War, Glamour, and Intrigue at the Hôtel Ritz

Harper’s BAZAAR


“When I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz,” Ernest Hemingway once wrote. He wasn’t alone, either—Coco Chanel adopted the palatial hotel as “ma maison,” and F. Scott Fitzgerald made the Rue Cambon bar his literary playhouse. Even Miranda Priestly deemed its lavish suites worthy of stay in The Devil Wears Prada.

When it comes to the Hôtel Ritz, most envision a golden tale of impossible glamour. But in The Hôtel on Place Vendôme, Tilar J. Mazzeo lifts the veil to reveal a lesser-known narrative of scandal and subterfuge. Mazzeo artfully transports readers to the Nazi occupation of World War II, recounting Hitler’s order that “Paris remain happy and gay, or else.” For soldiers and civilians alike, the Ritz was the answer. The book chronicles the dual life of the hotel, the stories of German commanders and spies hidden beneath the glittering façade of cocktail parties and love affairs. The Hôtel on Place Vendôme contextualizes the opulence of 1940s Paris, making for a work of history that reads as enticingly as a novel.

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(Photo: Flickr/Alan Light)