Bitter Scent: The Case Of L’Oreal, Nazis, And The Arab Boycott

by Michael Bar-Zohar
Dutton, $23.95

Once Jean Frydman, a Jew, held a high-ranking position on the board of the multi-million dollar cosmetics company L’Oreal. Then the Arab Boycott Bureau—adamant that merchandisers doing business in Arab lands sever all ties with Israel—pressured L’Oreal to oust him. Asked to resign, Frydman charged L’Oreal with racial discrimination, and the legal battles that ensued revealed L’Oreal’s long history of anti-Semitic affiliations, not only with Arabs but with the Nazis as well.

In this book, journalist Michael Bar-Zohar recounts Frydman’s investigation into the events surrounding his resignation. Hidden in the stacks of French libraries and bookstores, Frydman discovered the secret Nazi past of three L’Oreal officials and one French president, Francois Mitterand, who engaged in activities ranging from furnishing the Nazis with weapons to generating anti-Semitic propaganda.

Frydman declared to the press, “I am not fighting a company or its products, I am fighting the men who own it. L’Oreal’s products are not Nazi products. I have nothing against L’Oreal, the fine cosmetics company. My struggle is against the parallel L’Oreal, the one that became a safe haven for Nazi criminals and yielded to the boycott.” These troubling remarks, which Bar-Zohar reports without comment, are symptomatic of a split consciousness: one Frydman who perceives the inherent racism of L’Oreal as abhorrent, and a parallel Frydman whose protective instincts for his former workplace were not dulled by its acts of betrayal.