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.