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Nazi and Francoist medals: The secret inheritance of a German woman who died in Spain’s Dénia | Culture

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Gertrudis Sommer Ficher died in the Spanish coastal city of Dénia, in the Valencia region, in 2005. She had no heirs and had left no will. After the deadline to issue claims passed and legal processes had been observed, all her assets were passed on to the Valencia regional government. The woman, of German origin, had three properties in Dénia, several savings accounts with more than €300,000 and stocks that have been sold for nearly €480,000. She also possessed items that had gone undetected until Valencia’s heritage department was informed by a bank of a security box in her name.

Inside the box, was a collection of medals, crosses, insignias and gold coins, as well as shares. The swastikas on one of the medals jumped out immediately. Very little is known about Ficher, other than that she was a foreigner and had been living alone for some time in the popular tourist destination. It was a surprising find, but not completely unexpected. In the years following the Second World War, former Nazis set up home in Denía with the support of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Over the past 20 years, this Nazi past has been the subject of various historical and journalistic investigations, novels, documentaries and even films, such as El Sustituto (or, The Replacement), which opened in cinemas in Spain a few weeks ago. This movie focuses on Dénia, which is located along the Costa Blanca in Alicante province. The film’s director, Óscar Aibar, recently told EL PAÍS of his shock when, during a break from filming, he heard a local in a bar say: “They are making a film about our Nazis.”

A scene from the film ‘El Sustituto,’ which takes place in Dénia.
A scene from the film ‘El Sustituto,’ which takes place in Dénia.

The Nazi medal found in Ficher’s safe deposit box was an Order of the German Eagle, an award of the German Nazi regime that was predominantly given to foreign diplomats sympathetic to the Third Reich. If the medal was given to a military recipient, it featured crossed swords – which do not appear on Ficher’s distinction. German dictator Adolf Hitler instituted the medal in 1937. It stopped being awarded following the collapse of Nazi Germany. Guaranteeing the medal’s authenticity has cost €1,750, as many fakes from that period circulate today, according to experts.

In addition to the medal, the box also contained decorations from the Franco dictatorship, such as the Order of Isabella the Catholic, which features a red-enameled cross, with a golden frame, and is valued at between €900 and €1,200. The box also included a Grand Star badge from the Order of Civil Merit, worth between €200 and €500, and a lapel pin, worth €20, belonging to a university group of fascist party Falange. The value of the medal collection is close to €3,000.

More valuable still are the 31 gold coins found in the safe deposit box, which are worth around €47,500. These 100 corona coins were minted in 1915 in the last period before the Austro-Hungarian empire. One side has the face of emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria (1848-1916), bordered by a phrase in Latin, reading: “Franz Joseph I by the grace of God Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia, Galicia, Illyria, etc. and Apostolic King of Hungary” in reference to historical regions of central Europe. The other side features Austria’s coat of arms on top of a crowned, double-headed imperial eagle. The description on the edge of the coin has the emperor’s slogan, Viribus Unitis, meaning “with united forces.” According to studies, the First World War put an end to the circulation of this coin, with the corona being replaced by the Austrian schilling in the 1920s.

Refuge of Nazis

The Valencian regional government will auction off all the items, once it is confirmed that none of the decorations have a direct link to violent crime, according to sources from the heritage department, which works with the region’s tax office. All the money raised from the auction of this intestate inheritance – a legal proceeding to award the assets of a person who has died without a will or with an invalid document – will go to social causes and cultural sponsorship, as outlined by the 2019 decree on the subject.

Spanish writer Clara Sánchez in front of the former residence of a Nazi leader.
Spanish writer Clara Sánchez in front of the former residence of a Nazi leader. Mònica Torres

In the last 10 years, Valencia’s regional government has received more than €1.68 million from intestate inheritances. Every year, an average of 42 inheritances of this type are processed. In the case of Gertrudis Sommer Ficher, her three properties were put up for auction a few years ago, but the auction was declared void. The homes were passed on to Valencia’s heritage department and will remain in the government’s hands until the next sales attempt.

Of the three properties, two are apartments that are located in Les Rotes, a beach area away from the town center of Dénia, featuring rocky coves and clear water. This is where Nazi leader Gerhard Bremer, a former member of an SS death squad, promoted the development of bungalows (which were later converted into apartments) and celebrated parties in honor of Hitler’s birthday, with guests dressed in Nazi uniforms.

At these parties, champagne flowed and the music of Wagner livened the mood. But there was other music too. The current mayor of Dénia, Vicent Grimalt, from the Socialist Party (PSOE), was part of a village band that used to play at these parties in the 1970s, as he himself has recounted on many occasions.

Spanish writer Clara Sánchez also lived for some time in Les Rotes. She crossed paths with Bremer in the 1980s (Bremer died in 1989), an experience that left a big mark on her. Following the meeting, Sánchez would go on to write two books inspired by Dénia’s Nazi past.



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Hollywood: They have it all, and take it on the road, too: These are the luxury RVs of the stars | Culture

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RVs have long been considered a fairly modest means of travel, an option that combines transportation and accommodation and that allows you to enjoy a more affordable vacation – bearing in mind that the comforts that they offer have little or nothing to do with those of a five-star hotel. However, this image has evolved in recent years, and the alternative of touring the world with your house in tow is gaining more and more followers, including some movie and music stars. Some use them for tourism and others to move between cities while they promote something or as a dressing room during shootings or tours, but they all have a few things in common: their enormous dimensions, their luxurious amenities and their million-dollar price tags.

At the beginning of July, all the details of Dolly Parton’s mansion on wheels were released. More than an RV, this one is a bus. Dubbed Suite 1986, it is 45 feet long and Dolly has traveled more than 300,000 miles and visited more than 60 American cities in it. It houses all kinds of luxuries and personal belongings of the country music star — a display case for her wigs, a wide bed with pink velvet sheets, or a Parisian-inspired dressing table, among other things — and it is available to rent from $10,000, with a two night minimum stay. The Dollybus is part of the hotel complexes offered under the Dollywood label, the universe created in her image and likeness, which also includes a theme park inspired by Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida, numerous hotels and spas and a water park.

Another celebrity who likes to have a traveling home is Jennifer Lopez. The Bronx Diva owns a 1,200-square-feet trailer that is valued at $2 million and, like Parton’s, is also available to rent, for between $400 and $850 a night, when the singer is not using it. Its name is Baby Girl and, judging by the pictures, it has it all: in two spacious floors you can find amenities like a huge leather sofa, furniture made from materials like granite or marble, and all kinds of image and audio technologies, including everything from large TVs to state-of-the-art audio setups. An exclusive design by Anderson Mobile Estates, an American company specializing in this type of high-end vehicle, completely customizable to the customer’s taste.

The same company built Will Smith’s RV, known as The Heat, which the actor purchased in 2000 to use while filming. It is 55 feet long, has two floors and it is valued at 2.5 million dollars. It includes a projection room with a 100-inch screen and

capacity for thirty people, an ample lounge, a bathroom with sauna, first-rate materials like granite and leather, and technological devices everywhere.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s RV does not fall far behind: it is 52 feet long, with four modules that can be extended to further expand the space. Of course, it includes all the necessary amenities, with eccentric details like two fireplaces and a large recycled glass shower valued at more than $40,000.

Justin Bieber’s RV also has its fair share of eccentricities. In 2020, the Canadian singer purchased for $2.5 million a bus turned luxurious mansion that he takes on his tours and that he himself showed off in the American edition of GQ Magazine. Equipped to the last detail, it offers wonders such as underfloor heating, ceilings with LED lights, a steam shower, and an infrared sauna.

Other celebrities, after years of traveling with their house in tow, have decided to part with theirs. That is the case of Tom Hanks. The legendary actor auctioned off his RV last year: the trailer that was his home during the shooting of movies like Forrest Gump or Apollo 13 was sold for $235,200, an almost trivial figure when compared to those of his colleagues.

Among so much luxury on wheels, Chris Hemsworth’s RV is also surprising for its modest dimensions. It was made by the Australian company Lotus Trooper, and it is equipped for all kinds of terrain. Despite its limited size, it includes things like Italian leather sofas and a designer kitchen; with this vehicle, the actor who brings Thor to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe likes to enjoy family getaways, as he himself has shown on his social media.

Whether it is to go on road trips or as a place to rest between concerts or shootings, it is clear that the biggest music and movie stars cannot resist the opportunity to take all the comforts of home anywhere they go, preferably in rolling eccentricities that reinvent a concept popularized in the 1960s by the hippie movement – and look more fit for a Transformers movie than for an actual highway.

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Writer Salman Rushdie attacked while giving a speech in New York | USA

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Indian-born writer Salman Rushdie was attacked on Friday while giving a lecture in Chautauqua County, a town of about 140,000 inhabitants in western New York state. The first images of the event that have been shared on social networks show Rushdie on the floor, being attended by attendees and emergency services.

New York state police announced in a press release that the writer suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck, and was transported by helicopter to an area hospital. His condition is not yet known. An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man storm the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and begin punching or stabbing Rushdie as he was being introduced. The 75-year-old author was pushed or fell to the floor, and the man was restrained. The assailant has been arrested.

Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims consider it blasphemous. A year later, on February 14, 1989, Iran’s late leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death. The theocratic Iranian regime also offered a reward of more than $3 million for anyone who killed the writer, who holds dual British and US citizenship.

Author Salman Rushdie in 2010.
Author Salman Rushdie in 2010.David Levenson (Getty Images)

Iran’s government had long since distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment has persisted. In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the reward for Rushdie’s death from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.

Rushdie, an English-language writer and perennial contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature, downplayed that threat then and said there was “no evidence” that people were interested in the reward. That year, Rushdie published a memoir, Joseph Anton, about the fatwa.

The 75-year-old author achieved international fame with the novel Midnight’s Children, which was published in 1980 and won him the Booker Prize, the UK’s most prestigious literary prize, the following year. The book sparked controversy in India for allegedly derogatory remarks towards the then prime minister of the country, Indira Gandhi.

With an overflowing imagination, his style has been compared to the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes, among others. He himself has recognized on numerous occasions his important links with Latin American literature. His latest book Quixote (2020) adapts Cervantes’ classic to the situation that the United States under the Donald Trump administration.

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How Issey Miyake’s clothing became the uniform of the creative class | Culture

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Steve Jobs, at an Apple event in San Francisco, in January 2010. The founder of the technology company used to wear turtleneck sweaters designed by Issey Miyake in public.
Steve Jobs, at an Apple event in San Francisco, in January 2010. The founder of the technology company used to wear turtleneck sweaters designed by Issey Miyake in public.Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

There are designers who have clients, and designers who have devotees. Japanese designer Issey Miyake, who died on August 9 at the age of 84, was the latter. Moreover, his clientele is easy to locate. “Why are his clothes preferred by so many prominent figures in the arts?” art critic Herbert Muschamp wondered in his 1998 review of Miyake’s exhibition at the Fondation Cartier in Paris. He had every reason to ask.

For over two decades now, the soundtrack of openings, vernissages, roundtables and other events in the art world has consisted as much of clinking champagne glasses as the airy and technical rustling of Miyake’s pleated garments for women (since 1993, when he launched his Pleats Please line) and men (from 2013, when he created his Homme Plissé brand, adapting his bestselling clothes for men to wear). Gallerists, curators, architects, photographers, writers, journalists: few can resist the charms of pieces by the designer who best understood that the future of fashion went through the future of its fabrics. It’s fashion without logos, but instantly recognizable, just like Martin Margiela’s, another art circuit classic.

One doesn’t have to go to the red carpet to find Miyake’s garments, just observe everyday cosmopolitan cultural life. Over the decades, architect Zaha Hadid; designers Jonathan Anderson and Samuel Ross; fashion critics Tim Blanks, Suzy Menkes and Angelo Flaccavento; gallery owner Barry Friedman; artists Joana Vasconcelos and Graciela Iturbide, politician Carmen Alborch; and music icons Grace Jones and Joni Mitchell have all been seen wearing Miyake. Steve Jobs was also loyal to Miyake since he commissioned a turtleneck sweater and the

Japanese designer responded with a hundred similar sweaters. In the years that followed, the Apple founder wore nothing else, according to his biographer, Walter Isaacson.

The idea of a uniform is a tantalizing hypothesis for explaining how quickly Miyake’s brand—which remains an independent company to this day—spread among certain groups. But there is an explanation—perfectly compatible with the previous one—that appeals to an earthlier reason: practicality. That was American architect and interior designer Rafael de Cárdenas’s assertion to Town & Country last April, after telling the magazine that he had discovered Miyake during his years as a designer at Calvin Klein. He said that the first time he wore Miyake, “my partner asked me if I was wearing my mom’s clothes. She’s big into the elegant sack thing. But it’s a good way to look smart when you’re actually wearing sweatpants.”

Fashion journalist Tim Blanks, dressed in Miyake during the symposium organized by Business of Fashion in November 2019.
Fashion journalist Tim Blanks, dressed in Miyake during the symposium organized by Business of Fashion in November 2019.Samir Hussein (Samir Hussein/Getty Images for T)

Comfort may well be one of the reasons for Miyake’s success. In the late 1980s, he began experimenting with a new way of pleating fabrics. That impulse to innovate wasn’t new. Since the beginning of his career, Miyake had been exploring the dialogue between technology and the old artisanal techniques of knitting and weaving. But he was more ambitious: instead of pleating the fabric prior to making the garment, he rolled and twisted the finished clothes, putting them into a machine that left the pleats indelibly marked by applying heat to the polyester. The pleating was irregular—it differed from garment to garment—as well as indestructible. As users say, the clothing can be put in the washing machine or haphazardly in a suitcase without fear of ruining the pleating. The result is pants, shirts, sweaters, jackets and dresses that weigh very little and use the shoulders as a hanger—the same logic that Cristóbal Balenciaga developed for

separating clothes from the body by following the example of Japanese clothing—to project their volume outward.

At the same time, the silhouette the clothing generates is wide and light like the paper lamps of Isamu Noguchi, one of Miyake’s favorite designers. In an era dominated by sleek, elongated silhouettes, that horizontality could be unflattering, as art curator Antwaun Sargent emphasized in the same Town & Country article. He recalled that he’d associated Miyake with female collectors of a certain age. Then, he decided to buy a pair of pants after seeing Solange Knowles wear them; he has been loyal to the brand ever since. So has historian Roger Cook, who was interviewed for a feature on Miyake customers in The Financial Times when he was in his eighties. “The publicity for Plissé is primarily aimed at the youth or sport end of the market, but I feel it can be successfully and stylishly worn by seniors like myself,” he explained of his favorite baggy pants. “The enormous amount of bodily gratification I obtain from my Miyake wonderfully compensates for the depredations of old age.”

Miyake’s connection with the creative class has even found its way into marketing textbooks. In an article about “expertise marketing,” French professor—and Republican member of France’s National Assembly—Patrick Hetzel imagined Miyake’s prototypical client: her name is Josyane. She is a communications executive who works in the Parisian golden triangle and lives in the Marais; she views luxury fashion designers with skepticism and favors brands with sophisticated tastes, such as Miyake. “Josyane is proud of her ten years of loyalty to the firm, which makes her part of a small tribe of people whose originality has served to create new styles,” Hetzel writes

Fashion critic Angelo Flaccavento, wearing an Issey Miyake Homme Plissé coat and pants during Paris Fashion Week in September 2018.
Fashion critic Angelo Flaccavento, wearing an Issey Miyake Homme Plissé coat and pants during Paris Fashion Week in September 2018.Matthew Sperzel (Getty Images)

Although the example may be a cliché—after all, that’s what sociological textbook categorizations do—the Frenchman’s observation underscores another argument in Miyake’s favor: the artistic and conceptual pedigree he gained from decades of collaborating with the world of culture. Miyake is the designer of pleated clothing and the name behind two of the world’s most famous fragrances (L’Eau d’Issey and L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme, which set the trend of aquatic fragrances in the 1990s). But he’s also a creator who has worked with William Forsythe, Yayoi Kusama and Cai Guo-Qiang; his collections have been featured in memorable photographs by Lord Snowdon, Irving Penn and Nick Knight; and since 1997, when he decided to step back from commercial designs to focus on experimental projects, his work has been featured in exhibits at the world’s most prestigious art centers. In some cases, both worlds have coexisted, as in the A-POC (A Piece of Clothing) project. The last commercial brand with which he was actively involved, the collection consisted of tubular fabrics that, thanks to computer technology, allowed each user to cut out their desired garment without worrying about fraying it.

Ultimately, Miyake’s work can be as intellectual or direct as one wants. Some of his biggest fans would say the latter. As fashion critic Tim Blanks told The Financial Times, “Don’t think about it [Miyake’s Homme Plissé]. Just put it on. Then we’ll talk.

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