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.