Alex Constantine - December 4, 2014
Coco Chanel the Nazi spy: New document reveals that fashion designer worked for Hitler's military intelligence
- French documentary claims late fashion designer worked for the Nazis
- Had relationship with senior Gestapo officers during Second World War
- Code-named 'Westminster'- referring to her affair with Duke of Westminster
- Exploited friendship with Winston Churchill to try and strike truce in 1943
- Other French stars' relationships with the Nazis also called into question
- Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier and Sacha Guitry all said to have had links
French researchers claim to have found indisputable evidence that Coco Chanel worked as a spy for the Nazis during the Second World War.
A written record made public for the first time in a documentary broadcast on French television last night is said to prove that the late fashion designer was a member of Abwehr - Adolf Hitler's secret military intelligence agency.
The documentary also raised questions about the role played by other French celebrities during the Second World War, including singers Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier and dramatist Sacha Guitry.
L'Ombre d'un Doute [The Shadow of a Doubt], broadcast on the state-owned France 3 channel yesterday evening, countered the French government's official claim that almost every well-known figure from the time either joined the Resistance movement or simply boycotted the Nazis.
Although the claim has long been considered spurious by French historians, the issue of doubt has largely been ignored by mainstream French broadcasters.
According to the documentary, Chanel's involvement with the Nazis began around the time of the collapse of the French army in 1940. She returned to Paris shortly after and moved in to the Ritz Hotel, which was doubling as the Luftwaffe's French headquarters at the time.
She soon began an affair with a senior Gestapo officer by the name of Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage and became so closely acquainted with the Nazi upper echelons that she was sent to Madrid in 1943 where she exploited her past acquaintance with Winston Churchill to try and strike a truce with British officers stationed there.
Churchill allegedly ignored the offer, with historian Henry Gidel saying Chanel 'displayed incredible megalomania and naivety in imagining that she could change Churchill's mind.'
The newly revealed document suggests that while working for the Nazis, Chanel went by the codename 'Westminster' - a reference to her affair with the Duke of Westminster in the 1920s.
Her official Abwehr number was F-7124 according to official Nazi record - which has been secretly held in the French Ministry of Defence archives for the past seven decades.
The host of the documentary, historian Franck Ferrand, went on to claim that Chanel used her Nazi influence to try and reclaim the perfume business she sold to a Jewish family in 1924.
Ties: The documentary's claims that singer Maurice Chevalier (left) and dramatist Sacha Guitry were linked to the Nazis largely centred on the idea that the stars' careers flourished in occupied France
Justine Picardie reveals the complexity of Chanel's relationships
Ferrand said the fashion designer had hoped that Nazi rules banning Jews owning businesses may lead to the company being confiscated and given back to her, but it later merged that the Wertheimer family had already sold their stake in Chanel perfume to a German businessman.
The documentary's claims that Piaf, Chevalier and Guitry were linked to the Nazis were less fleshed-out and largely centred on the idea that the stars' careers flourished in occupied France - with Piaf also accepting two invitations to perform at private Nazi functions.
The documentary claimed that officials in post-War France scrubbed the celebrities' records of Nazi links and invented ties to the Resistance movement in order to help rebuild the country's reputation.