According to a new book the iconic French fashion designer Coco Chanel was both an anti-Semite and a Nazi spy. “Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret Wars,” by Hal Vaughan, alleges that Chanel was an agent of Germany’s Abwehr military intelligence organization which undertook wartime missions to Berlin and Madrid. The book is partly based on documents from archives in France, Britain, Germany and Switzerland.
The House of Chanel argued that the book’s claims about Chanel’s alleged anti-Semitism “cannot go unchallenged…More than 57 books have been written about Gabrielle Chanel. … We would encourage you to consult some of the more serious ones.”
Coco was born in 1883 in a hospice for the poor in France’s western Pays de la Loire region, she remade herself into the legendary couturiere and proudly independent Coco Chanel by the outbreak of World War II. During the war, she hid with von Dincklage a dashing German officer 12 years her junior who was one in her long string of lovers in Paris’ Ritz Hotel, then under Nazi control.
The book alleges that in 1940, Chanel was recruited into the Abwehr — her nom de guerre borrowed from the Duke of Westminster, another of her lovers. The next year she traveled to Spain on a spy mission — on condition that the Nazis release her nephew from a military internment camp — and then went to Berlin on the orders of a top SS general.
It also says Chanel’s alleged anti-Semitism pushed her to try to capitalize on laws allowing for the expropriation of Jewish property to wrest control of the Chanel perfume lines from the Wertheimer brothers, a Jewish family who had assisted in making her Chanel No. 5 a worldwide best-seller.
The Chanel statement refuted the claim, although it added that company officials have yet to read the book and had only seen media excerpts.
“She would hardly have formed a relationship with the family…or counted Jewish people among her close friends and professional partners…”
A US-based organization of Holocaust survivors claims that it was severely “shocked” by the book’s allegations and calls on Chanel to launch an independent investigation into the book’s claims.