Shelved Dolls: Coco Chanel – Was She A Nazi?

And so, when World War II began, Chanel may have had the notion in her head of France being protectively cradled by Hitler. Over the years, Iribe wasn’t the only one who convinced her that the Nazis had the right idea.

In 1934, a series of protests from leftist, pro-communist groups broke out, leading to street riots, which Coco Chanel watched from her window at the Hotel Ritz, where she was living. I don’t know why I am throwing up that detail as though the fact that Chanel lived at The Ritz (which Hemingway personally liberated after the war, but that is another story) is tantamount to fiddling while Rome burned (and Nero didn’t actually fiddle, he recited epic poetry, but again, that is another story) and a move inexorably toward becoming a Nazi. I mean, Josephine Baker lived in an enormous castle and fought tirelessly for the French Resistance. I guess I am bringing up The Ritz to indicate that Coco probably wasn’t a lady who was very keen on Communism.

And she definitely wasn’t a supporter of the movement when her workers went on strike. Coco regarded the work stoppage as a personal betrayal by “mes filles” and told them that she would let them run the shop in a communist manner if they wanted just so long as she was the head of their communist republic. Her workers declined.

Her former lover, the 2nd Duke of Westminster, was adamant that England should back Hitler during the war, and told Coco as much. He told everyone as much. His anti-Semitic rants were legendary.

When the Nazis did come to Paris in 1939, Coco Chanel shut down her shop and fired some 3,000 workers, most of whom had gone on strike against her three years before. She later said, “How could I suppose there would still be people who would buy dresses? I was so stupid, such a dummy about life that it seemed impossible to me . . . well, I made a mistake. Some people sold dresses all during the war. That will be a lesson to me. Whatever may happen hereafter I will go on making clothes.”

Income continued to flow from the sale of Chanel No. 5 perfume and she remained at The Ritz which was supposedly “an island of wartime luxury.” Guests could smoke in the Psyche Salon, and have dinners of veal, pheasant and baked apples with champagne, while most people had meat only once or twice a week. The wealthy flocked to The Ritz, where the good times were interrupted only briefly during air raids, when residents had to flee to the hotel basement. Noel Coward said that he once saw Coco Chanel’s retinue of maids carrying her gas mask on a pillow.

When the French government fell, Chanel fled Paris briefly, but then returned, again, to The Ritz. She claimed that as soon as she went inside a German general ordered that she should stay at the hotel. The German government granted her permission to live in rooms on the 7th floor of the Cambon wing.

Here is a picture of Coco at her suite:

coco chanel suite

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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.