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Fashion icon pays tribute to Jewish mama

Diane von Fürstenberg tells readers how her Holocaust survivor mother shaped her outlook on life

Diane Von Furstenberg, reading from her new book (YouTube screen grab)
Diane Von Furstenberg, reading from her new book (YouTube screen grab)

In her recently published memoir, fashion icon Diane von Fürstenberg shares that Nazi doctor Josef Mengele saved her mother’s life.

Sections of von Fürstenberg’s book, titled “The Woman I Wanted to Be,” were recently published in Britain’s The Daily Mail.

In a twist of fate, Mengele, known as The Angel of Death, took her mother, Lily Nahmias, then 20, out of the line heading to the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

“Striding down the ramp, he walked directly up to my mother, yanked her away from her friend, and threw her into the group on the right,” wrote von Fürstenberg.

Mengele spared the fashion designer’s mother simply because of her young age. She ended up working 12-hour shifts in a weapons factory.

In the article, the Belgian-born von Fürstenberg added that her mother serves as a motivation whenever she feels lethargic.

“If I ever feel too lazy to do a chore, if I hesitate to go out because of the cold, I remember my mother,” she said.

Von Fürstenberg’s mother was marched out of the concentration camp with thousands of starving Jews, but against all odds, survived.

The fashion designer wrote freely about Nahmias’s journey from Holocaust survivor to mother, but also provided a personal account of her own life.

Her own name came from her marriage to a German prince, Egon of Fürstenberg. She continued to use his family name following their 1972 divorce. It was in New York in the 1970s that von Fürstenberg became famous for her exceptionally flattering wrap dresses and luxury designer label.

The fashion designer wrote in the Daily Mail that it wasn’t just Nahmias’ fierce independence, inner strength or sense of freedom that caused her to admire her.

“I used to feel great admiration watching my mother get dressed to go out…she looked at herself in the mirror with a smile of confidence,” the designer wrote.

In an article in InStyle magazine, von Fürstenberg recalled that her mother’s words have motivated her to celebrate her life and her freedom to the best of her ability.

According to the Daily Beast, the memoir began as a series of essays about Nahmias, and later turned into a memoir.

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