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Russell Brand, Hugo Boss & Nazi Uniforms

by Ilana Angel

September 15, 2013 | 3:14 pm

I have loved Russell Brand for a long time.  I think he is funny, smart, wise, deep, spiritual, and oddly attractive. He is a bad boy, which is both sexy and intimidating. In the interest of full disclosure, if I could have dinner with any celebrity, he would be my choice.  Furthermore, if I were to be stuck on a dessert island, or have a wild night of sex with a celebrity, he would be my choice.  I only share this to give you an idea of how fabulous I think he is. Today I not only have a crush on him, but I think he is a hero.

On Tuesday night Mr. Brand was accepting an award from GQ Magazine at their Man of the Year Awards.  The sponsor of the event was design house Hugo Boss. During his speech, Brand pointed out Hugo Boss made uniforms for the Nazi Party.  He said in part: “If anyone knows a bit about history and fashion, you know it was Hugo Boss who made uniforms for the Nazis. But they looked fucking fantastic, let’s face it, while they were killing people on the basis of their religion and sexuality.’

When his speech was over Brand was kicked out of the party by GQ editor Dylan James.  Apparently Mr. James told Brand what he said was offensive to Hugo Boss.  Brand apparently shot back by saying what Hugo Boss did was very offensive to Jews.  I am proud of Brand for what he said and while I understand it was not appreciated by the people at GQ or Hugo Boss, especially after Boss paid 250K to sponsor the event, I thought it was brave of my boyfriend.

As a bit of a history lesson, after World War II Hugo Boss was labeled a Nazi supporter.  Important to note that he did not actually design anything for the Nazi party, only manufactured the uniforms.  Boss served in World War I and opened his first clothing factory in 1924.  That factory produced shirts for the National Socialist Party, which became known as the Nazis. He also made uniforms for the post office and the police, but in 1931 he actually joined the Nazi party.

Two years later, in 1933, Hugo Boss advertised that he was not only making clothes for the SS, but for the Hitler Youth, and the “Brownshirts”, which was part of the Nazi Party. The factory was known as having horrible working conditions and employed prisoners of war. There are stories from people who worked there telling harrowing tales of their time with him. While there are also stories that imply he had a compassionate heart, bad outweighed good.

Boss eventually had his status changed from "active" to "follower".  He was fined, lost his right to vote, and was not permitted to ever run another business.  Boss died in 1948 and though his was name tarnished, it did not stop his business, which is still successful today.  Brand may not have been accurate in how he linked Boss to the Nazis, but in the end the subtle differences are not that subtle. The fact is Hugo Boss was a Nazi and got rich off of the Nazi Party.  

What Brand said forces a dialogue and offers an opportunity for people to learn.  What he said should not have resulted in him being kicked out of the party.  Important to note that if you know ANYTHING about Russell Brand, you know he is going to say something that may possibly offend.  Whoever decided to give him an award, live mic, and aim a camera at him should have known better.  Don’t want surprises? Don’t invite Mr. Brand.

Brand's goal may not have been to garner respect from anyone, but he got mine. In a world where Jews are targeted with hate often, myself included, for someone to stand up and remind the world of the atrocities of Nazi Germany, matters.  It matters not only as a Jew, but as a mother who wants a better world for my child. Thank you Russell. By thank you of course I mean if you ever want to have dinner, call me. I’ll be right here, keeping the faith.

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