The name Coco Chanel evokes images of glamorous fashion: chic black dresses, feminine suits, and a pretty famous fashion designer. However, what the name doesn't - but maybe should - evoke is the image of a Nazi sympathizer. It turns out Coco Chanel, the designer and creator of the still-famous fashion label, was a known Nazi sympathizer who slept with at least one German official and took advantage of her relationships to try to steal money from her Jewish business partners. While Parisian Jews were being rounded up, Chanel lived in luxury at the Ritz.
There are so many mysteries surrounding the Nazis, one of which includes Chanel's involvement with them. We know that she had an affair with a German official, but her actual spy credentials are questionable. Was her involvement with Nazis purely selfish, or were they fueled by hate? Either way, it is surprising to realize that one of the biggest names in fashion had such strong ties to one of the most hated groups in history.
Chanel Lived A Comfortable Life As The Mistress Of A German Officer
During WWII, famous fashion designer Coco Chanel lived a glamorous life at the Ritz Hotel – a lifestyle she shared with various Nazi agents. She and her guests enjoyed luxurious food while others in Paris went hungry.
Chanel was able to live in such excess thanks to her relationship at the time with Baron Hans Günther von Dincklage, a notable Nazi officer who worked for the German intelligence agency – and may have eventually recruited his mistress.
Her Lover Introduced Her To Powerful Nazi Figures
It was mainly Chanel's relationship with German officer Hans Gunther von Dincklage that secured her status as a Nazi ally. Despite their 13-year age difference (she was older), the pair maintained a lasting relationship, which was full of treachery during the war. While working for the Abwehr (German military intelligence), Chanel and Dincklage traveled around Europe, attempting to recruit newcomers to the Nazi party.
She Gave Money to a High-Ranking Nazi When He Fell on Hard Times
Walter Schellenberg was one of the higher-ups in the Nazi regime, rising through the ranks to become the head of SS intelligence. In 1952, a few years after WWII ended, Chanel was contacted by Schellenberg, who had fallen on hard financial times and was also ill.
He told her of his hardships, and she soon arrived at his residence in Pallanza, a town near Swiss-Italian border, in order to give him and his family 30,000 Swiss Francs to cover all of his expenses.
She Even Had A Code Name And Agent Number
Coco Chanel went by another name during WWII: "Agent Westminster." Her Nazi spy name (that correlated to her official number, F-7124) was a nod to her previous relationship with the Duke of Westminster, a connection that would prove vital to her standing with the Abwehr. The Nazis relied on Chanel's British connections.
She gave them information and went on missions, using her social graces to recruit Nazi sympathizers. In exchange, she traveled Europe with her lover and was on the receiving end of a few favors from the Nazis, such as getting her nephew released from a POW camp.
Chanel Helped Germans Obtain Political Information In Exchange For Her Nephew's Freedom
It's possible that Chanel only began working with the Nazis in order to free her nephew, André, from a prisoner-of-war camp. Chanel urgently needed to capitalize on her status with the Nazis as it was suspected that André had tuberculosis and was in urgent need of medical care.
The Abwehr needed Chanel as much as she needed them, as she had important connections in Britain, Spain, and Paris that were incredibly useful to them. An agreement was made, and André was freed as Chanel became an Abwehr agent.
She Appealed To Nazis To Handle a Dispute With Her Jewish Business Partners
In a far less heroic move, besides getting André freed, Chanel also attempted to use her connections with the Nazis to another advantage - this one much more sinister and selfish. In 1941, Aryan law had officially taken hold in Paris, meaning Jewish people could no longer own businesses. Conveniently for Chanel (or at least so she thought), she was in business with the Wertheimer brothers, who were Jewish. Although Chanel required their financial help with her empire in the 1920s, she felt secure enough by 1941 to request the Nazis push the Wertheimers out of business. Chanel only owned 10% of her company while the Wertheimers held the majority.
On May 5, 1941, Chanel wrote to German officials demanding her business, Parfums Chanel, be returned to her, claiming the business was the property of Jews and had been abandoned (the Wertheimers fled Europe to escape the Nazis). However, the Wertheimer brothers were smart and had transferred their share of Parfums Chanel to a Christian friend, meaning Chanel and the Nazis couldn't touch it.