Margot Friedländer, 102-year-old Holocaust survivor, lands a Vogue cover

Margot Friedländer, a 102-year-old Holocaust survivor whose family was murdered at Auschwitz, would seem an unlikely, if not radical, choice to take on a fashion gloss that routinely features attractive models and celebrities. But the weathered, white-haired Ms. Friedländer is Vogue Germany's latest cover star, a distinction she seems to wear as casually as the tailored coat she dons in the magazine's July/August issue.

One of the world's oldest and perhaps best-known Holocaust survivors, Ms. Friedländer is no stranger to fame. She has met world leaders such as Angela Merkel, the former Chancellor of Germany, and had contact with prominent figures such as Helen Mirren.

Ms. Friedländer (née Bendheim), who lives in Berlin, is a staunch advocate of Holocaust remembrance. She has made it her mission to visit hundreds of schools across Germany, urging her young audience not to forget past traumas or cling to grievances that continue to polarize people.

In the interview with Vogue Germany, as in those speeches, he expresses concern about the rise of right-wing populism and anti-Semitism in Germany and around the world.

Its multi-layered message resonates with Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief and global editorial director of Vogue and chief content officer of Condé Nast. Although the American edition of Vogue did not feature Ms. Friedländer on its cover and had not yet featured a cover star quite like her, Ms. Wintour, in an email, called the German Vogue cover “brilliant and inspiring “.

“Margot Friedländer is a wonderful and significant topic,” Wintour said, “considering the political currents across Europe.”

People like Ms. Friedländer “are the last living testimony to a dark period in history,” said Masha Pearl, executive director of Blue Card, a New York organization that provides financial and emotional assistance to Holocaust survivors in the United States United. “It is essential to raise public awareness of the remaining survivors, whose numbers are dwindling,” she added.

At 102, Ms. Friedländer has been among American Vogue's oldest cover stars for decades, a group that includes the designer Miuccia Prada, who appeared on the magazine's March cover this year at 74. But Ms. Friedländer is not the oldest person to appear on a Vogue cover: Apo Whang-od, a tattoo artist, appeared on the April cover of the Philippine edition at age 106 last year.

Ms. Friedländer was 12 when Hitler came to power, and in her early 20s when the Gestapo arrived in 1943 to round up her family, putting her mother on one of the infamous Nazi transports to Auschwitz.

Ms. Friedländer was not at home when her family was detained. Soon after, she dyed her hair, began wearing a cross and was hidden for 13 months by anti-Nazi sympathizers whose names she was never allowed to know, she told The Forward in a 2013 article .

In 1944 she was captured by the Gestapo and deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, in what is now the Czech Republic. There she witnessed and suffered Nazi atrocities. She also met Adolf Friedländer and, after his release in 1945, she married him in a traditional Jewish ceremony. The following year, the couple immigrated to the United States, settling in Queens, New York.

It was only after her husband's death in 1997 that Mrs. Friedländer thought about mining her life experience for a memoir. While she was writing it, she was approached by a documentary filmmaker, who convinced her to tell her story on camera and return to Berlin in the early 2000s to film the project.

The documentary “Don't Call It Heimweh” was released in 2004 and her book “'Try to Make Your Life': a Jewish Girl Hiding in Nazi Berlin” in 2008. Two years later, Ms. Friedländer, then, towards late 1980s, she returned to Berlin.

She has since addressed thousands of people, speaking, as she told Vogue Germany, “on behalf of the victims who can no longer speak for themselves.” Her message is not precisely one of forgiveness, but of resistance and a loving embrace of humanity.

Friedländer told Vogue Germany that since the war between Israel and Hamas began, many young people have asked her whether she supported Israel or Palestine. Her response is not to take sides. “Don't look at the things that separate you,” she tells them. “Think about the things that bind you, that unite you.”

She is grateful that she made it and especially grateful, she told Vogue Germany, that she took to heart the advice of her mother, who, while being deported by the Nazis, quickly left a note for Ms. Friedländer. In it she wrote: “Try to rebuild your life.”

“I'm grateful,” Ms. Friedländer said, “that I did it.”

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