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- L’Oréal founder Eugène Schueller is widely reported to have been a fascist sympathizer.
- Schueller’s far-right political beliefs and wartime participation in a fascist organization are likely connected to the fact that his company flourished during Nazi Germany’s occupation of France.
- The businessman also likely bankrolled a secret campaign to overthrow France’s republican government, given his close connection to French fascist Eugène Deloncle.
The initiation would take place around a table draped with a French flag. After swearing to remain obedient and guard the secrets of the society and its leadership, the new initiates would raise their right arms and recite the oath: "Ad majorem Galliæ gloriam." For the greater glory of France.
The participants in this ritual weren’t anonymous nobodies. Many of them were wealthy businessmen, senior military officers, or well-connected members of society.
They had power. They had money. They were fascists, or at least fascist sympathizers. Some were nationalists who had been persuaded that a communist invasion was imminent. Others sought to overthrow the republic and usher in their own authoritarian government.
To achieve their goal, these men plotted to use their considerable resources to spread fear throughout France and beyond. They bombed factories and, later, synagogues. They fostered connections with foreign dictatorships. Their stores of weapons and ammunition piled up, and so did the bodies. The secret society had no compunction about slaying political enemies and perceived traitors alike, as historians Annette Finley-Croswhite and Gayle K. Brunelle detail in the book "Murder in the Métro: Laetitia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France."
The whole thing reads like a political thriller, but it’s exactly what happened in France in the tumultuous years leading up to the Second World War.
The secret society called themselves the Comité Secret D’Action Révolutionnaire — or the Secret Committee of Revolutionary Action (CSAR). When their crimes spilled out into the public sphere, the press dubbed them La Cagoule, or "The Hood."
The group wouldn’t have been able to carry out its string of violent acts without financial backing from a number of industrialists. One such businessman was almost certainly L’Oréal founder Eugène Schueller, a pharmacist-turned-entrepreneur who had made a fortune after inventing a new hair dye, according to the Smithsonian magazine. L’Oréal declined to comment on its founder’s beliefs.
The rise of La Cagoule demonstrates the volatile, simmering nature of French politics between the two world wars. And the fact that Schueller emerged unscathed after nurturing a deadly campaign of terror is a testament to the inoculating powers of wealth and influence:
So what does does the founder of one of the world’s most famous cosmetic companies have to do with all this murder and mayhem?
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Schueller came from a middle-class background, the son of pastry shop owners. He went into chemistry and struck it big in 1908 when he developed a new hair dye formula, oftentimes trying the dye on his own hair.
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He named the new product L’Oréal, a pun on the French word for "halo." By the 1930s, Schueller was making a killing by embracing "new marketing methods," according to "A History of the International Chemical Industry."
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