Discover the untold story of Coco Chanel’s involvement in espionage during World War II and her complex relationship with the German military. Learn about her wartime activities and controversies.
When Coco Chanel passed away in her Ritz suite in Paris 50 years ago, the world mourned the loss of the century’s greatest fashion designer. However, what remained hidden for years was Chanel’s role as a spy during World War II.
Coco Chanel, the renowned fashion icon, secretly worked as a spy for both German military intelligence and the SS during the war. This intriguing chapter of her life has long been overshadowed by her fashion legacy.
During the war, Chanel resided in the luxurious Ritz hotel with her German officer lover, Baron Hans Guenther von Dincklage, who was a spy. Her boutique continued to sell Chanel No. 5 perfume to German soldiers, while she became Abwehr Agent F-7124 in 1941, codenamed «Westminster.» She also attempted to reclaim her perfume business from the Jewish Wertheimer brothers using Nazi «aryanisation» laws.
Chanel’s espionage work included wining and dining British diplomats in neutral Spain. She even attempted to broker peace negotiations with the British prime minister, Winston Churchill, through General Walter Friedrich Schellenberg, the head of SS intelligence.
However, her efforts culminated in a debacle known as «Operation Modelhut,» resulting in her fleeing Madrid when a mutual friend, Vera Lombardi, denounced her as a German spy. Lombardi had close ties to Chanel and had introduced her to King Edward VIII and London’s elite.
After Paris was liberated, Chanel was briefly arrested but was released after Churchill’s intervention. She spent years in Switzerland and only returned in 1953 to reopen her fashion house, having reconciled with the Wertheimers.
The truth about Chanel’s wartime activities began to emerge years later, particularly with the publication of Hal Vaughan’s biography «Sleeping With the Enemy» in 2011, which shed light on her anti-Semitic and anti-Communist beliefs.
Despite controversies, Chanel’s legacy endures, and there remains an element of mystery surrounding her wartime actions.