Oh, Coco No

It’s not okay. We always say, “We will never forget.” But will we forget if it means we still get to wear our favorite perfume or carry our ultra-hip handbag? Will we forget because we love to see the celebrity A-listers in Chanel Couture;  because Anne Hathaway looks amazing in her Chanel Gown? And Anne would NEVER wear something made by a Nazi Collaborator, right? Wrong.

It’s 2013, do you remember this? Did it cross your radar?  In 2011 this story was all over the newspapers and journals. From The NY Times to The London Times; The New Yorker had an amazing story. This wasn’t a hoax, it wasn’t some made-up rantings of a Chanel hater, this happened. The documents were uncovered by Hal Vaughan when he wasn’t even looking. He found them by sheer accident! Letters, court records, official documents; once he saw the name “Chanel” in a document he barely had to dig to uncover the truth.

Coco Chanel hated the Jews, she was a known anti-Semite and quite vocal about it. She apparently felt that the Jewish women who worked in her shop, were ruining her by demanding fair wages. Sometime around 1936 she closed up her shop, allowing her to pay all of her workers back – by firing them. And soon became involved with Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a German Operative in Military Intelligence. This allowed her to stay in Paris at the Ritz, which at the time was occupied only by those high up in the German Military. Now she had secured her position in society and also secured herself the position of Agent F 7124; codename: Westminster. I can’t make this stuff up people. This is all public record.

It is not under dispute that Coco Chanel was a Nazi agent, chosen specifically by Heinrich Himmler to negotiate with Winston Churchill because of her stature and acquaintance with him. In 1941 she committed herself to working with the German’s and worked directly with General Walter Shellenberg, chief of SS intelligence. Here is the pay dirt; he was convicted during the Nuremberg trials, however “he was released due to incurable liver disease and took refuge in Italy. Chanel paid for Schellenberg’s medical care and living expenses, financially supported his wife and family and paid for Schellenberg’s funeral upon his death in 1952.”* Why would she do that for someone she didn’t know? For a known Nazi criminal?

Chanel only cared about her business, fame and money. She didn’t care how she got it, and whose backs broke to get there. This poor orphan grew up to build an empire; no one would take it from her! She would maintain her fame and stature at the price of 6,000,000 lives.

In 1941 Coco used her position as an “Aryan” to make an attempt at gaining complete control of her parfum empire. The proprietor of Parfums Chanel was Pierre Wertheimer, he was Jewish. She filed documents asking for a ruling on disposition of financial Jewish assets. “Her grounds for proprietary ownership were based on the claim that Parfums Chanel “is still the property of Jews” and had been legally “abandoned” by the owners” * She did not know that the Jewish owners had already put the company in the name of a Christian friend and were safely in America.

 “A lot of people in this world don’t want the iconic figure of Gabrielle Coco Chanel, one of France’s great cultural idols, destroyed. This is definitely something that a lot of people would have preferred to put aside, to forget, to just go on selling Chanel scarves and jewelry.”

And the frightening thing is; they have forgotten. My mother, born in Israel in 1939 because her parents were fleeing the Nazi’s, wears Chanel no.5 every day. So did my Grandmother, whose closest cousin committed suicide by jumping into the Seine when the Germans marched into Paris, rather than be captured. Recently PBS re-ran their interview with Hans Vaughan, I asked my mom if she knew about this, she didn’t. She said hesitatingly, “I guess I have to stop wearing Chanel.” She didn’t.

Evil is alive and well in this world, and do you know how we know it is? We know because of how easily and conveniently we forget about the evil perpetuated on people, countries, religions. What happened to the American Flags we all flew after 9/11? Now Park – 51, also known as the Mosque at Ground Zero, is being built. We prefer not to remember the massacre of 6,000,000 people, 1,000,000 of whom were children, so that we can wear our parfum, sunglasses, handbags. What is that if not evil? Evil does not stare us in the face and dare us to cross to the other side. Evil is insidious, it starts by saying “Is this one little thing that bad? I mean, it’s not like you did anything.” That’s right, you didn’t do anything.



*Hans Vaughan and Wikipedia other sources include the BBC, The New York Times and The New Yorker.


This post was stewing in my mind, then brought forth by the timely question asked for this week’s Theme Thursday: Does Evil Exist?


28 thoughts on “Oh, Coco No

  1. You are right, Jen. Evil things can sometimes be what starts out as something little and builds into a horrific catastrophe. I won’t look at that brand the same. Not that I could afford it anyway…

    • I know Jean, but people buy copies too, they flaunt it like it means something special. I want everyone to know it does mean something special, something bad.

  2. Holy fucking wow, Batman.

    Granted, I’m so not a designer girl. I’d rather have car grease on my hands or work on a computer or building something or write then smell good or be pretty ….

    But fuck. Why does this company still exist??

  3. I heard about this in 2011, but since I didn’t own (nor could afford) anything Chanel, and neither did anyone I know, it didn’t alter how I went about my life. But you are right – it’s SO easy to forget, especially when things don’t rock the boat you are rowing.
    Who was it who said, “the only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”?

    That is so the case here. Thanks for sharing again.

  4. I remember telling my sister about this and she refused to believe me. She also refused to believe that Amelie would play the role of nazi coco. Have I mentioned that she loves Chanel? Its astounding how idolized coco chanel can be…

    • Vanessa, it is truly amazing. Especially because her family does not deny the involvement, they just spin it like she had no choice.

  5. Honestly, I would not compare a mosque at Ground Zero with chosing to wear a brand that was founded by a known anti-semite and Nazi-collaborator. The fact that the terrorists behind the attacks of 9/11 were Muslims does not mean that Islam is evil. There were Muslims among the victims of the attacks, and due to the wars that ensued, many, many innocent children died. I also wouldn’t go so far as to make Coco Chanel responsible for the deaths of 6.000.000 Jews, but definitely call her a cut-throat. I appreciate the information, I’ll definitely won’t buy any Chanel any more!

    • Hey Stephanie, I’m ok with agreeing to disagree. I think anybody who collaborated with the Nazi’s in anyway is just as culpable. It is like the story of The Good Samaritan, walking by an injured man in need is the same as being the one who injured him. The only right thing to do would have been for her to leave the country with her “Jewish” financiers that she tried to steal from, and denounce what Hitler was doing. Being an opportunist is not an excuse.

  6. thanks Jen. Having visited the holocaust museum, and learning how many people were bystanders like Coco, I pray that we can all be Upstanders and speak out! While hate is something we cannot control in others, standing up for what’s right can be contageous “we must always remember or we are doomed for history to repeat itself.”

  7. Glad you posted this. You are very correct that people just conveniently forget whatever is uncomfortable for them. I’ve never been a fan of Chanel because I can’t really see paying that much for perfume, and now I’m glad I haven’t. And as for evil, they say the devil doesn’t wear horns and carry a pitchfork. He looks just like any other guy on the street.

  8. I looked this up because I am now reading a Book by Danielly Steele that stated it
    I wanted to be sure it was true

    I have nothing Chanel – but now I will not even buy it in the thrift shop

    And if I know anyone who wears number 5 – you can bet I will tell them too!

    You are right – if we stand around and do “nothing” it is just as bad as those who did nothing and let the atrocities happen!

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