by Lester Brathwaite on
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was one of the most iconic women of the 20th century whose influence on fashion is incomparable and undeniable. And she was also purportedly a Nazi agent and kind of a — how can I say this lightly? — whore.
In historian Hal Vaughan‘s new book, Sleeping with the Enemy, the author claims that Chanel was nothing but a “consummate opportunist” who “didn’t believe in anything except fashion.” Well, those are qualities we can all admire.
But Vaughan goes on to say that while “Chanel didn’t care about Hitler or politics or Nazism,” her natural desire for power led her into Adolf’s waiting arms. Or rather, into the arms of Baron Hans Guenther von Dincklage, a German military intelligence officer.
According to Vaughan, ”He manipulated Chanel, and Chanel manipulated him.” The Baron arranged for Coco to stay at the Hotel Ritz during the German occupation of France, a privilege granted to few non-Germans; and from there he helped manage her business relations with the occupying forces. In turn, von Dincklage enlisted Chanel as a spy, code-named “Westminster” — as in “The 2nd Duke of”, one of her (many) former lovers.
As a Nazi agent, Coco orchestrated the release of her nephew from a German POW camp and visited Madrid in 1941 under the orders to use her connections to “gain political intelligence.” That mission proved for naught as she apparently only shot the shit about how cray-cray the Germans were.
Really, as Vaughan elucidates, Chanel wasn’t so much a spy as a “facilitator”: “She knew everybody in Spain, she knew everybody in England, and she helped out the Nazis.” After the war’s end, Gabby fled to Switzerland and was never tried for her Nazi affiliations, due to the intervention on her behalf by either Winston Churchill or the Royal Family.
That bouclé tweed really went a long way, didn’t it? [BBC]