo’s mind she was able to speak to the widow of a man who had been in the Resistance, the underground movement that fought the Nazis in occupied France.  The old woman warned her not to write about the Hotel Ritz and the story of the occupation saying the questions Mazzeo was asking were too treacherous and further many of those who claim to have been in the Resistance are “simply liars.”

Obviously, Mazzeo did not listen to that advice for here it is - dare you to put down this fascinating tale of “Life, Death and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris.”  There was also quite a bit of subterfuge, love and illicit liaisons.  And what a cast of characters!  When France fell to the Germans the Ritz became headquarters for the high ranking German officers such has Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring who occupied the most luxurious suite and had an outsized tub built to his specifications.  It was also home from time to time to very rich patrons, war correspondents and the glitterati.

Paris is occupied but picture, if you will, Coco Chanel’s table in the dining room where you might find playwrights, screen writers, ballet stars, even Jean Cocteau and his good looking boyfriend.  More often Chanel could be seen about town with her handsome lover, a ranking German soldier.  Hemingway hung out at the bar as did photographer Robert Capa (Ingrid Bergman’s lover for a time).  Picasso and Proust were often seen there as was Marlene Dietrich.  Add to this mix the staff who pretended to be serving Hitler’s officers while actually supporting the Resistance.  Particularly outstanding was a Jewish bartender who passed coded messages.

It was at the Ritz that the stories of the war were told (such as Wehrmacht officers planning to assassinate Hitler), as well as personal stories dramatically unfolding.  The Hotel On Place Vendome is rich in history, awash in intrigue, glamour and treachery.

- Gail Cooke

No comments: