Coco Chanel liked being cosseted by high-born rich men, who helped her rise in business and society. When Hitler marched into France, Chanel took a German lover.
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Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage was a charming, handsome man, who became the last great love of Chanel’s life. He was also a spymaster reporting directly to Goebbels.
As the French starved and suffered, Chanel and Dincklage lived the high life, residing in the Hotel Ritz, going to Maxim’s, eating pheasant and drinking Chateau Latour.
During their affair, the baron recruited her for German military intelligence. In 1941, the Abwehr enrolled Chanel as Agent F-7124, code name Westminster (after her ex-lover, the Duke of Westminster), and began sending her on missions.
After the liberation of Paris, Chanel was brought in for questioning about her collaboration with the enemy. She was allowed to go home, saved by the intervention of an old friend. “Churchill had me freed,” she said.
I spoke with Hal Vaughan, author of “Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War,” on the following topics:
1. Virulent Anti-Semite
2. Chic Courtesan
3. Nazi Mistress
4. Spying for Germans
5. Postwar Success
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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)