Coco Chanel in 1920.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A new film that appeared on French TV earlier this year alleges that the woman behind one of the most famous fragrances of all time collaborated with the Nazis during World War II against her own Jewish partners.
It has been almost 50 years since the death of famed French fashion designer Coco Chanel, and the legacy of the chic Parisian has begun to really reek.
The new French documentary, The No. 5 War
– a reference to the famed scent Chanel No. 5 – claims that Chanel worked with Nazi occupiers of France and used their anti-Jewish laws to get rid of her Jewish associates, brothers Pierre and Paul Wertheimer.
The film will be playing at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival this week, and director Stéphane Benhamou is slated to attend one of the screenings.
A trailer for the hour-long film called Chanel “the most celebrated woman of the day – who would stop at nothing to achieve her ends.”
According to the film’s producers, in 1940, Chanel, “with the help of the Nazis occupying France, went to great lengths to get rid of her Jewish associates, the Wertheimer brothers.” The battle between them for control of the famed perfume “involved the Parisian who’s who, Nazi spies, those in charge of Aryanizing the French economy, unscrupulous businessmen, double agents and brilliant perfume designers.”
Chanel’s virulent antisemitic sentiments and dealings with Nazis have already been the subject of several books and films.
In 2014, a French documentary titled L’Ombre d’un Doute (The Shadow of a Doubt), claimed that she had an affair with a senior Nazi official, Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage. According to the documentary, created by historian Franck Ferrand, Chanel spied for the Nazis and even had her own code name given to her by the Nazi intelligence agency.
In 2011, Hal Vaughan published Sleeping With The Enemy, an explosive account of Chanel’s antisemitic views and her work with Adolf Hitler. In the book he wrote how a judge in post-war France “had discovered that Chanel had cooperated with German military intelligence and had been teamed with a French traitor, Baron Louis de Vaufreland.”
But Vaughan learned far more than that judge ever did, including that “while French Resistance fighters were shooting Germans in the summer of 1941, Chanel was recruited as an agent by the Abwehr [German military intelligence service]... Chanel and Baron von Dincklage traveled to bombed-out Berlin in 1943 to offer Chanel’s services as an agent to SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler.”