Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War

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Click for availability and more information Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War , by Hal Vaughan
Since her accession to iconic status in the fashion world, Coco Chanel has represented, with her name alone, a unique and enduring style equaled by very few other designers. Coco Chanel led a life incorporating a highly-driven work ethic, terrific creativity and a personal life associated with royalty, politicians and other mufti-faceted characters. Yet, Chanel's true activities living in Paris during the Nazi occupation has been shrouded in shadows. Hal Vaughan's Sleeping with the Enemy is an investigation into Chanel's relationship with the German occupiers in France and his findings show how she did indeed collaborate with the Nazis in spite of her denials after the war of doing so.

Vaughan covers her early years and rise to great success in Paris. Chanel enjoyed a string of lovers, many of whom were in positions of power. Perhaps her greatest success was the introduction of her perfume Chanel No. 5. She did partner with the Wertheimer Brothers to have her perfume manufactured and, while she did receive stock in their company, they retained both control of the product and a large percentage of the profits. She later regretted making this arrangement and wanted to gain more control of her perfume business.

When the Germans took Paris, Vaughan shows how Chanel began an enduring affair with Baron Hans Gunther Dincklage, a leading spy for the Nazi government. Using French, German and English archives, Vaughan details her collaboration with the Germans. Her main goal was to finally get control of the Wertheimer's company using the Nazi program of ridding the Jewish presence in French companies. Ultimately, she failed in her effort. After the war, she was interrogated by French authorities regarding her relationships with the Germans. During those proceedings, she cleverly hid the truth and was never convicted of treason to France, as so many of collaborators were.

Sleeping with the Enemy is very interesting reading; particularly for those interested in Chanel's life, how she did work with the Germans and escaped being labeled as a traitor to France. Vaughan is also skillful in writing about Paris and Parisian society both before and during the war. This book is recommended.

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This page contains a single entry published on September 13, 2011 5:54 PM.

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