"I don't care what you think about me. I don't think about you at all."
August 18, 2011 7:24 AM   Subscribe

A new book claims that recently declassified French intelligence material indicates that Coco Chanel was a Nazi agent during World War II. The House of Chanel suggests that people read other, "more serious" books about Gabrielle Chanel. However, this is not the first time that Chanel's wartime activities have been questioned.
posted by catlet (25 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I am willing to guess that Canaris ran her, perhaps to keep an eye on Schellenberg.
posted by clavdivs at 7:42 AM on August 18, 2011

Her entry on Wikipedia, which has citations, indicates that even if she weren't an agent she sure was distasteful:
World War II, specifically the Nazi seizure of all Jewish owned property and business enterprises provided Chanel with the opportunity to gain the full monetary fortune generated by "Parfums Chanel" and its most profitable product, Chanel No. 5. The directors of "Parfums Chanel," the Wertheimers, were Jewish, and Chanel used her position as an “Aryan” to petition German officials to legalize her right to sole ownership. On 5 May 1941, she wrote to the government administrator charged with ruling on the disposition of Jewish financial assets. Her grounds for proprietary ownership were based on the claim that “Parfums Chanel “is still the property of Jews”…and had been legally “abandoned” by the owners.
posted by DU at 7:46 AM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

A half-English Nazi master spy called Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage.

posted by veedubya at 7:47 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Code name, #5
posted by chavenet at 7:50 AM on August 18, 2011

clavdivs, I thought the same thing, although Chanel maintained loyalty to Schellenberg until his death (she paid for his funeral). Canaris is an interesting fellow - wonder why there hasn't been an FPP on him.
posted by catlet at 7:50 AM on August 18, 2011

I get that it's a common metaphor for "doing business with", but if Ms Chanel were a man accused of the same things, "Sleeping with the Enemy" wouldn't probably have passed editorial muster.
posted by three blind mice at 8:00 AM on August 18, 2011

This doesn't sound like a metaphor for "doing business with":
During the German occupation Chanel resided at the Hotel Ritz, which was also noteworthy for being the preferred place of residence for upper echelon German military staff. She also maintained an apartment above her couture house at 31 rue Cambon. During that time she was criticized for having an affair with Hans Günther von Dincklage, a German military intelligence officer who arranged for her to remain in the hotel.
posted by DU at 8:15 AM on August 18, 2011

I thought the same thing, although Chanel maintained loyalty to Schellenberg until his death (she paid for his funeral

What does this suggest? Why did she?
posted by clavdivs at 8:29 AM on August 18, 2011

According to his memoirs, he was a friend of Wilhelm Canaris, the head of the Abwehr, whom he replaced in 1944. He was infamous for his "office fortress" desk, which had two automatic guns built into it that could be fired by the touch of a button. (wiki on WS)
posted by clavdivs at 8:33 AM on August 18, 2011

Nazis always dressed impeccably.
posted by JJ86 at 8:44 AM on August 18, 2011

I am willing to bet they invented the concept of weaponized office furniture.
posted by clavdivs at 8:52 AM on August 18, 2011

Canaris is an interesting fellow - wonder why there hasn't been an FPP on him.

I've toyed with making him my first FP before, but never quite found enough links I liked to make it feel right.

He was indeed a fascinating (and brave) man and he had a bigger impact on the War than you'd think (or indeed than most people know). He was instrumental in persuading the Spanish not to let Germany invade Gibraltar through their territory, for example.

I mean Jesus, the fact that the Head of the Abwehr was actively working against Hitler just boggles the mind.

I'm actually running a Fallen Reich campaign at the moment for some friends that features Canaris - indirectly so far, but he will turn up eventually himself. It's been interesting, because so far the Abwehr have been the "bad guys" trying to foil them as they try to sabotage the Nazi war effort, but they're starting to realise that Canaris and a few of his top agents seem to be losing a few too many of the battles they should probably have won.

So far they've decided this is because the Abwehr is trying to trap them. In a couple of games time they're going to discover the truth and I'm reasonably confident it's going to catch them completely off guard.
posted by garius at 8:53 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Forget Smiley vs Karla. Julia Child vs Coco Chanel!
posted by Trurl at 9:00 AM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

I am willing to bet they invented the concept of weaponized office furniture.

Possibly, although Monty Burns was born some time in the 19th century and may have come up with the concept then.
posted by DU at 9:11 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

garius, I would love to read that post and I'm jealous of your players. The whole topic of collaboration and spying in WWII is something I know very little about but find fascinating. I feel like I should do a bunch of research just to comment in this post.
posted by immlass at 9:45 AM on August 18, 2011

Ugh, Coco Chanel. Not only was she a collaborationist in the war, she was a notorious union buster and treated her employees dreadfully. She pioneered the use of ultra-skinny models, and deliberately designed her clothes extra-small--even today, Chanel is known for being a size smaller than other high fashion houses (i.e., a Chanel size 4 is the same as everyone else's size 2). The current company isn't really responsible for what a horrid person its founder was, I suppose, but I think it's creepy how film bios of her gloss over it and present her as a hero.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 9:57 AM on August 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

Chanel, took corsets off bodies and put them on her mind.
posted by nickyskye at 10:30 AM on August 18, 2011

Curious to find out what kind of missions la Chanel would have thought suitable for.

Curious also to know if von Dincklage was a party member or if, as too often happens, sloppy writers are equating membership in the German armed forced with being a Nazi. Certainly Canaris was not a member.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:59 AM on August 18, 2011

"Reports of her covert activities include an attempt, at Himmler's behest, to broker a meeting between Hitler and Churchill in Madrid"
posted by IndigoJones at 11:16 AM on August 18, 2011

OOOOOOOH! Can we have fisticuffs between Chanel and Sassoon?? CAN WE????????????
posted by symbioid at 11:33 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

A Village Voice article, from 2000:
...Coco's response when she was asked why she had consorted with a German: "Really, sir, a woman of my age cannot be expected to look at his passport if she has a chance of a lover."
IndigoJones, I have found a lot of references that conflate party membership with wearing a German uniform. This isn't my period so I'm not sure whether there's a faster way to determine it.
posted by catlet at 11:35 AM on August 18, 2011

Quelle sale pute nazie.

Et si elle était un agent de profondeur sous couverture et avait une radio dans son armoire, huh?
posted by clavdivs at 2:23 PM on August 18, 2011

(rires insert)
posted by clavdivs at 2:24 PM on August 18, 2011

Yeah, me too. Drives me nutsi.

(Nibbly Fang - the antidote to Chanel's personal awfulness, particularly in her treatment of her workers is to be found in Madeleine Vionnet., who I understand treated the staff wonderfully well. Plus, when she shut down in 1939, she stayed shut down. And now has been relaunched. Karma over there is a whole lot better, I expect. Bruce Chatwin interviewed her (the whole piece is in the link if you dig). On the subject of Chanel, she said, "She was a modiste. That is to say, my dear, she understood hats!".)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:44 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, David Ogilvy... just who wasn't a secret agent back in WWII?
posted by Apocryphon at 12:00 AM on August 19, 2011

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