Shelved Dolls: Coco Chanel – Was She A Nazi?

Soon afterwards, back in Paris, the war was drawing to a close and there were rumors that France would be free once again. That was great news to the people in France who were living on 850 calories a day. It was not great news to people who were going to white tie balls with the Nazis and spying on their behalf.

Chanel was terrified that people would find out about her activities. She bought the silence of anyone who knew she was a spy, and began to make up stories about her wartime activities working on behalf of the French people. One biographer remarked that “Chanel has a childhood fear of abandoning the world of her dreams and confronting the realities of existence.”

She was terribly afraid that the Jewish family that she had tried to wrest control of Chanel No. 5 away from would expose her legal attempts in court, but they never did. They knew it would damage the reputation of the brand, which was once again in their hands.

I mean, then we would not have this:

Chanel and Dincklage then left for Switzerland, where they lived happily for some years, until Dincklage, like so many of Chanel’s lovers before him, departed.

And Chanel returned to Paris, where she spent the rest of her life designing dresses, and not spying on anyone – that we know of.

I don’t know precisely how to feel about Coco Chanel, now. I mean, she designed a hell of a clothing line. And she made some great perfume! Does the fact that she also seemed, well, somewhat Godless in her dealings with the Nazis change any of that?

You cannot, of course, ever expect to love an artist because you love their work – that is like expecting to love cows because you love hamburgers. However, I am bothered by the fact that I think that Coco Chanel ought to have known better. This wasn’t someone who was in Germany who just believed German propaganda. How, exactly, did she manage to walk so cheerfully to all those white tie balls when people were starving in the street? Although, maybe we all get compassion fatigue. Anyone who lives in a city can tell you that they daily walk by homeless people, and most of us do not slow our pace, let alone stop.

Wait. But we do not become Nazi spies. I think that is the difference.

And while this story does not make me love Chanel any less, I do find it makes me care a good deal less for Coco.

Additional Reading:

Sleeping With The Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War by Hal Vaughan 

Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life by Justine Picard

The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons From The World’s Most Elegant Women by Karen Karbo

Pictures via Boy Capel Tumblr, New York Social Diary, Wikipedia






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    • Lastango

      “In one Iribe drew a naked Coco Chanel – meant to represent Marianne (a symbol of the French state) – being cradled by Hitler who is seemingly defending her from a group of Jews. So that is where Coco formed her political views. It is amazing that you could have these opinions and be open about them and still be part of polite society.”
      Actually, openly-expressed anti-Semitic views are de rigueur in Europe today. In the UK, a parliamentary inquiry found that:

      “Anti-Jewish themes and remarks are gaining acceptability in some quarters in public and private discourse in Britain and there is a danger that this trend will be come more and more mainstream… It is this phenomenon that has contributed to an atmosphere where Jews have become more anxious and more vulnerable to abuse and attack than at any other time for a generation of longer.”
      That’s expecially true in Europe’s upper crust:

    • fionarocks

      So disappointing to hear this. But great article! You’re right, she absolutely should have known better.

    • Deb

      An interesting read is the book “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”. Describes the pervasive antisemitism of not only Germany but the entire continent pretty much.

    • MR

      You know there were a lot fascists in France. The Nazis – after they defeated France in 1940 – formed a French government around them, called Vichy France. Churchill ended any threat it posed to Britain shortly after, in Oran, Algeria, when he ordered the destruction of the (now Vichy) French Navy. I guess Coco wasn’t as much a threat as of the French Navy falling into Nazi Germany’s hands, huh? Lucky for Coco. :)

    • kj

      Well, that’s depressing. At least I don’t have to feel as bad now about not liking her clothes…………

    • Natalie

      I think this is one of those situations that is similar to the founding fathers of America. They all owned salves. That was awful. Yet, we still like them and they still founded America. Not that it is excusable that they owned salves, but we can still like America.
      So we can still like her clothes. I guess.

      • Jennifer Wright

        I mean, I own some salves myself. My skin gets pretty dry in the winter.

      • Kokos

        Yeah,me to. Got to get some slaves to rub it on me,though.

      • jjj


    • Abvilian

      Coco was a British spy, which is well known and documented fact.

    • Kokos

      Still am amazed at the level of admiration uninformed,ignorant and in most cases,desperate left women have for this person. Ladies,grab your pen and notepad: Coce=junkie+golddigger+home-wrecker+nazi+perfume&some clothes. Cheers.

    • Sammy

      After the war, many French women who had been known to “consort” with German soldiers had their heads shaved publicly. Apparently some thought that this should happen to Chanel but Churchill intervened.

    • Clarisse Thorn

      When you’re in a social circle where orgies are common, they usually “just happen,” although sometimes they are explicitly and carefully planned. You know how sometimes you’re on a date and then one thing leads to another and you’re making out and then you both make a million tiny decisions that eventually lead to you leaping into bed naked together? And the next day you’re like, “What decision? it just happened!” even though there were actually a lot of decisions and usually at least one party put a lot of effort into making sex happen? Sometimes orgies happen like that, too.

      But sometimes they really are planned through Facebook events. If you aren’t getting enough Facebook orgies, maybe you should plan one. It’s surprisingly difficult but gets easier with practice.