New Internationalist

L’Oreal Took My Home

May 2007

An intriguing story, spoiled by botched presentation.

In his introduction to this book, the famous Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld sets the scene for Monica Waitzfelder’s true story of her family’s suffering during and after World War Two. Monica’s grandparents were affluent German Jews, living in some style in a large house in the industrial city of Karlsruhe. In 1937, as the Nazis intensified their persecution, the family abandoned their home and fled to France. Monica’s grandparents were captured and both perished in concentration camps. Monica’s mother, Edith, evaded detention and eventually settled in Brazil. After the war, the house in Karlsruhe was bought – in a deal of questionable legality – by the transnational cosmetics company, L’Oreal, which subsequently used it as their German head office.

Throughout Monica’s childhood in Brazil, her mother repeatedly told her, ‘L’Oreal took my home’. When she returned to Europe as an adult, Monica decided to investigate. For years her inquiries were ignored by L’Oreal and even when she eventually unearthed paperwork irrefutably proving her family’s ownership of the property, the company replied with obfuscation and legalese.

Unfortunately, Monica is so convinced of her case, she writes in a shrill, hectoring tone throughout and makes little attempt to engage the reader. The book is verbose and repetitive – it would have made far more impact as a short, punchy article. It also lacks any sort of conclusion; Monica is pursuing the case in the European Court of Human Rights, but we are not told of the outcome of this action. L’Oreal took My Home is an intriguing story, spoiled by botched presentation.

Peter Whittaker

This column was published in the May 2007 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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  1. #1 Shmuel Halevi 15 Sep 13

    I read this book!! 'L'Oreal Took My Home' back in 2007, I am still interested to know whether Monica Waitzfelder (daughter of Edith Rosenfelder) managed to secure in the end from L'Oreal their rightful inheritance of the property stolen from them by the Nazis and made available to the L'Oreal Cosmetic Empire, or at least some recognition of wrong doing together with at least some compensation.

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