I stumbled across the name of Dr Gabriel Beaurieux. In 1905, he arranged to attend the execution of the murderer, Henri Languille. Shortly after the blade severed Languille’s head, Beaurieux noted a frightening observation:
The eyelids and lips of the guillotined man worked in irregularly rhythmic contractions for about five or six seconds. (After several seconds), the spasmodic movements ceased… It was then that I called in a strong, sharp voice: “Languille!” I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions – I insist advisedly on this peculiarity – but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts. [Link]
During World War II (1939–45), Coco Chanel closed Maison Chanel — leaving only jewellry and parfumerie — and moved to the Hôtel Ritz Paris with boyfriend Hans Günther von Dincklage, a Nazi intelligence officer. Upon conquering France in June of 1940, the Nazis established their headquarters in the Hôtel Meurice, just around the corner from Maison Chanel still at 31 rue Cambon. The Jewish Wertheimer and family had fled to the U.S. in mid-1940. In 1941 Coco Chanel unsuccessfully attempted to assume full control of Parfums Chanel. Having foreseen the Nazi policy of seizure-and-expropriation to Germany of Jewish assets in France, Wertheimer had in May 1940 designated Felix Amiot, a French Catholic industrialist, as the “Aryan” proxy. His control of Parfums Chanel proved politically acceptable to the Nazis, who allowed the perfume company to continue operating.
Coco Chanel was a Nazi collaborator and anti-Semite; she became secret agent 7124 of the Abwehr, code-named “Westminster”. By order of General Walter Schellenberg, of the Sicherheitsdienst, Chanel was despatched to London to communicate to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill the particulars of a “separate peace” plan proposed by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, who sought to avoid surrendering to the Red Army late in the war. At war’s end Chanel was arrested as a collaborator. In September 1944, the Free French Purge Committee, the épuration, interrogated her about her actions. Absent documentary evidence or witnesses and given Churchill’s secret intervention on her behalf, the épuration released her. The rumours of Chanel’s collaboration made it unsafe for her to remain in France; she and von Dincklage chose an eight-year exile to Switzerland.