Fashion Icon Coco Chanel was a Nazi Secret Agent
Fashion Icon Coco Chanel was a Nazi Secret Agent

Fashion Icon Coco Chanel was a Nazi Secret Agent

Shannon Quinn - January 12, 2019

Fashion Icon Coco Chanel was a Nazi Secret Agent
Coco Chanel hanging out with Winston Churchill while he was on a hunting trip. Credit: AllThatisInteresting.com

Coco Chanel Was Given a Secret Code Name and a Mission From the Nazis

All of the records of Chanel’s time spent as a Nazi spy remains in a collection of documents by the French Secret Service. All of the documents are in French, and they are only available in person, but they have been translated and summarized in a book called Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War by Hal Vaughan. Her spy name was “Westminster”, since she used to date the Duke of Westminster, and her official agent number was F-7124, which is nowhere near as cool as 007, but maybe all of the cool numbers were taken.

French Secret Intelligence figured out that Heinrich Himmler gave her the task of delivering a letter to Winston Churchill, which was nicknamed “Mission Model Hat”. Since she was friends with Churchill, she could actually get close to him without raising suspicions. In the letter, the Nazis were encouraging Great Britain to back down so that they could come to some kind of peace treaty.

So, even though she was working on behalf of the Nazis, Chanel was hardly a cool gun-toting super-spy who assassinated the Allies. And by delivering this letter, she was exposing herself to Churchill. He would have known right then and there that she was in collaboration with the Nazis. Despite him knowing this, he never exposed her after the war. No one knows what kind of private conversation went on between the two of them. Did she say that she was only cooperating in order to stay alive and keep her business? Or was she truly in love, and standing by her man no matter what his political beliefs may have been? Either way, Churchill kept his friend’s secret.

Fashion Icon Coco Chanel was a Nazi Secret Agent
Coco Chanel and Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage on vacation in Switzerland. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Was Coco Chanel Anti-Semitic?

Since the Nazis considered Jewish people to be the enemies of the Third Reich, many people make the assumption that Coco Chanel was also anti-semitic. She actually never gave her public opinion on Jewish people or outwardly said anything bad about them. However, she was raised a Catholic, and at that time, Pope Pius XII gave Catholics permission to join the Nazi party. There are also rumors that she made anti-semitic comments at parties, but this could be hearsay.

Chanel did actually have a bad experience that would have given her the impression that the stereotypes about Jewish people and money were true. When she first started her business, Chanel partnered with Jewish investors called the Wertheimer family. They insisted on taking a 90% share in her company’s profits in exchange for a start-up loan. When her business was doing very well, she tried to buy back some of the control to the company, but they refused to sell the shares back to her. So, she continued to only make 10% of what the company was truly worth.

When the Nazis occupied France, many Jewish-run businesses were being sold to people for very cheap prices, and the family fled the country, as well. Chanel wrote a letter requesting that she regain the other 90% of her fashion house, since the original family left.

She said, Parfums Chanel is still the property of Jews … and has been legally ‘abandoned’ by the owners. I have an indisputable right of priority. The profits that I have received from my creations since the foundation of this business…are disproportionate.”

Fashion Icon Coco Chanel was a Nazi Secret Agent
One of Chanel’s shops was directly across the street from the Ritz Hotel in Paris. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

However, they transferred ownership to a Christian family friend, so she was not able to take the property back. Gerard and Alain Wertheimer are the grandsons of Pierre Wertheimer, who originally gave Chanel her loan. They still control 90% of the company to this very day, and are both multi-billionaires. They decided to open a vineyard in Napa Valley, California, which is where they spend most of their time.

Even though Chanel was being watched by the Secret Service during the war, she was never brought before a court to answer for any crimes. In fact, no one learned about her relationship with the Nazis until very recently, with the discovery of those documents in 1999. Historians have repeatedly studied these documents to try to piece together as much information as they possibly could, but even by observing her on a daily basis, no one really knew what went on inside her mind. Once the war was over, Chanel broke up with Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, and rarely spoke about it at that time.

 

Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources

Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War. Hal Vaughan. Vintage Publishing Group. 2012.

Was Coco Chanel a Nazi Spy? Matt MacNabb. Snopes.com. March 6, 2017.

Coco Chanel’s Secret Life as a Nazi Agent. Gisley Ruiz. AllThatIsInteresting.com 2018.

How Karl Lagerfeld Cleansed Chanel of Its anti-Semitic, Nazi Past. Karl Lagerfeld. Haaretz. 2019.

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