KLARSFELD STEPS UP ATTACK ON L’OREAL’S BETTENCOURT
Byline: Julie L. Belcove
NEW YORK — Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld wants Andre Bettencourt to resign as president of L’Oreal’s holding company because of his role in the Nazi propaganda machine during World War II.
Klarsfeld, in a press conference here Tuesday, also asked the U.S. Justice Department to ban Bettencourt from entering the U.S., based on his Nazi past.
In a statement released at the press conference, Eli M. Rosenbaum, director of Justice’s Office of Special Investigations, said the agency is reviewing Bettencourt’s eligibility for entry.
The charges stem from 64 articles Bettencourt wrote in La Terre Francaise, a Nazi newspaper, from December 1940 through July 1942. One of his editorials called on French youth to denounce Jews and other perceived enemies of the regime.
Bettencourt’s Nazi ties came to light as part of an ongoing, four-year-old dispute between a former L’Oreal executive, Jean Frydman, and the company regarding alleged anti-Semitism and L’Oreal’s efforts to comply with the Arab boycott.
In his own defense, Bettencourt, now 75 and thought to be the wealthiest man in France, has claimed he saw the mistake he made working for the Gestapo-backed paper and then joined the Resistance. Bettencourt has denied that his decision last fall to step down as vice chairman of L’Oreal was intended to head off a scandal.
“My actions during the Resistance, as well as my entire political past, are the demonstration that I was aware of the error that I had committed in writing the articles in La Terre Francaise, that I have never ceased to publicly regret and for which I will always ask the Jewish community to forgive me,” Bettencourt said in a statement.
Klarsfeld said Bettencourt did not join the Resistance movement until late in the war, and even then, he did not join a fighting unit but went to Switzerland to raise money.