Was the biggest fashionista and style icon of our time a Nazi spy? After decades of rumors and whispers, classified French documents released by the government confirms that yes, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel indeed aligned herself with the Third Reich!

Chanel, nicknamed “Westminster”, went by the Nazi agent number F-7124. According to the files, the style icon was reportedly groomed for one major mission in particular, dubbed operation “Modelhut” (which translates to “model hat”). This mission was detailed to Chanel by the infamous Heinrich Himmler himself during a personal meeting the two had in Berlin.

So why exactly DID Coco Chanel work with the Nazis? Some speculate it was all business related. In the 1920’s, Chanel launched her famous perfume line but quickly ran into financial hardship. She approached an investor, a French Jewish businessman by the name of Pierre Wertheimer, who took a 70% equity stake in the company in exchange for a hefty financial infusion and Parfums Chanel prospered under his control.

During WW2, Chanel, then the lover of a famous SS intelligence officer Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, attempted to gain back full control of her company by instituting her Aryan rights. Under Nazi control, Jews were no longer allowed to own businesses. Knowing this, Chanel approached the Nazi German Government proclaiming “Parfums Chanel is still the property of Jews … and has been legally ‘abandoned’ by the owners. I have an indisputable right of priority. The profits that I have received from my creations since the foundation of this business…are disproportionate.”

But Chanel was in for a bit of a surprise as Pierre Wertheimer sold the company just prior to fleeing to America in 1940 to a longtime family friend and Gentile (non Jew), Felix Amiot. Once the war was over, Amiot returned the company’s ownership in full to the Pierre.

To this day, the Wertheimer Family retains 100% ownership of the Chanel Fashion House and Company. Worldwide, there are 310 Chanel Boutiques and sales are estimated to be approximately $5.1 Billion by Forbes.

Some of Chanel’s Most Iconic and Wanted Bags

References:
1. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  “Anti-Jewish Legislation in Prewar Germany.”
2. Vaughan, Hal. Sleeping With The Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War, 2012.
3. Copping, Jasper. “Nazis ‘offered to leave western Europe in exchange for free hand to attack USSR’.” Daily Telegraph, 2013.
4. Warner, Judith. “Was Coco Chanel A Nazi Agent?” New York Times, 2011.