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Coco Chanel, high priestess of couture, created the look of the chic modern woman: her simple and elegant designs freed women from their corsets and inspired them to crop their hair. By the 1920s, Chanel employed more than two thousand people in her workrooms, and had amassed a personal fortune. But at the start of the Second World War, Chanel closed down her couture house and went to live quietly at the Ritz, moving to Switzerland after the war. For more than half a century, Chanel's life from 1941 to 1954 has been shrouded in rumour. Neither Chanel nor her biographers have told the full story, until now.
In this explosive narrative Hal Vaughan pieces together Chanel's hidden years, from the Nazi occupation of Paris to the aftermath of the Liberation. He uncovers the truth of Chanel's anti-Semitism and long-whispered collaboration with Hitler's officials. In particular, Chanel's long relationship with 'Spatz', Baron von Dincklage, previously described as a tennis-playing playboy and German diplomat, and finally exposed here as a Nazi master spy and agent who ran an intelligence ring in the Mediterranean and reported directly to Joseph Goebbels.
Sleeping with the Enemy tells in detail how Chanel became a German intelligence operative, Abwehr agent F-7124; how she was enlisted in spy missions, and why she evaded arrest in France after the war. It reveals the role played by Winston Churchill in her escape from retribution; and how, after a nine-year exile in Switzerland with Dincklage, and despite French investigations into her espionage activities, Coco was able to return to Paris and triumphantly reinvent herself - and rebuild the House of Chanel.
As Hal Vaughan shows, far from being a heroine of France, Chanel was in fact one of its most surprising traitors.
Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel's war was not as secret as the subtitle implies. It's well known that during WWII, the celebrated fashion designer took as her lover a much younger Nazi intelligence officer, Hans G nther von Dincklage, and through him developed a mutually beneficial relationship with the Nazis. Journalist, diplomat, and author Vaughan (FDR's 12 Apostles), searching archives in several countries, fills in gaps in the record regarding Chanel's two intelligence missions to Madrid. The first she performed in exchange for the Nazis returning her ailing nephew from a German POW camp. The second, more well-known Operation Modellhut, a German effort to broker a separate peace with Britain, ended disastrously. Vaughan also explains Chanel's mysterious ability to avoid prosecution as a collaborator after the war, and her attempts to destroy or buy off anyone who might have testified against her. Vaughan gives mainly superficial, clich -ridden attention to Chanel's prewar life, nor does he explore her self-contradictions or hypocrisies such as fiercely asserting her independence while accepting real estate worth millions from one of her serial lovers, the duke of Westminster. Vaughan's at times fascinating but unsatisfying book tarnishes Chanel's aura of glamour, leaving instead a picture of a pathetic, morphine-addicted woman who would do literally anything to have a powerful man by her side.