Fashion pioneer Coco Chanel spied for Nazis, book claims
Coco Chanel acted as a numbered Nazi agent during the World War Two, carrying out several spy and recruitment missions, a new book claims.
Chanel was feted as a fashion pioneer who changed the way women dressed and thought about themselves. Her life has been the subject of countless biographies and films, which have charted her career but also her darker side as a Nazi sympathiser and collaborator.
But according to 'Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War', the creator of the famed little black dress was more than this: she was a numbered Nazi agent working for the Abwehr, Germany's military intelligence agency.
After sifting through European and US archives, Hal Vaughan, a Paris-based American journalist, found the designer was Abwehr Agent F-7124.
She also had the code name Westminster, after her former lover, the anti-Semitic Duke.
Chanel spent most of the war staying at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, sharing close quarters with spies and senior Nazis.
It is well documented she took Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage -- an officer some 13 years her junior -- as a lover, allowing her to pass freely among restricted areas.
Previous works have depicted her more as an amoral opportunist than an active collaborator but Mr Vaughan's book claims not only that Chanel was "fiercely anti-Semitic" but carried out missions on behalf of the Abwehr to Madrid and Berlin during the war.
The book adds weight to reports that Winston Churchill intervened to spare Chanel -- a friend from before the war -- from arrest and trial.
She instead fled to Switzerland, only to return in 1954 to resurrect her reputation and reinvent the House of Chanel.
Chanel was never charged with any wrongdoing and died aged 87 in 1971. (© Daily Telegraph, London)