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?