A TikToker, with more than 27,000 followers, went viral for claiming that famous designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was a Nazi spy with a “code name and everything.”
TikTok user @ts_semiautobiographical was responding to a challenge by user @just..phil, who asked people to share the names of historical figures with low-key problematic legacies.
“Who was an awful person alive but history seems to glorify them?” he said in the video, posted on Jan. 23. “You know, somebody like Christopher Columbus?”
User @ts_semiautobiographical, who only goes by Ms. Jones, responded on Tuesday with a video about Coco Chanel.
“She was an actual Nazi, like a hired hand of the Nazi Party, yet she’s still evangelized and admired,” the TikToker says, adding that Coco Chanel’s alleged codename was “Westminster.”
Ms. Jones goes on to consider the extent of Coco Chanel’s involvement with the Nazi Party: She could’ve either just been in the path of the party and was “simply useful” in providing intel on the Jewish elite, or she was a “wicked combination of opportunistic and anti-Semitic.”
In the case of the former, Ms. Jones says, Coco Chanel was likely using her access to the Jewish elite to “help grow her empire.”
In the latter, Ms. Jones says Coco Chanel “actually manipulated the Nazi Party in order to build her empire and empower her anti-semitism.”
“But that reputation doesn’t precede her,” she concludes.
Ms. Jones’ video has been viewed more than 78,000 times thus far.
One user commented that Coco Chanel must have been a “Karen for her time.”
Ms. Jones wasn’t the first person to make this allegation about Coco Chanel. In fact, the allegation that Coco Chanel was a Nazi spy has come up quite often in the past.
According to a 2017 Snopes fact check, Coco Chanel was in a relationship with one Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a “special attaché” of the German government placed in Paris in 1933. The two even lived together.
Snopes also shared photos of declassified government documents from the French Defense Ministry’s archives, where one file contained a reference to “Madame COCO CHANEL.”
The document is in French, but according to Snopes’ translation, it says that Coco Chanel (referred to as ‘Madame Chanel’) was Von Dincklage’s “mistress and agent” from 1942 to 1943.
According to a profile on Biography.com, Coco Chanel also had personal interests in being in the good books of a German military officer, reportedly to ensure the release of her nephew who was imprisoned by the Germans since 1940. She was nickname "Westminster," owing to her past relationship with the Duke of Westminster.
She also reportedly harbored resentment toward a Jewish family, referred only as the Wertheimers. They allegedly supported the launch of her perfume line but kept most of her profits. When Jewish people were forced to give up their businesses, she may have used this to her advantage.
Coco Chanel’s involvement was also recently detailed in a Forbes profile in August, which suggests that while her brand historically distanced itself from its Nazi ties, there might be a need for more transparency amid the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020, which prompted many businesses and brands to revisit their problematic pasts and practices.
Meanwhile, @ts_semiautobiographical’s video about legendary figures with dark past has been receiving tons of answers: Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Ronald Reagan, and Elvis Presley are just a few of the names TikTokers are spotlighting. While the conversation regarding Coco Chanel is not new, a cursory glance on Twitter will show that her past is a revelation for many following Ms. Jones' TikTok video.
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