Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chanel...the Nazi?

Coco Chanel hated Jews.



That is a fact.

I have read four biographies on Coco Chanel. In every book, it is pretty much accepted that she was an anti-semite.

Coco herself openly admitted that the main reason she never designed costumes for Hollywood was because it was an industry mostly run by Jews.

I have never held this knowledge against her.

Everyone has a right to their own opinions. And almost every single influential person in history has held prejudiced beliefs against something, whether it be former U.S. presidents who owned black slaves or Walt Disney, who was also a Nazi-sympathizer.

After all, people were subjected to incredible ignorance in the past. They were frightened of the unknown. They allowed their minds to be molded by false beliefs. They were products of their generation and the social climate which existed at the time.

As much as I despise Chanel's opinions on Jews, it didn't make me stop loving the Chanel brand. I still dabbed Chanel No. 5 on my wrist once in a while. I still lusted after the quilted handbags.

What girl hasn't?



But my friend Jonny recently sent me a link about a book which horrifies me.



The book, Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War, reveals that Chanel actually collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. The book looks into wartime records which show her membership and activities for the Abwehr Nazi military intelligence.

If this information is true, then it drastically changes my opinion on Coco Chanel.



It is one thing to be a racist bigot. It is another to actively aid in the murder of millions of innocent people.

I'm going to be honest. I don't want to read this book. I'm too scared to read all the gory details.

Does that make me a bad person? Is it wrong to turn a blind eye to the past because you simply...don't want to know? Perhaps it makes me a bad journalist too.

I guess I just admire Coco Chanel so much as a businesswoman and as a designer, that it makes me sick to my stomach to think that the woman herself was...well, cruel and ugly inside.



What are your thoughts on this subject? Does this change your perception of Chanel?

51 comments:

Shannon said...

I didn't even know she was a bigot (but then again, I learn most of my fashion history from your blog). And yes, if she aided in the slaughter of Jews, my opinion has changed of her. Which is unfortunate, because I love some of her jewelry.

azu said...

Two things:

1) You have a lot of guts to write about this. Not a lot of people would.

2) You bet your behind (or your Chanel No.5) I'm going to read that book. It is such a huge turn off when you learn that some designer or person you admire is evil. Once I read the book, I'll have a better understanding of how I feel about her. It's very disappointing, but I don't know if I can say anything negative just yet.

www.ravenhaireddoll.blogspot.com

Courtney Erin said...

I'm definitely going to read that book - how horrifying....

xoxo ~ Courtney
http://sartorialsidelines.com

Marie said...

I am definitely going to read this book before the year ends. That would be interesting!

***** Marie *****
allthingsmarie.com

Meri said...

I think its open minded to be able to appreciate people for what they are and their art, but not have to accept all of the personal things about them. Just like I can like an artist or actor even if in real life they say obnoxious or stupid things.

Selma *Crazy Little World Of Mine* said...

It's not the first time I actually read this, and yes it's a bit of a "shocker" but then again...not so much. Some even sympathized to stay alive or in the game. However, I do wanna read that book. It won't change my view of her or fashion.

And I LOVE that you wrote about this. I won't get into too much details but I believe it's a topic we all should never ignore and discuss it more. Or write more about it. It's influenced all of us. Whether or not we want to admit it. :)

xoxo

Rachel {Da Paura ♥} said...

That is horrible!! It really is so awful, and I can't imagine having respect for someone who is a murderer at heart. I don't think that wearing Chanel or not will make a difference, but definitely may just lose respect for Coco... thanks for the eye opener!

Rachel

Kavery said...

How awful . Shows how little we know of (famous) people sometimes.

Josie said...

NO! Horrifying. I definitely have to check out this book immediately.
xo Josie

Editor A. said...

Not wanting to know and not wanting to read the gory details are two different things. Ask your friend if they've read it. If they have, ask them to give the description to you in a nutshell.

Mouthwash said...

Oh dear. This...is so blind siding! Quite ironically though, Chanel is one of THE biggest names/labels in Hollywood. And I'm sure many of Jewish decent own her items. Maybe, just maybe there has been a Jewish designer or two that has created under the label as well.

Wouldn't that be poetic justice? Ignorance cannot live forever.

However, Miss Coco has been knocked off her pedestal. At least for me.

A BRIT GREEK said...

Say what??? Wow, i never knew this fact.

Now i'm gonna have to go get the book!

Hope alls well with ya beautiful!
x.o.x.o

jos xx said...

this post really makes me think...alot. last week, i read something similar about lady gaga - that all her songs are dedicated to satan because they are full of evil symbols. What am i supposed to do? hate lady gaga?
i think we should all admire these talented people for what they really are and not judge them for their personal reasons.

and i think you should read that book. i would.

jos xx

-E- said...

come on, now you have to read the book and review it here!

Belly B said...

I couldn't believe this. I can't! I always had a lot of respect for her (especially after watching the movie with audrey tautou), but now, I have to re-evaluate. I think I'll have to read that book!

Belly B

Couture Carrie said...

How awful!
I never knew that...
Definitely changes my opinion of her.

xoxox,
CC

Vix said...

I have heard rumours about Chanel's nazi sympathies before. I've never lusted after anything Chanel, I hate anything with a visible logo anyway, it just seems crass and tasteless.
Please read the book and share your wise words. x

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The Blonde Duck said...

I never knew about it! I bet that book made a bunch of fashion insiders furious!

Leia said...

:( I don't want to know.

Lee Oliveira said...

I love mama Coco..
I have her book and I love all her movies
lee x

Cafe Fashionista said...

Okay, you NEED to read the book The Gospel According to Coco Chanel. I swear it will make you see her in a completely different light. It is amazing! :)

Fashion, Art and other fancies said...

I was aware of this fact about Chanel. But the world is full of cruelty. What is one to do? I am less keen on visible labels myself so unlikey to buy anything Chanel unless it's vintage. lol.

Audrey Allure said...

I had no idea! It does change my opinion of her as a person, but I still love the designs that come from her label.

Tights Lover said...

It's still hard for me to believe how this sort of thing went on this recently in our world's history. How anyone could openly believe in what the Nazi's were doing is beyond me.

I think when we admire someone for what they have accomplished we have to keep in mind that what they accomplished doesn't necessarily make them a good person. If the book is going to bother you to much than I see nothing to gain in reading it. I think you can still admire what she did in the fashion industry despite admitting that she was a bad person.

Admiring Coco as a designer doesn't have to mean accepting other aspects of her life.

FashionJazz said...

I had no idea, I got shivers when I read your post.....this definitely changes my opinion of her...

On a brighter note, hope you had a stunning Wednesday babe :) xx

Movies on my Mind said...

I'm looking at my bottle of Channel Allure Homme for men wondering f it was worth it... nah, I think I can live with her misgivings.

There are some Jews in Britain who, even to this day, will not buy Bosch or Mercedes products on account of their dealings with the Third Reich (the former made gas chambers and the latter provided all transportation). One almost has to admire the Jewish community for sticking by their principals.

Damsels said...

im definitely not going to like her as a person but i love the brand and her fashion design. that said she was probably a despicable person :(

Damsels said...

im definitely not going to like her as a person but i love the brand and her fashion design. that said she was probably a despicable person :(

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

Thanks for this information. Not that I ever have, but I will definitely not buy Chanel products.

I'm a proud Jew who doesn't excuse this kind of ignorance/hatred. Even in subtle form it's powerful and dangerous.

xoRobyn

lauren lanza osias said...

wowza. really!?!? i don't know what to say... i should read this book for sure... i love chanel products :( so do we punish the modern brand for the founders disgusting ideals? that's a tough call.

http://laurenlanzaosias.blogspot.com
fall wish list...

Chic 'n Cheap Living said...

I had no idea! I generally don't support brands and designers who have severely questionable philosophies. But I do also wonder where one draws the line. It is the design house she started but is run by completely different people now. So does that make it ok then? Hmmm...

xoxo,
Chic 'n Cheap Living

Oh to Be a Muse said...

since i don't want to read that book myself i am hoping that you decide to read it. i really want to know if she worked with the nazis.

Brigitte Bardot was also a bigot and hated gay people...so i've read.

Vida Starr said...

I really can't sit here and say I think it's perfectly understandable to support a business owned by a woman who was a nazi. And Nazi's weren't just anti-semites. They were also homophobic and racist. I'm not really into "high end" fashion mostly because I think it's a rip off. So I don't own any Chanel stuff at all. But I find it kind of sad that people's materialism runs so deep that they don't even want to read about how evil the designer was. That says a lot.

Chic 'n Cheap Living said...

I just read this article now about Chanel denying that Coco worked with the Nazis and had quite a few high profile Jewish friends. So what is the truth?

http://www.vogue.co.uk/news/2011/08/18/coco-chanel-nazi-spy---chanel-denies-its-truth

Dahl said...

That is absolutely disgusting. I never even knew Chanel hated Jews, but her aiding the Nazis is even more terrible. Still, I disagree with the values a lot of designers--and celebrities for that matter--hold, so I'm not entirely shocked. I try not to think about the person behind the art but rather how beautiful the art itself is. http://thearcenciel.blogspot.com/

Rachel said...

I actually didn't know about any of this! It would certainly change my opinion of her. I'm curious about the book, so I might have to give it a read... Although, I'm not sure I'd really want to know...

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Miksu said...

Very interesting post!

I don't know much about her life, I've seen couple movies and that's it.

I hate the feeling when you have opinion about something, then something unexpected turns out and your opinion is broken and you don't know what to think anymore. Okay, off the topic but I'm having those situations every day :D

If you would have known about Coco's bad stuff, you wouldn't maybe respect her so much as a business woman and a fashion creator?

xx
absofuckinglutely

cleo said...

I must say that I am still shocked after reading of this news about Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel, news that I saw on Wikipedia before. It is very disappointing that a great fashion designer like her had such a terrible double scandalous past ! Yes everyone can have a different opinion, you can like or not like someone but it seems that she did much more. I like all the Chanel clothes -accessories very much but I do not like the woman against the Jews that was in her for sure. I am Catholic, my husband is from a Jews family, he does not follow the religion, he is a wounderful person and a gentleman. I will not read this book.

Cleop said...

However, we have to consider that very often some writers or journalists have the habit to change or to dramatize their views or facts in their books or articles. I would like to know more about these evidences or claims on Coco Chanel possibly without to have to read the book but I will still buy Chanel clothes !

Le Misérable said...

wow. this seems totally unreal mostly cuz all we have ever associated Coco Chanel is with doing fashion and running fashion. But I would totally want to read the book to know EXACTLY what went how.

Anonymous said...

Come on, watch TV nowadays and the same propaganda is going on against Muslims. It's basically the Jewish media telling us to hate the Muslims and support their illegal occupation in Israel/Palestine.
You can only put so much blame on Chanel for her views. I am sure she was as much a victim of negative propaganda as people who watch fox news and support the republican party today.
Anyways not all propaganda is bad, like look how accepted gays are in society. Thanks to Hollywood's positive portrayals they have overcome so much negative stereotyping and racist views.
I can't wait to read the book. I love Chanel and I find it so coincidental that the current head of Chanel is German.

Anonymous said...

I think you cannot rely just on one book to build your opinion about her. I just finished reading biography book about her written by french author, and there was nothing about her hating jews. It said that she had personal relationships with german officer, but she used him to do everything was in her power to finish the war. It didn't work out eventually, but she tryed her best. By the way she was the only one to close the doors of her business when WW2 started. She didn't want to make cloths for Nazi..
So, what I am trying to say, you have to read all different sources of information before you come up with your final opinion.
I believe this new book might be ordered as the previous opponent just said.

rb said...

Chanel is owned and controlled by Jews and always has been. The Wertheimer brothers worth over 7 billion dollars. Their grandfather was far too clever for Coco and had 70 percent ownership, while she had only 10 percent. In fact they were paying her hotel bills till the day she died - zero business sense the lady had. The jewish wertheimer family must be laughing.

Hepburn Hilton said...

The book only proofs that she had a spy number, many poeple had such number without ever knowing about it themselves. That book has been heavily critized by many, including the house of Chanel and authors of other books about her. I'm all for giving Coco the benefit of the doubt, after all she is dead and can't defend herself. It seems weird that amongst all the books written about her, only one takes this stand.

Anonymous said...

I am having a hard time finding someone who was determine to liberate herself through fashion to be anti-semite. How I was raised, women should not dress as men (strict religion) ...Imagine back in her days where women's place is at home and married, be and dress ladylike(like wearing corset) and black is considered mourning , yet She fought against the grain and did just the opposite. I can't understand how a woman like her is only open minded one area, and extremely closed minded and facist in another. Not blaming catholic or anything as I know not all do this, but I guess how she was raised in an ophanage could be a problem, as I know some will teach negative view of the Jews (I was raised differently and was taught the world put Christ on the cross and Jews symbolize God's righteous and they still have a purpose even though they are sinners as everyone else) I still run into people who still think Jews are greedy, or Christians are the true" Jews" hence the war in Israel..but they don't wish death on them like the Nazi. Anyway, I wouldn't be surprise if she was anti-semite because how some people were back then. ......BUT It doesn't seem like she follow catholic beliefs or any religious beliefs closely at all. It just blows me away. It's like she have multiple personality or something.

thoughts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thoughts said...

I am happy that you are aware of this. Coco was a very intelligent person so with her being such an inspiration to you then you must research her reasons for being antisemite. Now u also have to understand that a person may be anti semitic but actually not wish death upon jews? See just like today back in those days the Jews ran everything. They owned the banks the media and had major control of the political seats. Jews were in charge of killing millions of christians in the Soviet union and we're behind the fall of ww1 in germany and we're also the first people to declare war on Germany. Not only coco has warned us about the jews but most powerful people on earth. From Henry Ford to benjamin franklin. Jews have been kicked out of every European country in last history even before hitler. Why? Because jews control the money supply and use interest and usury to enslave people. It commands them to Do so in the tulmad. I am no anti semite but truth is truth. And today jew Zionist are responsible for every war that happens today. If u do not believe me then it is your responsibility to prove to me this is not the case. I like coco push u to study who runs the Federal Reserve and who owns the banks. U need to put major energy into understanding the situation. Yes not all jews all bad. But the guys at the top just happen to be jews and I can say without doubt that they control then world.

Sky Russell said...

Saying obnoxious & stupid things is not the same as aiding in the death or an entire race. Jennifer as a writer I think it is extremely important that you read the book and know the facts. As a human being I've always respected a good difference in opinion, but never hate. So no Chanel for me. But I absolutely respect her contribution to the fashion industry.