That Time Gertrude Stein Got Mixed Up With the Nazis

Was Stein a Nazi sympathizer, or someone doing what they had to do to survive?

Nicholas Barron
Literairyland Lite
Published in
4 min readMay 31, 2020


On Oct. 24, 1934, the S.S. Champlain docked in New York City. Reporters crowded the port to receive the ship’s famous passenger, Gertrude Stein. Stein hadn’t stepped foot on American soil in 31 years.

Stein moved to Paris in 1903 with her brother, Leo. After six years, she moved in with Alice B. Toklas at 27 rue de Fleurus.

Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein | Library of Congress

There, Toklas and Stein collected art and hosted salons. They engaged with artists such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, and writers, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce.

Stein, too, was a writer. Her first book, Three Lives, came out in 1909 and didn’t receive much attention. But Stein became famous when she published The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, a fictional autobiography, in 1933. Readers loved the work, making it a best seller.

The book’s success is what brought Stein back to the U.S. in 1934 for a 191-day tour.

Before leaving Paris for the States, Stein’s friend, Bernard Faÿ, helped her prepare for public speaking. Faÿ was a French historian who’d known Stein since 1926. He had experience lecturing in the U.S., so he worked with Stein before she embarked on her American tour.

Stein traversed the U.S., delivering 74 lectures in 37 cities and 23 states. She averaged two to three talks per week, in which she covered topics such as writing and modern art. Stein and Toklas concluded their visit to America in 1935, setting sail from New York to France on May 4 of that year.

Faÿ wasn’t through helping his friend Stein, though.

Gertrude Stein Falls In Line

By 1940, World War II was underway and Nazi Germany invaded France. Stein’s friends encouraged her to evacuate. She was, after all, Jewish and a lesbian, a likely target of the Nazi’s campaigns against Jews and homosexuals.

Stein and Toklas chose to stay in the country, but they left Paris for Bilignin, France. Located 65 miles east of Lyon, Bilignin was in the Free Zone of Vichy, France. The Vichy Regime was a Nazi puppet…



Nicholas Barron
Literairyland Lite

Writer + freelance communications consultant. Weekly list of new books + writer birthdays: