Non­fic­tion

Fromms: How Julius From­m’s Con­dom Empire Fell to the Nazis

Götz Aly and Michael Son­theimer; Shel­ley Frisch, trans.
  • Review
By – September 8, 2011

This is the remark­able sto­ry of a pros­per­ous Jew­ish-Ger­man immi­grant fam­i­ly whose leader found­ed and shrewd­ly devel­oped a suc­cess­ful indus­tri­al busi­ness in pre- World War II Ger­many only to see it stolen away dur­ing the Nazi régime. Julius Fromm’s con­tri­bu­tion was to take advan­tage of the rub­ber vul­can­iza­tion process in new ways, pro­duc­ing a pro­phy­lac­tic prod­uct far supe­ri­or to any made before. Fromms Act” con­doms were extreme­ly pop­u­lar, and Fromm’s pro­duc­tion facil­i­ties were trendsetting. 

The authors reveal, through the metic­u­lous­ly kept records of the Third Reich, the eco­nom­ic side of anti-Semi­tism, trac­ing the step-by- step Aryaniza­tion” of Fromm’s wealth, prop­er­ty rights, and busi­ness. The sto­ry of the strained legalisms by which an entrepreneur’s vision and indus­try were con­fis­cat­ed is less hor­ri­fy­ing than exter­mi­na­tion camp nar­ra­tives, but it is con­sis­tent with such stories. 

Aly and Son­theimer adroit­ly present the social changes behind Fromm’s suc­cess: increased aware­ness about sex­u­al health, lib­er­al­ized sex­u­al mores, and the desire for fam­i­ly plan­ning. They also note that Fromm’s self-image as a thor­ough­ly Ger­man cit­i­zen-inno­va­tor did lit­tle to save him from Hitler’s grand plan. From exile in Eng­land, he watched the theft of his life’s work. Many of his rel­a­tives died in the camps. This read­able book presents its find­ings eco­nom­i­cal­ly and with a fine nar­ra­tive flair. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, geneal­o­gy, index, notes, photographs.

Philip K. Jason is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of Eng­lish at the Unit­ed States Naval Acad­e­my. A for­mer edi­tor of Poet Lore, he is the author or edi­tor of twen­ty books, includ­ing Acts and Shad­ows: The Viet­nam War in Amer­i­can Lit­er­ary Cul­ture and Don’t Wave Good­bye: The Chil­dren’s Flight from Nazi Per­se­cu­tion to Amer­i­can Free­dom.

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