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Was a Major Fashion Icon Also a Nazi Spy?

"[T]his is the first time a French state broadcaster has admitted that she went so far as to spy for the occupiers."

French fashion designer Coco Chanel in Paris 30 January 1958. (STF/AFP/Getty Images)

A new French television documentary has said that fashion world icon Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel collaborated with the Nazis during World War II and even worked as a spy.

Researchers for the documentary, “L’Ombre d’un Doute,” or "The Shadow of a Doubt," said they found World War II-era documents in France’s Defense Ministry archives that documented Chanel’s work with German military intelligence.

The program, which aired on French public television, said Chanel was agent No. F-7124 for the Abwehr, Germany's secret military intelligence organization, and was given the code name “Westminster,” likely a reference to an affair she had during the 1920s with Britain’s Duke of Westminster.

A photo of French designer Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel is seen during an exhibition dedicated to her, in Moscow, 26 September 2007. Gabrielle Bonheur 'Coco' Chanel was a pioneering French fashion designer whose modernist philosophy, menswear-inspired fashions, made her the most important figure in the history of 20th-century fashion. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images) A photo of French designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel in an exhibition dedicated to her in Moscow, Sept. 26, 2007. Chanel was a pioneering French fashion designer whose modernist philosophy, menswear-inspired fashions, made her the most important figure in the history of 20th-century fashion. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

“Chanel’s love affairs with high-ranking Nazis, including senior Gestapo officer of Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, have been widely known for years. But this is the first time a French state broadcaster has admitted that she went so far as to spy for the occupiers," France 24 reported.

Chanel moved to the Ritz Hotel during the Nazi occupation of Paris where the Luftwaffe had its French headquarters, the French program reported, according to Britain’s Daily Mail.

Chanel was reportedly sent on a mission to Madrid in 1943 to try negotiate a truce with British officers, but the offer was rebuffed.

The television report touched on previously reported allegations that the fashion designer tried to exploit the Nazi law prohibiting Jewish ownership of businesses in order to obtain a ruling stake in the perfume business that manufactured the Chanel No. 5 product, which was owned by the Jewish Wertheimer family.

However, anticipating the enactment of Aryan business regulations following what was happening to the Jewish community in Germany, the Wertheimers had already quietly given their part of the company to a non-Jewish businessman, who returned it to them after the war.

A perfume flask of 'Chanel N°5', created in 1921, is displayed as part of the exhibition 'N°5 culture Chanel' referring to French fashion designer Coco Chanel (1883-1971) at the Palais de Tokyo art museum in Paris, on May 3, 2013. (Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images) A perfume flask of Chanel No. 5, created in 1921, on display at the Palais de Tokyo art museum in Paris, May 3, 2013. (Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images)

The 2011 book, “Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War,” by investigative reporter Hal Vaughan earlier revealed that Chanel had worked with the Abwehr and asserted that she traveled around Europe to recruit agents. Vaughan based his reporting on archival documents found in the U.S., U.K., Germany and France, the New Yorker reported in 2011.

The New Yorker reported at the time: “Remarkably enough, the Wertheimers — despite Chanel’s wartime behavior — ultimately decided to finance her re-establishment in France and eventually agreed to pay her bills for the rest of her life.”

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