Coco Chanel was a Nazi spy, claims French documentary

  • Noopur Tiwari, Hindustan Times, Paris
  • Updated: Dec 03, 2014 03:08 IST

A French documentary claims the legendary French designer Coco Chanel was a Nazi spy. “L’Ombre d’un Doute” (The Shadow of a Doubt) was telecast on the state-owned channel France 3. The film claims it has accessed documents in the archives of French defence ministry, that until recently remained top secret.

These records show that Chanel was indeed formally recruited by the Nazi intelligence service, Abwehr. The recently discovered documents clearly indicate Coco Chanel’s pseudonym, identity, her place and date of birth as well.

Another set of police archives of the French secret services show Gestapo officer Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, who Coco Chanel had a relationship with, was the chief of the Nazi propaganda in France. Coco Chanel was seen in public with a man who was not just a diplomat but a spy who was high in the hierarchy of the secret service.

The documentary looks at stories of several celebrities who were living in France during the Nazi Occupation. Paris was the “city of light” and Hitler allowed it to thrive as a centre of entertainment and performance. Many who were icons before the occupation chose their sides clearly. Actor Jean Gabin joined the army, performer Josephine Baker worked for the secret services of Free France but others like Chanel appeared in public with German officers. The film also questions the position taken by singer Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier.

Coco Chanel was seen as an “asset” by the Nazis as she had connections with influential people. According to the film, she had participated in an operation in which she travelled to Spain as a Nazi spy. The historians in the film also say Chanel tried to recover her perfume business (Chanel No 5) that she had sold to the Jewish Wertheimer family by using a Nazi law that banned Jews from owning businesses. She failed, however, as the Wertheimers had sold the business to a non-Jewish person.

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