Before she was an international fashion icon and a member of the TIME 100, Diane von Furstenberg was a young girl growing up with parents who had just survived the Holocaust. Her father, originally from Moldova, escaped the Nazis in Switzerland. Her mother, originally from Greece, fought the Nazis as a member of the resistance until she was captured and sent to Auschwitz.
In this Museum program, co-presented with Descendants of Holocaust Survivors (2G Greater New York), von Furstenberg discusses her identity as the daughter of survivors and how it has informed her remarkable career at the helm of one of the world’s most recognizable brands. She is in conversation with Dr. Eva Fogelman, renowned psychologist and author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book Conscience and Courage: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust.
Watch the program below.
Recording transcript for Transforming Moments: A Conversation with Diane von Furstenberg
This program’s original recording transcript is below. This transcription was created automatically during a live program so may contain inaccurate transcriptions of some words.
Ari Goldstein: we're delighted to have you all here this evening I'm Ari Goldstein.
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Ari Goldstein: In your public programs producer at the Museum of Jewish heritage living memorial to the Holocaust and it's an honor to welcome you to this evenings transforming moments program featuring the international fashion icon diane von furstenberg.
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Ari Goldstein: As many of you know, transforming moments is a series co presented by the museum and descendants of Holocaust survivors.
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Ari Goldstein: Which explores what it means to be a child of survivors and dives into the moments of transformation that many in the second generation experience in their own identity and consciousness.
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Ari Goldstein: Our moderator this evening is Dr evil fogleman renowned psychologist and author of the pulitzer prize nominated book conscience and courage rescuers of juice during the Holocaust.
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Ari Goldstein: Eve, is a leading voice of the second generation and the host of the transforming moments series.
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Ari Goldstein: During eva's interview of diane this evening, please feel free to share questions in the zoom Q amp a box will get to as many as we can, towards the end of the hour, without further ado very warm welcome to diane von furstenberg Dr evil fogleman feel free to get started.
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Diane von Furstenberg: hi everybody.
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Eva Fogelman: hi Thank you are a and and welcome diane I to the world, you are known as an international fashion icon.
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Eva Fogelman: And I am sure many women who are listening to our conversation have at least one wrap dress in their closet which they started wearing again, you may have a saw look sexy and confident and what woman doesn't want that.
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Eva Fogelman: In recent years, you have publicly been identifying yourself as a child of Holocaust survivors and your journey has led you to become an oracle a philanthropist and a social change agent.
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Eva Fogelman: All while continuing to be a businesswoman a wife, a mother a grandmother and a friend to people from all walks of life.
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Eva Fogelman: i'd like to take you back to your family history before you were born.
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Eva Fogelman: Since your mother always gets top billing why don't we start with your dad Leon how soon tell us a little bit about where he was born and what you know about his early childhood his parents his Jewish upbringing and any memories that he shared with you about his childhood.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Okay, my father Leon was born in what in where it was none Bessarabia he was born in kishan F that was Bessarabia during his childhood it went to being Russia Romania Russia, Romania, but he studied, I mean in school is both Russian and any spoke Russian with his family.
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Diane von Furstenberg: He grew up in the large family, I mean a large family with his father and his mother and quite a few of his mother's sister's his mother had six sisters and he had a brother and a sister his father had the many textile fabric shops in in.
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Diane von Furstenberg: In kitchener he was the everybody in the family was very serious they worked very hard this study, my father was a little bit of a.
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Diane von Furstenberg: black sheep of the family, not really but I mean he was a little wider and he went okay so that's my father, but by then he had already gone to Belgium at the age of.
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Diane von Furstenberg: 18 I think he went to Belgium to study his brother went to Belgium to study first and he went to university in Brazil in a web and Belgium to study to become a textile engineer or something like that, then he went back and his little brother, my father came.
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Diane von Furstenberg: By the time my father went.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Things didn't go so well at home back at home his father died I think his father one bank love reading or whatever, and he died and things weren't so good, and so he is.
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Diane von Furstenberg: He was getting money stop getting money from home, and so we start to work it didn't like university anyway, so he started to work and his mother said to him don't come back since i'm not good here and.
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Diane von Furstenberg: That was that he.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Okay, I know what i'm going to tell you, then the war came and 1942 I think of.
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Eva Fogelman: 41 night.
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Eva Fogelman: yeah the war started in June 1942.
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Diane von Furstenberg: German Oh yes, the world started in 3940 but in 1941 or 42 i'm not exactly sure there was something called legs out exit.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And everybody went down south, so there were thousands of cars from France and Belgium that went down South because the German were coming up North and they were worried and he went.
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Diane von Furstenberg: With a friend of his so too good looking young guys they went to to lose to lose is in South of France, not not don't lean so the tourism.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And they stay there, in a little hotel his friend had money and he had a car, my father had no money.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And so, my father was did not like not having money at all, and every day, he would take his bicycle and look for work and he would go to the train station and try to find work.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And one day he heard someone came to him, he said, do you know anybody that has dollars, because I have a rich man coming from Belgium, and he is looking for dollars and he's willing to pay the dollars.
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Diane von Furstenberg: 39 or some numbers and my father mean he went from one year to the other one and he didn't know anyone, but a few days later he heard somebody else who said.
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Diane von Furstenberg: I have dollars to sell who is looking for dollars, and I would sell them for a much lower number oh my God.
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Diane von Furstenberg: He thought oh my God, this is an amazing opportunity, but he couldn't remember the guys name or in you is that his name was john is firstly.
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Diane von Furstenberg: So for few days in went around and around to lose looking for this man and he couldn't find this met.
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Diane von Furstenberg: You and then there's a reason why know all of this in details is towards the end of his life, my father was losing his memory.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And, as he was feeling, he was losing his memory, he took a big book and started to write the story of his life so that's why I have some very interesting little details that normally I wonder.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Why, and so he and he explains in this diary that he wanted to go to the movies, but if I goes to the movies, he can't go to the restaurant, so we debated do I go to the restaurant do I go to the movies.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And then he decided i'm going to go to the bakery i'm gonna buy bread and i'm going to put something in the bread, and so I can go to the movies and eat.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And, which is did anyone to see a movie coming out of the movie theater he realized he forgot his his newspaper, so he went back to look for his newspaper and, as he went back to look for his newspaper he met this man john that he was looking for.
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Diane von Furstenberg: A job, but he didn't want to act like he was had been looking for him for four days anyway, he talked to john and said, you know, maybe I have somebody and so on, so Joe took him to see a woman to introduce him to a woman, which my father describes in the book like a no woman, she was 45.
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Diane von Furstenberg: and
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Diane von Furstenberg: and say, and this woman said Okay, whatever so my father tried to make it, you know a good impression, and so they decided that they were going to make a trial transaction.
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Diane von Furstenberg: But in order to make the trial transaction he needed to borrow money from his friend, so he went to his friend borrowed money made a trial trial trial transition trend section.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And then the big transaction and so he made the big transaction and because he was selling them out of it was buying them and much, much lower price than he was selling them, you went from having no money at all to having a lot of.
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Diane von Furstenberg: The man who was buying who was buying the dollars was there in a big cadillac with a driver, his wife and his niece.
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Diane von Furstenberg: and his niece that girl who was there was 10 years younger than him ended up being my mother, but it's not like I mean my mother likes him right away, but he was afraid he didn't want to get involved so that's my father's story.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And then he went there everybody went back to they all went back to dresses because both of them both my father and my mother both lived in.
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Diane von Furstenberg: In Belgium, in Brussels, and they didn't know each other, but when they went back to Brussels, they had common friends, I guess, in the Jewish community or whatever.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And, but my father by now has a lot of money, and he and his friends said you shouldn't stay here, we will get you better fake papers and you should go try to go to Switzerland.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Which is what it is so he went to Switzerland and nothing happened between my mother and my mother had a little crashing but he ignored and and push it away.
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Diane von Furstenberg: He went he ended up going to Switzerland, which is a long story, by the time he was in Switzerland, he started to think about that little Jewish girl who is left in Brussels.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And they started correspondence and I must have 500 letters.
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Diane von Furstenberg: I have Bob and in the letters they fell in love in the lattice they getting engaged in the letters they promised they were going to get married and whatever.
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Diane von Furstenberg: One day may 1944 there's no more letters from the woman from lily no more letters, so he keeps on writing, why are you not writing why you're not answering the truth is she had been arrested.
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Eva Fogelman: She has a while.
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Eva Fogelman: going through your your.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Wait wait wait, let me just say one thing so she had been already he didn't know, but then one day he got a letter from my mother's sister.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And you know all the letters were being read because it wasn't occupied, it was occupied country and so all the letters were being read and they was once they read the letter, it was a blue line that cross the letter.
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Diane von Furstenberg: That was that was the sensor censorship, so he so he got a letter from my mother sister saying dll we have a very sad story lily is not well and she has been a hospitalized because he couldn't she couldn't say that because that would then.
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Diane von Furstenberg: He was so that's my funds.
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Diane von Furstenberg: My mother's story.
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Diane von Furstenberg: My mother.
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Eva Fogelman: Mother now.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Okay, I.
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Eva Fogelman: tell us a little bit about you know I know she came from salami got.
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Eva Fogelman: Green read, which was 50% Jewish and, while our early childhood life, did you have a religious or secular upbringing and what did you share with you about her parents and siblings.
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Diane von Furstenberg: OK, so my mother was born in South Florida grease.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And at the age of she had two sisters a father and a mother and it was there was a big Jewish community, but things weren't so good and.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Had married this famous rich man that made my father rich.
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Diane von Furstenberg: They were living in Belgium, and they were very rich, so the my my grandmother's my grandmother's sister told them come to Belgium so.
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Diane von Furstenberg: They came to Belgium my mother as a little girl she buys and I think she was 907 to nine and her two oldest sister and their parents and they went to Belgium.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And in Belgium, they went to school and, obviously, she went to school and she grew up in you know in in in Belgium.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Speaking French by then, and the lover school I ended up going to the same school and when, and then the war happened, and she was in high school finishing high school when the the war happened and.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And so, she could not go to university she could not go to university, because it was forbidden for Jews, to go to university so she went and I only found out that.
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Diane von Furstenberg: After she died she actually went to fashion school she went to millionaires school, you know people wore X.
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Diane von Furstenberg: She and she will never tell me that she I think she was embarrassed that she couldn't go to university and you want them to fashion school and.
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Diane von Furstenberg: So she went there, and she was also because she was very she was part of the resistance, she would go in her bicycle and she would go and bring fake paper to people who needed a new we're trying to be.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And so, and she was living I don't know she was living or she was staying at these house of resistance people when they arrived and they arrested everybody and their mother.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And they brought them to Marlene Marlene was the place that was a military school that had been transformed into a prison until they would you know sorted out, and when they were 1000 people, they would put them in the train and ship them to Auschwitz.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And and that's what happened my mother.
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Diane von Furstenberg: She was arrested, I think, may 819 44 or may 7 1940 or something like that and, a few days later, she was shipped and she went to Auschwitz and.
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Diane von Furstenberg: that's the beginning of this.
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Eva Fogelman: and
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Eva Fogelman: Did you want to tell us what happened to how, when, during the rest of our experience during the war.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Alright, so she arrived when she arrived there were these trucks so she came from the place where she had been arrested into this first prison and there, she she took a little piece of cardboard.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And she wrote on the cardboard to her parents have that is it that is exactly it and she wrote.
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Diane von Furstenberg: My dear, I think, so that was to her parents, I think about you a lot and I want you to be.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Courageous I I thought I asked forgiveness, if I was not always a nice girl I don't know this is actually the second node first there was a person that knows is already a little sad, the first note when she got it before she arrived, she said, the appearance I.
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Diane von Furstenberg: I don't want you to worry about me and I want you to stay in good health So then, when I come back and I get married, you are in good health, I don't know where you're going, but I don't know where i'm going, but I want you to know that i'm leaving with a smile to wrote that.
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Diane von Furstenberg: The second node which she wrote from the track to the train, which is the load that you just saw was a little bit sadder already she she wasn't maybe smiling so much anymore anyway, she took the train and those were terrible trains, they were cattle trains, they were.
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Diane von Furstenberg: You know no windows.
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Diane von Furstenberg: No bathroom no food no water people were you can imagine it took four days, I think, for them to arrive to Auschwitz.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And she became friends with him a woman and older woman and woman who was maybe in her early 40s and that woman spoke a little German.
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Diane von Furstenberg: So, for some reason my mother decided this woman is the Center of my life, no matter what happens, I will never ever leave this woman.
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Diane von Furstenberg: So they arrive one morning, or whatever they arrive in Auschwitz, and then there is the famous selection right there's a big big long line, and there is one soldier who may say you go right you go left right, left i'll just say left in Germany in Germany and left anywhere forget.
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Eva Fogelman: That.
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Diane von Furstenberg: link that I left right behind the soldier in in slack in a in a slightly elevated podium there's a man dressed in white.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And he doesn't move he doesn't do anything is just sitting there and watching when time comes for my mother and her friend the soldier said to her friend you go right and my mother, without waiting to be told where to go follows her friend and the soldier.
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Diane von Furstenberg: let's go.
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Diane von Furstenberg: The men were never met a man.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Who was dressed in white is all dressed in white he came to her became took my mother and witter and tool, on the other side.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And my mother looked at him like why, why did you have to do this, why did you have to do this well, it turns out that first of all that men was the horrible Mengele which people call the angel of death.
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Diane von Furstenberg: But the truth is the angel of death saved my mother, he saved her to go to the gas Chamber Why did he save her.
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Diane von Furstenberg: We don't know Maybe she looked like somebody that he liked I don't know whatever, of course, she was much younger and therefore she could work.
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Diane von Furstenberg: But in any case, this man who is a horrible man with the angel of death actually saved my mother and my mother always told me that story.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Because whenever something happened, she would never allow me to complain, she would never allow me to be sad about anything because she always said you never know sometimes something that you think maybe the worst thing in the world may save you but.
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Eva Fogelman: I think that her teaching of that experience helped you in in many, many times in your life whenever one close door one door closes another door open or something bad happening, you always said well something good will happen and.
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Diane von Furstenberg: give you I give you another example because that's when my mother was one day I mean after my mother, they came back she survived they got married.
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Diane von Furstenberg: On of that they were they had a great life they had me there and myself, my brother.
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Diane von Furstenberg: But my brother many years later, he was grown up man, and he has a new office.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And the new office he had white carpet any the beta do I buy the car do I not by the carpet carpet was expensive, yes, my mother to die by the company, but anyway, he bought the carpet.
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Diane von Furstenberg: The first week he had his beautiful white carpet in his office, a man came to see him and he had a big huge cigar.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And the bees of ash rolled into the carpet and made a huge black hole in the white carpet and my brother came back and he told my mother oh i'm so upset there's the white little in my there's a big hole in my white carpet and my mother said to him.
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Diane von Furstenberg: That whole through that whole everything bad will go.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Anything bad that goes was good, with that help so that explains my mother was.
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Eva Fogelman: So tell us a little bit about what it was like growing up with with you how fast survivors.
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Diane von Furstenberg: How did you know, they were not to help us survive at all, only my mother went to the camp, I mean you know it's very different my father went to Switzerland Okay, he was somehow in a refugee camp, or whatever, but you cannot compare.
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Diane von Furstenberg: A refugee, can I, and I have to.
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Eva Fogelman: Stop you right that we don't have to but not comparing there's no hierarchy of suffering, but your father and your father don't forget the Germans invaded Belgium in June of 1940 your father, you know was under the German occupation, he then escapes to tools and then he returned and.
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Diane von Furstenberg: I know the, let me tell you, he did not sleep with rats on the.
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Eva Fogelman: Past no we're not we're not we're not comparing but he too was a Holocaust survivors.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Okay, all right, but it's not a no show it's about.
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Diane von Furstenberg: yeah okay fine and i'm sorry you whatever he would agree with you, I don't but anyway.
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Diane von Furstenberg: So what happened, so I grew up well, first of all, we have to say that.
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Diane von Furstenberg: When she came back she weighed 29 kilos okay that's 45 pounds or something like that her parents could not believe that she came back.
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Diane von Furstenberg: So her mother said her little piece little piece every 10 minutes, give a little food little food live food and she said that she was feeling that she was going like a balloon.
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Diane von Furstenberg: within six months, she had gained her normal way she was always very skinny and then tiny her fiance came back from Switzerland.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And they met and also, I know from the diary that in the diary my father said, my father wrote.
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Diane von Furstenberg: She was not the same girl that I had left obviously she went to the camp for 13 months, she went to one camp she walked through the best march she went to another camp and then another camp.
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Diane von Furstenberg: So she was not the same person and she realized that he felt that, and again in that my father's Diary, he said that one day said to her you don't have to marry me, I understand, and he said no, no, we get married so they got married and the doctor said to both of them.
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Diane von Furstenberg: it's fine that you get married, but you can absolutely not have a child, because if you have a child, you can't have a chance for two years, because you will not make it, you will die and your child will not be known and nine months later, I was born.
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Diane von Furstenberg: So I haven't through survivor yeah was that's it absolutely.
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Eva Fogelman: And how did you react to your your mother's arm.
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Eva Fogelman: Number on her arm.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And I know you had that that you know it was like a tattoo she had one one number, and then it was closed and there was another number, because she she went to throw different can't.
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Diane von Furstenberg: So she had two numbers, but after a few years she added removed because people would always there at it and so on.
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Diane von Furstenberg: And I didn't know much I mean it's like you know it was it was you know people after after the war, did not be I mean certain people didn't really want to talk about it, so it was not something to talk about I knew it was not not really that that thing.
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Diane von Furstenberg: Its most most match match match later.
00:27:36.990 --> 00:27:48.240
Diane von Furstenberg: That I this whole revelation came to mind, and then I realized that it was important for me, first of all that the essence of who I am is I am.
00:27:48.690 --> 00:28:01.110
Diane von Furstenberg: A daughter of survivors and therefore I have the survivor genes, which means that my mother was very strict, I was not allowed ever to be a victim.
00:28:01.470 --> 00:28:15.180
Diane von Furstenberg: I could not complain, I could never blame I could no shame, it was never she never told me, be careful, she was like I had to be tough I had to be independent.
00:28:15.630 --> 00:28:29.850
Diane von Furstenberg: I had to be responsible and all of that, no matter what we're never addictive, that is the one big thing that she told me and fear was that.
00:28:30.330 --> 00:28:38.700
Diane von Furstenberg: Was the not an option, I was not allowed to be afraid, if I was afraid of the dark she would put me in the closet.
00:28:39.210 --> 00:28:54.210
Diane von Furstenberg: The closet today, she could be arrested for this and, but the truth is, I am happy she did, that is, once you get into a dark pleasant, first of all, it doesn't stay down, which is always a little bit of light.
00:28:54.930 --> 00:29:08.910
Diane von Furstenberg: And second of all why be afraid of the dark, so I was very much from my mother's side, I was very much raised as never played never complain and never be a victim.
00:29:09.420 --> 00:29:27.990
Eva Fogelman: Now, in America children of Holocaust survivors felt very different from their American Jewish peers in Belgium did you have Jewish peers growing up remaining non Jewish peers and how did you feel different or the same as how did you feel amongst these are peers.
00:29:28.500 --> 00:29:33.750
Diane von Furstenberg: I never even knew I didn't I don't think I knew I was Jewish and then much, much later.
00:29:34.680 --> 00:29:50.760
Diane von Furstenberg: After the war in Europe, a lot of people just didn't want to do anything to do with religion anything to do with religion, I mean I had you know curly black hair in the country where everybody has blonde blonde blonde very straight hair.
00:29:51.810 --> 00:29:58.170
Diane von Furstenberg: But I had no Jewish consciousness whatsoever and.
00:29:58.740 --> 00:30:06.270
Diane von Furstenberg: When I was 18 I you know my mother push nowhere, and she sent me to boarding school she wanted me to either big life.
00:30:06.510 --> 00:30:18.570
Diane von Furstenberg: So she sent me to score first to in England to learn English and then she sent me to switch learn, or vice versa, and then I went to university in Switzerland so she.
00:30:18.960 --> 00:30:33.810
Diane von Furstenberg: She wanted to push me and she wanted to push me to have a big life she didn't tell me that, but she didn't say Oh, I wanted to have a good laugh, but she wanted me to experience things and i'm so glad she did, and I think.
00:30:34.350 --> 00:30:49.980
Eva Fogelman: One of the things that struck me is that one of your girlfriend's when you were very young, that the two you invasion marrying Princesses and then becoming Princesses growing up, and indeed you go on in marrying Prince, how did that come about.
00:30:52.590 --> 00:31:17.550
Diane von Furstenberg: When I was in the university engineers as well, Switzerland, I met I was 18 when I met him, he was also a team, and he was an awesome it was the I mean he had from his father, he was a Prince Prince first number and from his mother, he was a nearly and we fell in love and and then.
00:31:18.690 --> 00:31:20.910
Diane von Furstenberg: How many years later, four years later.
00:31:22.170 --> 00:31:30.690
Diane von Furstenberg: I got we got engaged and then I got pregnant and then we got married in that order, and then we moved to America.
00:31:31.500 --> 00:31:36.810
Eva Fogelman: Now, did you and megan ever speak about your different family backgrounds and.
00:31:37.980 --> 00:31:51.600
Eva Fogelman: And many children of Holocaust survivors when they meet you know, the German, the first thing that they think about is Jay what did this person do during the war, did you have such feeling when you make your fei fei father.
00:31:52.920 --> 00:32:09.780
Diane von Furstenberg: Know maybe he may have had a door with me, but I did I mean it's this whole Jewish consciousness is something that happened when I was already after was 30 at the time and it men it then mean very much to me and truly.
00:32:10.980 --> 00:32:14.670
Diane von Furstenberg: My mother, my mother lives aegon and so she never.
00:32:15.990 --> 00:32:19.110
Diane von Furstenberg: She you know she she was a.
00:32:20.190 --> 00:32:24.210
Diane von Furstenberg: I think she was actually happy, she was happy that I married him and.
00:32:25.260 --> 00:32:33.450
Diane von Furstenberg: On his on his side the fact the first about family was not happy that I was.
00:32:34.590 --> 00:32:54.090
Diane von Furstenberg: polluting the the blood of you know, there had been no Jewish blood in the family and a family that they go back to you 1000 but his Italian mother didn't seem to get whatever it is, we got married and we had two children and that wasn't.
00:32:55.740 --> 00:33:02.940
Eva Fogelman: Now we won't be dwelling much tonight on your three year marriage to go i'm giving birth to a boy and girl.
00:33:03.180 --> 00:33:21.210
Eva Fogelman: You rather intimate relationship you being part of the New York studio 54 seen until you sell down at age 50 with a man that you have loved for many years Barry Diller I you teach us all that it's never too late to begin a new.
00:33:21.270 --> 00:33:30.090
Eva Fogelman: And so down and I highly recommend to our viewers to read diane a signature life, the.
00:33:31.980 --> 00:33:34.890
Eva Fogelman: And the woman that I wanted to be.
00:33:36.060 --> 00:33:40.410
Eva Fogelman: psychologically speaking diane you are very.
00:33:41.790 --> 00:33:56.610
Eva Fogelman: undefended you are honest and sharing your vulnerabilities your strength and, most importantly, your wisdom about life, which is not imbued in victimhood your latest book.
00:33:57.960 --> 00:34:00.750
Eva Fogelman: On it the secret to life.
00:34:02.430 --> 00:34:11.820
Eva Fogelman: Is a manifesto for turning problems into assets and enjoying personal growth at any age we all have a lot to learn from you.
00:34:12.270 --> 00:34:21.120
Eva Fogelman: Before we get into the transforming moment, I was very curious about two friends, you had one was Henry Kissinger who live near you and Connecticut.
00:34:21.360 --> 00:34:36.180
Eva Fogelman: With whom you had shared many meals and also, yes, you can send ski out would come and visit and entertain the kids with all kinds of magic tricks, did you have any discussions with either with them about their Holocaust experience.
00:34:37.050 --> 00:34:51.300
Diane von Furstenberg: Yes, I met Henry Kissinger which we then needs first I met with I think I learned the more or less at the same time, I met Henry Kissinger and we have many meals together.
00:34:52.590 --> 00:35:04.020
Diane von Furstenberg: We had many lunches and, yes, of course, I did, by then, I was interested and I thought you know we talked to me about being born in Germany, and like a lot of German Jews.
00:35:04.470 --> 00:35:19.140
Diane von Furstenberg: he's a drew but he's also German and he he loves for me and so yes and josie Kaczynski I had read his amazing book called the painted bird.
00:35:19.710 --> 00:35:32.730
Diane von Furstenberg: And the painted bird is one of the fantastic book about this little boy who runs away in the woods and and all of that, and which was really just these.
00:35:34.980 --> 00:35:43.800
Diane von Furstenberg: He was he was from Poland and in his life and Jersey and I we became very good friends and unfortunately died.
00:35:44.880 --> 00:35:58.530
Diane von Furstenberg: You know quite young and, yes, yes, by then, I was by then I would talk about it and, yes, they were both very complex personalities.
00:36:00.210 --> 00:36:04.800
Diane von Furstenberg: A much survivors very much survivors and very much.
00:36:05.940 --> 00:36:16.770
Diane von Furstenberg: Wanting to be the best of what they are, and the best of what they do and Henry Kissinger now at the age of 95 he is my.
00:36:17.340 --> 00:36:34.470
Diane von Furstenberg: He is my neighbor in the country is an amazing man he just wrote a book on artificial intelligence, because he wanted to know about it, and at the age of 95 is still you know learning and writing and questioning and.
00:36:35.520 --> 00:36:54.690
Diane von Furstenberg: And that's one of the things that I think all Jews have is that we are people of the books and we were always told that learning is what matters because we've always been persecuted and what you have learned, nobody can take away.
00:36:55.470 --> 00:37:10.740
Eva Fogelman: Now you participated in some very important historical events to students strikes born in 68 in 1979 the peace treaty with the database and at the White House, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1986 the.
00:37:10.740 --> 00:37:27.660
Eva Fogelman: Opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial museum celebrating your 40th birthday at the home of President Herzog in Israel, I know your father was a businessman, but what we did he influence you in any way in terms of politics.
00:37:28.620 --> 00:37:38.760
Diane von Furstenberg: No, and the love of those things that you mentioned, I was just a spectator, I mean you know the fall of the Berlin Wall, I just went there because I wanted to see it.
00:37:39.810 --> 00:37:52.410
Diane von Furstenberg: I was invited at the White House for the Camp David dinner, I mean I had nothing no participation whatsoever, but I was sitting there, I was sitting at Walter mondale was the Vice President.
00:37:53.220 --> 00:38:02.820
Diane von Furstenberg: At the time I was sitting at his table, so I remember that night that night and I did visit Israel on my 40th birthday and.
00:38:03.570 --> 00:38:16.320
Diane von Furstenberg: And I had a new, the President of Israel Vivian hurts it hurts because he was he was before that he was ambassador to Israel at the UN.
00:38:16.950 --> 00:38:31.560
Diane von Furstenberg: And I had met them here, so when I went to as well, I call them and they invited me to lunch, the day that happened to be my birthday, but recently I just discovered that the new President of Israel is their son.
00:38:32.430 --> 00:38:51.090
Eva Fogelman: wow right absolutely and now I would like to turn our discussion to the fortress forming moments in your life that shifted your identity and, ultimately, a lot of what you're doing today so tell us about what happened in 1980 when you got a phone call about what happened to your.
00:38:51.090 --> 00:38:51.600
00:38:54.510 --> 00:38:57.300
Diane von Furstenberg: Oh yes.
00:38:58.950 --> 00:39:09.630
Diane von Furstenberg: My mother, by then, my mother left my father and she was living in Switzerland with a man who was actually Swiss German.
00:39:11.100 --> 00:39:11.760
Diane von Furstenberg: and
00:39:13.080 --> 00:39:23.160
Diane von Furstenberg: They went they had gone to Germany, because he had the business and they went, I think they had she had gone to Germany before.
00:39:23.760 --> 00:39:42.660
Diane von Furstenberg: And she went to Germany, with him, and they were in the countryside and and in a restaurant, and it was very hard and the old everybody was speaking German and I don't know I don't know exactly what happened but.
00:39:43.980 --> 00:40:03.390
Diane von Furstenberg: And then, when the hotel in the countryside and when they I mean when the boyfriend walked out he looked for my mother and he couldn't find her and so he looked everywhere, and she was hiding underneath the concierge desk.
00:40:04.920 --> 00:40:16.170
Diane von Furstenberg: And rolled in a bowl and he didn't understand what had happened, and so we pulled her out and she somehow she loves she had lost it.
00:40:16.770 --> 00:40:30.330
Diane von Furstenberg: And so, thank God, they were in a car, and he put her in the car and they drove back to solicit any called me on the phone and try to have me speak to her and she was a little.
00:40:31.470 --> 00:40:44.460
Diane von Furstenberg: She was not coherent so of course I took the plane immediately and I arrived in Switzerland in the hospital she she had been put in a in.
00:40:45.780 --> 00:40:50.190
Diane von Furstenberg: A mental hospital and I remember so clearly, she was.
00:40:51.690 --> 00:40:57.150
Diane von Furstenberg: She was all tied in but she was tiny little ball holding into her first book.
00:40:58.260 --> 00:40:58.890
Diane von Furstenberg: and
00:41:00.840 --> 00:41:14.490
Diane von Furstenberg: Yes, and she something something something triggered and maybe all the German speaking and maybe they weren't allowed and dragons who knows I don't know I never knew.
00:41:15.060 --> 00:41:16.560
Eva Fogelman: Well, you change.
00:41:17.040 --> 00:41:28.470
Eva Fogelman: your mother had experience at that time was she was triggered by the Germans setting with all these Germans and she would she had it she had a post traumatic stress disorder.
00:41:30.000 --> 00:41:46.350
Eva Fogelman: Experience and, unfortunately, though it's very interesting that was 1980 1980 is when the diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder came into being and that's when people really understood that and.
00:41:47.550 --> 00:41:48.240
Eva Fogelman: and
00:41:48.420 --> 00:41:50.520
Diane von Furstenberg: When nobody understood it depends.
00:41:50.820 --> 00:41:56.250
Eva Fogelman: I mean, I know what do you got time I decided, though none of us, I mean you know but and then.
00:41:56.550 --> 00:42:06.810
Diane von Furstenberg: They put her on you know they give her drugs and everything and she was really I mean I, it was a horrible experience for me, I mean horrible even to think about it.
00:42:07.410 --> 00:42:19.980
Diane von Furstenberg: yeah and then one day she just woke up, and I think she realized Okay, unless they get out of it myself i'm not going to get out of it.
00:42:20.040 --> 00:42:20.910
Eva Fogelman: And once I get.
00:42:21.480 --> 00:42:26.790
Diane von Furstenberg: she's just pull yourself back and she was a survivor again.
00:42:27.240 --> 00:42:40.890
Eva Fogelman: yeah now your second transforming moment is a year later in 1981 you are being honored at the anti defamation league luncheon with a woman of achievement award you're you're hearing.
00:42:41.940 --> 00:42:47.760
Eva Fogelman: From all these previous speakers and what happens to you when it's your turn to speak.
00:42:48.600 --> 00:42:57.270
Diane von Furstenberg: Yes, I mean I was being on an ad that by then it was fake samus I had created the red dress everybody was wearing a red dress.
00:42:57.630 --> 00:43:13.230
Diane von Furstenberg: And as an and you know when they raise money for these these charities like a GL there are no people right and so she's Jewish will honor she's very successful and she would be an attraction to all these Jewish women.
00:43:13.920 --> 00:43:23.250
Diane von Furstenberg: And I didn't want to go my mind was not into it at all, I had just come back from Bali, the last thing I want to go with the hotel Pierre to some.
00:43:23.850 --> 00:43:33.720
Diane von Furstenberg: Some charity and the but I once and then, once I was there I was the last one to get the award so I watched the entire Program.
00:43:34.050 --> 00:43:47.760
Diane von Furstenberg: And I watch people go on stage and talk about their experience and so on, so, by the time that I went on stage I was different already that I was 20 minutes before.
00:43:48.330 --> 00:44:08.700
Diane von Furstenberg: And when I gave they gave me the award I heard myself saying something that not only I had never said but I don't think I ever thought it and I said this was the first time ever that I said to anyone.
00:44:09.990 --> 00:44:18.540
Diane von Furstenberg: You all know me because of my wrap dress but what you don't know about me is that 18 months before I was born my mother was enough.
00:44:19.800 --> 00:44:30.930
Diane von Furstenberg: And the whole room but silent and I got very emotion and I don't like to get emotional I mean i'm not I don't you know.
00:44:31.710 --> 00:44:50.040
Diane von Furstenberg: As I told you my mother will allow that so I was an emotion, but I started to get so I couldn't believe it, so I couldn't wait to get out of there and I remember that, out of, then I walked 40 blocks to go home and that was true transforming moment.
00:44:50.370 --> 00:45:00.510
Diane von Furstenberg: Because that's the time that I realized that I was the daughter of a survivor that he was and because I had.
00:45:01.530 --> 00:45:16.410
Diane von Furstenberg: A comment accomplish some degree of fame or whatever, I had a voice and, therefore, it was important that I use that voice and that I talked about it, because people didn't know that about me and so.
00:45:16.440 --> 00:45:31.110
Eva Fogelman: yeah now your mother lily dies in 2000 and tell us a little bit about how you honor your mother at the 2019 metropolitan museum Gala in New York.
00:45:33.630 --> 00:45:35.700
Diane von Furstenberg: And my mother in the metropolitan.
00:45:36.720 --> 00:45:40.560
Eva Fogelman: Yes, you did a whole speech about your mother a.
00:45:40.590 --> 00:45:43.530
Diane von Furstenberg: During that, no, no, no, no, I honored my mother.
00:45:43.650 --> 00:45:54.210
Diane von Furstenberg: I raised money, I became they wanted me to rate they wanted to be on the board of the Statue of Liberty, not the metropolitan museum the Statue of Liberty.
00:45:54.690 --> 00:46:00.660
Diane von Furstenberg: And I didn't want to go on a board I didn't want to go on the board, then the men who wanted to get me on the board.
00:46:01.260 --> 00:46:18.540
Diane von Furstenberg: read my book, the woman, I wanted to be, and in that book, I said that my mother, used to say God save me so that I can give you life by giving you life, you gave me my life back you are my torch of freedom.
00:46:19.170 --> 00:46:42.150
Diane von Furstenberg: So the men, the board of the Statue of Liberty, said to me your mother said, you are the torch of freedom, you must come on the board of the Statue of Liberty and I did, and I raised 100 my I help them raise 100 million dollars for the Museum of the Statue of Liberty that's when I remember.
00:46:44.160 --> 00:46:45.750
Diane von Furstenberg: And that opened in.
00:46:45.780 --> 00:46:54.990
Eva Fogelman: 2019 also another transforming moment was your.
00:46:56.880 --> 00:47:03.270
Eva Fogelman: You were on the envy Louis gates TV show finding your roots.
00:47:03.570 --> 00:47:08.160
Eva Fogelman: Could you tell us a little bit about what you found out about your father's family in kitchener.
00:47:08.520 --> 00:47:10.020
Diane von Furstenberg: Yes, so.
00:47:11.520 --> 00:47:25.770
Diane von Furstenberg: skip gates asked me to come on time, your roots they you know they take your DNA they do all this research, they work with and I thought I knew everything about my family and I knew everything about it.
00:47:26.760 --> 00:47:50.520
Diane von Furstenberg: But what I realized, then when, after the they do research is that, even though I always those that that I, we were fine with me of survival survival survival it isn't quite so true because my other grandmother my father's mother, she was killed by the bullets.
00:47:51.840 --> 00:48:07.440
Diane von Furstenberg: And that my father never accepted it, he was completely delusional about it, he refused to accept it, so he never told me in never believe that or I didn't want to believe it.
00:48:08.010 --> 00:48:23.340
Diane von Furstenberg: I mean, I remember, we went there to fish left we went to see her grades, with clearly she wasn't in the way, but she had a great so my father did not want to know that my mother had that his mother had been killed.
00:48:24.360 --> 00:48:29.130
Diane von Furstenberg: So that's what I discovered, and that was indeed a transforming moment.
00:48:29.700 --> 00:48:42.900
Diane von Furstenberg: And I feel from that moment, I feel that I owe to I have to honor my other grandmother my my my my paternal grandmother.
00:48:43.320 --> 00:48:44.160
Eva Fogelman: It is easier.
00:48:45.090 --> 00:48:54.930
Eva Fogelman: yeah now one of the ways in which you remember your parents, obviously, as you know, continuing like to see like today.
00:48:55.410 --> 00:49:03.480
Eva Fogelman: Telling your parents story, but you i've also chosen a very life affirming way to remember your mother's courage.
00:49:03.990 --> 00:49:14.370
Eva Fogelman: Particularly when she joins the Belgium resistance, you get arrested and she decides to say she's Jewish rather than.
00:49:15.090 --> 00:49:21.690
Eva Fogelman: Be being in a position where she made the bulge the other names of the other people in their resistance.
00:49:22.020 --> 00:49:40.410
Eva Fogelman: Could you tell us a little bit about your initiative in creating the dv F awards, and they just celebrated its 20th anniversary your vital voices, I feel that all these are the ways in which in essence you're you're honoring your mother and her and her courage.
00:49:40.860 --> 00:49:47.940
Diane von Furstenberg: Yes, and okay So yes, my mother, you know when you have a strong mother.
00:49:49.140 --> 00:49:55.260
Diane von Furstenberg: Why, while they are alive, if you have a strong mother you.
00:49:57.030 --> 00:50:11.370
Diane von Furstenberg: You you don't you don't you stay away from the strength right because it's so strong you, but after she was no longer last I fully embrace.
00:50:14.970 --> 00:50:30.060
Diane von Furstenberg: How can I see her and recognize her strength and her courage and her leadership and so encouraged by my son I created an award.
00:50:31.170 --> 00:50:51.060
Diane von Furstenberg: To honor incredible extraordinary women who have had the strength to fight the courage to survive and the leadership know and the leadership's to inspire and and it is very much to earn my mother's strength courage.
00:50:52.230 --> 00:50:59.280
Eva Fogelman: Now, your own radical to America in New York, obviously, is exemplified by your work and being at the board of the statue.
00:50:59.820 --> 00:51:10.830
Eva Fogelman: of liberty Ellis Island foundation, but, most recently, you enrich us in New York and you and Barry Diller together.
00:51:11.460 --> 00:51:34.770
Eva Fogelman: By and also all the tourists that come to New York to see the little islands at appear at Pier 25 a P 5055 and I think I told you that the Mayor of Tel Aviv came to see the first thing when it came to New York and has visions of having a similar kind of island in Tel Aviv.
00:51:34.860 --> 00:51:48.780
Eva Fogelman: As we rejoice 70s psychologist erick erickson has taught us that this is the age where we try to impart what we've learned to the next generation, and this, of course, is your role as an oracle to all of us.
00:51:49.080 --> 00:52:09.600
Eva Fogelman: your mother certainly toward us many values very important values life lessons they unfortunately she had to learn the hard way diane you are now imparting your mother's lessons of survival and you will enrich all of us, we cannot end the force without you sharing with us.
00:52:09.810 --> 00:52:11.040
Diane von Furstenberg: The dynasty you.
00:52:11.040 --> 00:52:19.050
Eva Fogelman: have been able to create your children your grandchildren and, after all, that is our best revenge.
00:52:20.940 --> 00:52:31.080
Diane von Furstenberg: Yes, yes there's only a few of them I have five grandchildren and two children, so I basically have seven children.
00:52:34.440 --> 00:52:46.380
Eva Fogelman: Alright, so now i'm going to turn it over to I really don't have too much time i'm sure, many people have lots of questions and I certainly have many more that can fill up couple of few more hours.
00:52:47.460 --> 00:53:03.780
Ari Goldstein: Thank you so much diane Eva will jump right in and Dan we have a question from phyllis who is asking and curious to know what changed visa V your Jewish identity over the course of your life, you mentioned that something you came to later on what inspired that connection.
00:53:06.180 --> 00:53:19.050
Diane von Furstenberg: You know you are who you are you don't you know when you grow up you don't necessarily I mean it was never told to me oh you Jewish Jewish Jewish by my parents, I am that's it I just am.
00:53:20.400 --> 00:53:27.330
Diane von Furstenberg: But I did realize that it was important that I shared my mother's story that was important and.
00:53:28.590 --> 00:53:29.130
Diane von Furstenberg: and
00:53:30.480 --> 00:53:33.060
Diane von Furstenberg: You know it's very funny because.
00:53:34.860 --> 00:53:46.560
Diane von Furstenberg: The other day I was doing a cat skin and when you do exactly there was something wrong with my stomach but there was nothing like and when you are in the machine and you're being photographed.
00:53:47.010 --> 00:53:53.670
Diane von Furstenberg: You have to stay stay on for 15 minutes, so I was thinking to myself Okay, how do I occupy my mind.
00:53:54.330 --> 00:54:05.940
Diane von Furstenberg: And I thought okay let's pretend that i'm taking a picture of my soul, what would come out what is my soul, what is the definition of the person that I am.
00:54:06.540 --> 00:54:20.640
Diane von Furstenberg: And what did come out is the fact that I am a daughter of a survivor and or two survivors, if you want, and that is the essence of who I am and therefore the.
00:54:21.390 --> 00:54:48.240
Diane von Furstenberg: moment of my birth was a victory, so I went from despair to try it and therefore life is what I honor because the I wasn't supposed to be alive, she wasn't supposed to survive, I wasn't supposed to be born so anything that came after that was a plus but by birth was my victory.
00:54:49.650 --> 00:54:50.610
Ari Goldstein: that's beautiful.
00:54:51.660 --> 00:54:57.330
Ari Goldstein: That takes us to another audience question has your personal story inspired any of your design.
00:55:00.420 --> 00:55:09.420
Diane von Furstenberg: You know I designed my life, you know I it's not just that I designed the dress I designed my life I need that I need it to be in a woman in charge.
00:55:09.840 --> 00:55:21.270
Diane von Furstenberg: I didn't know how I would become a woman in charge, meaning a woman and independent I happen to work there and design address and then this and that I designed my life I am.
00:55:22.350 --> 00:55:33.870
Diane von Furstenberg: I have tried to be a woman in charge, and I, and as I, as I became a designer I tried to design for women to be in charge now what does it mean to be in charge.
00:55:34.470 --> 00:55:46.620
Diane von Furstenberg: It means it's a commitment to ourselves it's owning who we are and being the best of who we are and being true to ourselves that is what being in charge is about.
00:55:48.630 --> 00:55:54.900
Ari Goldstein: Thank you diane and Juliet asks how are you different in similar from your mother lily.
00:55:56.250 --> 00:55:57.870
Diane von Furstenberg: Oh that's a good question.
00:56:00.450 --> 00:56:17.400
Diane von Furstenberg: I don't know I know that she always gave advice to everybody to all my friends that that used to annoy me so much, and now I quote home to 10 and then hundred times worse than she is so I am very much a dog but i'm doing my father's stuff.
00:56:20.070 --> 00:56:24.780
Ari Goldstein: And let's close with this one from Hillary how did I end get the cardboard letters that her mother.
00:56:26.160 --> 00:56:45.570
Diane von Furstenberg: Good question, I did not know my mother never knew that those she used to tell me about those cardboard Oh, I was in the truck and I rode with a car and I willed with a matching and I didn't believe it OK OK OK, I never believed it after she died.
00:56:47.040 --> 00:56:58.650
Diane von Furstenberg: She died she her last House was in the Bahamas shared as the violence and I lend the House to my cousin who was her sister's son.
00:56:59.220 --> 00:57:15.450
Diane von Furstenberg: And when he came to the House you brought a shoe box, full of photographs and I looked at the photographs, most of them I had seen but underneath the photographs, there was a flat envelope was still flat.
00:57:16.080 --> 00:57:31.230
Diane von Furstenberg: And it's a miracle, I even saw it, and I open and it said lily 1944 and I opened this envelope, and I could not believe it there were those two cards that my mother had said.
00:57:31.860 --> 00:57:45.180
Diane von Furstenberg: I can't believe it, I could not believe it and I know for sure my mother did not know this this where I don't think her sister ever told her or her mother ever told her that they had fun the letters.
00:57:45.540 --> 00:58:02.190
Diane von Furstenberg: When they came back the parents, the family, nobody wanted to talk about that time you know it's all about the future, so what I do, I do have the original gods so I did not believe it when she told me and I haven't.
00:58:03.390 --> 00:58:15.870
Ari Goldstein: That is amazing diane Thank you so much for sharing this and so much of yourself with us this evening you really offer extraordinary lessons and we're grateful for this time, Eva do you want to close this out.
00:58:16.980 --> 00:58:35.880
Eva Fogelman: yeah I really wanna, thank you for through your openness about your your journey in moving from you know, being the fashion icon to the world to being an oracle for for assault I highly recommend that.
00:58:36.480 --> 00:58:52.740
Eva Fogelman: People read your are your two memoirs and also own it the secret to life, I think that people were really you know get a whole different sense of who you are which we did not really talk about today.
00:58:53.400 --> 00:59:08.250
Eva Fogelman: Which is all the up and downs that you have had in in the in the fashion world and how and what the important thing about you and what you guys from the mother is never be a victim.
00:59:10.440 --> 00:59:29.760
Eva Fogelman: And when you know when things go awry and you know something doesn't go well, you have to think of it as this is a time when something good will happen and not to continue to dwell on you know and the losses and the suffering and.
00:59:30.630 --> 00:59:51.270
Eva Fogelman: And look for what that other door is that is going to open up, and I think that this is an important lesson, particularly for survivors for children of survivors to move beyond the sense of victimhood and you are a tremendous role model for that.
00:59:51.390 --> 01:00:00.990
Diane von Furstenberg: Thank you, I will finish by saying one thing and this game it's a virgin Gregorian boy just learned that they love and he told me that.
01:00:01.410 --> 01:00:09.210
Diane von Furstenberg: This was and what his grandmother told him and his mother was an arm survived the Armenian genocide and she said.
01:00:10.080 --> 01:00:28.020
Diane von Furstenberg: The one, the only thing you have complete control is your character, you can lose your health, you could lose your wealth, you could lose your beauty is in your family, you could lose your freedom, but you never lose your character, even the torture.
01:00:30.450 --> 01:00:30.840
01:00:31.980 --> 01:00:36.030
Ari Goldstein: Thank you, Eva Thank you diane to all of you, with us this evening.
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Ari Goldstein: A reminder that everything we do with museum of Jewish heritage to preserve the history and lessons of the Holocaust is made possible through donors or.
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Ari Goldstein: So a great, thank you to those of you who are supporters and members of the museum and if you're not you can click the link in the zoom chat to share your support or join us for upcoming programs and events we wish everyone is safe and healthy evening take care.
01:01:00.030 --> 01:01:01.080
Diane von Furstenberg: Thank you very much.
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Ari Goldstein: Okay, thank you.
01:01:02.460 --> 01:01:06.810
Eva Fogelman: diane and good night everybody Thank you all right take care.
01:01:06.900 --> 01:01:07.350
Read Diane von Furstenberg’s Life Lessons
In Diane’s memoir The Woman I Wanted to Be, she reflects on her childhood, her mother’s story, and her success in fashion. Order your copy here. In her newest book Own It: The Secret to Life, Diane offers an empowering blueprint for personal and professional growth. Order your copy here.
Explore Stories of Female Resistance Fighters During WWII
Diane von Furstenberg’s mother Liliane Nahmias was a resistance fighter until she was captured and sent to Auschwitz. Many other Jewish women like Liliane risked their lives to work in resistance cells fighting the Nazis. Learn some of their stories in this Museum program with Judy Batalion, author of The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos.
Get Involved in Descendants of Holocaust Survivors
Descendants of Holocaust Survivors (2G Greater New York) is a forum for children of survivors to connect with one another, share thoughts, feelings, and memories, and learn and teach the lessons of the Holocaust. The group was co-founded by Ellen Bachner Greenberg and Dr. Eva Fogelman. Explore their work on their website and become involved by joining their Facebook group.