‘Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War’ by American journalist Hal Vaughan was published this week in the US by Knopf, prompting Chanel to issue a statement refuting the book’s claims that (Gabriel) Coco Chanel was a member of Germany’s Abwehr intelligence agency.
“She would hardly have formed a relationship with the [Jewish Wertheimer] family” — which currently owns the entire Chanel brand empire — “or counted Jewish people among her close friends and professional partners,” the company said in a statement.
Vaughan disagrees, claiming that Chanel’s anti-Semitism led her to seize control of her famous Chanel No. 5 fragrance from the Wertheimers, using French laws allowing the expropriation of Jewish property. The Wertheimers had secretly moved control of the company to a Christian prior to the Nazi invasion of France. Chanel No. 5 perfume was made in New Jersey with illegally imported ingredients, leaving Coco Chanel horrified.
The author relied on recently declassified documents that he says prove Chanel was recruited on spy missions by Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage for Abwehr, who was a known professional spy in Paris and the Mediterranean, reporting to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s right hand man.
Vaughn says her code name was Westminster. After the war, Coco Chanel spent nine years in Switzerland, in exile with Dincklage. She eventually returned to Paris at age 71 to reinvent and rebuild the House of Chanel.
The House of Chanel also asserts as proof of Coco Chanel’s pro-Jewish attitudes that she approached Winston Churchill about “acting as an intermediary between the Allies and the Germans for a peace settlement known as Operation Modelhut.
The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants has called for the fashion house to launch an investigation into Chanel’s wartime deeds.
Coco (‘little pet’) Chanel lived at the Ritz in Paris but also maintained private quarters on the third floor of the Rue Cambon building that houses the Chanel store. The second floor is devoted to couture dressing rooms and a workshop is on the fourth floor.
Chanel’s use of beige suede upholstery was revolutionary at the time, creating a mix of old and new, classical and modern. Enjoy images of Coco Chanel’s Rue Cambon apartment.