The New Look: Who was Herr Spatz? Did Coco Chanel Date a Nazi?

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and in times of war, one has to do whatever one needs to survive. In Apple TV+’s ‘The New Look,’ both Christian Dior and Coco Chanel find themselves in precarious situations when they have the Nazi regime standing against them while their loved ones suffer. For Coco Chanel, the effort to save her beloved nephew takes her down a path where she gets more and more entangled with the Nazis. Her relationship with Herr Spatz makes things even more complicated. SPOILERS AHEAD

Coco Chanel’s Relationship with Spatz Went Beyond WWII

The real name of Herr Spatz was Baron Hans Günther von Dincklage. He was a military attaché with the German embassy and was an officer in the German military intelligence. In the 1920s, he was known to have spied on the French fleet. During the Second World War, he was tasked with fostering the Nazi propaganda and was also involved in recruiting spies for the Third Reich. His disarming charm was one of his biggest strengths, right after his ability to anticipate the situation and act preemptively.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

He was married to Maximiliane Henriette Ida von Schoenebeck, who was half Jewish. Considering that, Spatz divorced her right before the Nuremberg Laws came into effect, though the divorce didn’t much affect their relationship. As for his own background, Spatz said he had a British mother (hence his habit of conversing mostly in English), but his background mostly remained a mystery.

When the Nazis took over Paris, Spatz was stationed there, and as part of his mission, was tasked to rope in Coco Chanel, primarily due to the fact that she was on friendly terms with Winston Churchill, which some Nazi officers hoped to use to their advantage, mainly to broker peace. Spatz was around thirteen years younger than Chanel but managed to develop a deep relationship with her.

What worked in Spatz’s favor was Chanel’s own desperation to save her nephew, André Palasse, who was a French soldier held prisoner in a German POW camp. It was in return for saving him that she agreed to work with the Nazis, once making a trip to Madrid with Vera Bate Lombardi, through whom she tried to secure a meeting with Churchill. However, Lombardi outed Chanel and Spatz as German spies, and the meeting never happened.

While saving her nephew’s life may have been the motivation behind the collaboration, according to some sources, Chanel’s reasons for working with the Nazis ran deeper than that. According to former newsman and CIA operative Hal Vaughan, who authored the book ‘Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War,’ Chanel was alleged to be a proper German secret agent with a code name, Westminster. It is also speculated that after the war, when Chanel was arrested under the charges of being a Nazi collaborator, it was a call from Winston Churchill that had her freed.

Image Credit: Paris Match &
Bibliotheque des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, France/ Archives Charmet/ The Bridgeman Art Library

Whatever the circumstances may have been to lead Chanel to take those steps, she never talked about it in public. The time of the Nazi occupation of Paris was remembered as a dark time when everyone was forced to do whatever they could to survive. As far as it was about her romantic connections, when asked why she dated a Nazi officer, Chanel reportedly said that she didn’t check the passports of her lovers. Reportedly, she had also briefly dated SS officer Walter Schellenberg, which got her to secure her apartment in the Ritz.

While Chanel’s relationship with Spatz may have been because she needed him at the time to save her nephew, she later went to him of her own accord. Reportedly, when Chanel fled Paris following the war, she went to Switzerland to join Spatz, who had escaped a year prior. Together, they lived there till 1953 in relative luxury. Following this, Chanel returned to France and eventually made a glorious comeback to the fashion industry. As for Spatz, he maintained his cover of secrecy to avoid being caught and tried for his war crimes. Nothing much is known about his time following his escape from Paris, but it is believed that he died sometime in 1974 in Mallorca, Spain.

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