Coco Chanel Spied for the Nazis, Documentary Says

Fashion icon tried to use Nazi Aryanization laws to regain perfume company from the Jewish family to which she had sold it, French TV program says.

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Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, 1920
Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, 1920Credit: Time

A new French TV documentary claims to prove what has been rumored for decades: That French dress designer and fashion icon Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel spied for the Nazis during World War II.

Titled "The Shadow of a Doubt," the documentary was broadcast on France 3 TV channel this week. In it, historian Franck Ferrand maintained that documents locked away in France’s Ministry of Defense archives since the war proved that Chanel worked directly for German military intelligence.

Chanel’s collaboration with the Nazis and her love affair with senior Gestapo officer Hans Gunther von Dincklage, have been public knowledge ever since the war.

Also well-publicized was her attempt to leverage the Nazi seizure of Jewish property to regain control of the Parfums Chanel company from the Jewish owners to whom she had sold it – an attempt that failed because the Wertheimer family had handed over control to a non-Jewish businessman before fleeing France.

But the documentary went further, claiming that she spied for the occupiers under the codename “Westminster” – a reference to an affair she had with Britain’s Duke of Westminster in the 1920s – and had the Abwehr (German military intelligence) number F-7124.

One of her missions was to negotiate a truce with Britain, leveraging her friendship with Winston Churchill from before the war. The attempt came to nothing because CHrichill never responded to her letters, but it has been rumored that his influence saved her from the revenge of the French Resistance after the war ended.

The TV exposé also questioned the roles of French stars Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier and author and theatre director Sacha Guitry, whose careers were boosted by Germany’s policy of promoting French popular culture during the occupation.

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