Documentary Says Coco Chanel Worked for Nazis, Aimed to Use Influence to Take Back Business From Jewish Company
A new documentary that aired Monday night on French television revealed evidence that fashion designer Coco Chanel spied for the Nazis during World War II, the UK’s Daily Mail reported.
L’Ombre d’un Doute [The Shadow of a Doubt] claimed that Chanel was a member of Abwehr, Adolf Hitler’s secret military intelligence agency. Her Abwehr number was F-7124, according to official Nazi records that have been secretly held in the French Ministry of Defense archives for the past seven decades. The documentary suggested that among the Nazis, Chanel went by the code name ‘Westminster’ – a reference to her affair with the Duke of Westminster in the 1920s.
The host of the broadcast, historian Franck Ferrand, asserted that Chanel later tried using her Nazi influence to reclaim the perfume business she sold to the Jewish Wertheimer family in 1924.
Chanel’s involvement with the Nazis began around the same time as the defeat of the French army in 1940, the Daily Mail reported. She returned to Paris shortly afterwards and moved in to the Ritz Hotel, which, at the time, also housed the Luftwaffe’s French headquarters. Shortly after, she began an affair with senior Gestapo officer Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage. Chanel developed such a close acquaintance with high-ranking Nazi officials that in 1943 she was sent to Madrid to exploit her past relationship with Winston Churchill in hopes of arranging a truce with British officers stationed there.
Churchill allegedly ignored the offer, according to the documentary. Historian Henry Gidel said Chanel “displayed incredible megalomania and naivety in imagining that she could change Churchill’s mind.”
The fashion designer hoped that Nazi rules banning Jews from owning businesses would lead to her perfume company being confiscated and given back to her, the documentary’s host said. It was later discovered that the Wertheimer family had already sold their stake in Chanel perfume to a German businessman.
L’Ombre d’un Doute also addressed the role of other French celebrities during World War II, including singers Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier, and dramatist Sacha Guitry. According to the broadcast, officials in post-War France erased all Nazi links from celebrities’ records and created ties to the Resistance movement in an effort to help rebuild the country’s reputation.