Chanel No. F-7124: Coco Chanel’s Double Life as a Nazi Spy

Lauren Packard, Culture Editor

Since the brand’s founding in 1909, Chanel has become a household name around the world. It’s always been regarded as an essential brand for women, marked by elegance and simplicity. However, based on documents released from the French Defense Ministry’s archives, Coco Chanel herself seemed to be neither of those things. 

In 1924, Chanel had just developed her most iconic fragrance, Chanel No. 5. She desperately needed help manufacturing the scent, so she made a deal with the Jewish family the Wertheimers. They would gain a 70 percent share of the company, while Theophile Bader, who introduced Chanel to the family, would make 20 percent. This left only 10 percent for Chanel herself. After perfume sales began to skyrocket, Chanel filed lawsuit after lawsuit, desperately trying to gain control of her company. 

Later on, in 1933, Chanel became romantically involved with German Abwehr spy Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage while he was visiting Paris for a new assignment. The couple moved into the Ritz Hotel, where many other German officers and agents were staying at the time. Chanel quickly became involved with their cause. This was not entirely surprising, as the editor-in-chief of Marie Claire once described Chanel’s displays of anti-Semitism “as not only verbal; but passionate, demoded, and often embarrassing”.

She became an official member of Germany’s military intelligence in 1941. Chanel was given the code name Westminster and an Abwehr identification number: Agent F-7124. Two years later she was assigned to her first mission- Modelhut (model hat). For this assignment, she and Dincklage traveled to Madrid. Chanel was acquaintances with Britain’s prime minister Winston Churchill, and she was to deliver a letter that encouraged him to make peace with the Third Reich. This mission, of course, was to no avail. 

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

While Chanel’s company has been denying the information found in the documents, this story has been found to be most likely true by historians and other sources who were involved with Chanel at the time. Even after the war, she continued to develop her brand which has now become one of the most well-known ones of all time.