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Coco Chanel 'spied for the Nazis'

Matthew Warren · 17 Aug 2011, 08:00

Published: 17 Aug 2011 09:23 GMT+02:00
Updated: 17 Aug 2011 08:00 GMT+02:00

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The iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel worked for the Nazis during the German occupation of France in World War II, according to a new book published on Tuesday.

'Sleeping with the enemy, Coco Chanel's secret war' by the Paris-based writer Hal Vaughan, uses new archive evidence to claim that the renowned couturier was recruited by German intelligence and was a lover of German officer Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage.

“Vaughan reveals that Chanel was more than just a Nazi sympathizer and collaborator. She was a numbered Nazi agent working for the Abwehr, Germany’s military intelligence agency,” New York publishers Knopf said in a statement. 

The book claims that Chanel was recruited by the Abwehr in 1940, aged 57. She was known as agent F-7124 and her code name was Westminster, the name of her former lover the Duke of Westminster. Together with von Dincklage, she went on missions to Madrid and Berlin.

The book claims that Chanel was "fiercely anti-Semitic long before it became a question of pleasing the Germans, she became rich by catering to the very rich, and shared their dislike of Jews, trade unions, socialism, Freemasons and communism." 

Coco Chanel was questioned after the war ended about possible collaboration but she denied all charges. The book lends support to the theory that Winston Churchill intervened to help her escape arrest. The two had been friends before the war. 

Chanel fled to Switzerland, returning to Paris in 1954 to build the fashion house that still carries her name. She died in Paris in 1971, aged 87.

Chanel is not the only well-known French artist who is claimed to have collaborated with the Nazis. Maurice Chevalier, Jean Cocteau and Edith Piaf have all been accused of siding with the invaders during the war.

The Chanel group, which has had Karl Lagerfeld as its head designer since 1983, is owned by the Jewish Wertheimer family. In a statement released on Tuesday the company acknowledged that the designer's role in the war still had "an element of mystery" but that "it cannot be said" she was anti-Semitic.


Matthew Warren (news.france@thelocal.com)

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