Julius Fromm

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Julius Fromm (4 March 1883 – 12 May 1945) was a German entrepreneur of Polish-Jewish descent, a chemist and inventor of a process for making condoms from liquified rubber.

Biography[edit]

Fromm was born in Konin, Poland, which was part of the Russian Empire at the time. When he was ten years old his family left for Berlin in search of a better life there. There, the family made a living by rolling cigarettes as many Eastern European Jews of Berlin did at the time. Julius's parents died young, so he was forced to take care of himself and his six siblings from the age of fifteen. As mechanization gradually replaced manual production, Fromm started attending evening classes in chemistry.

With World War I, Germany experienced a rapid liberalization of sexual values and sexually transmitted diseases spread rapidly. During this time, the majority of condoms were still made of "skin": chemically treated intestine or bladder.[1] Rubber condoms were also available; they were made by wrapping raw rubber sheets around molds, then dipping them in a solution to vulcanize the rubber.[2] In 1912, Fromm invented the cement dipping method, which made a thinner, seamless condom.[3] Instead of working with rubber as a solid material, it was mixed with gasoline or benzene. This made it a liquid in which molds could be dipped.[4] Fromm patented his invention in 1916. Mass production started in 1922 and was a great success—Fromms Act, as they were called, becoming the first brand-name condoms—which allowed the entrepreneur soon to open up branches in Denmark, the United Kingdom, Poland, and the Netherlands. Fromms became a synonym for condom in Germany. In 1920 Fromm was naturalized a German citizen.[5] In 1928, the first condom vending machines were installed by Fromm's company, but the interior ministry only allowed it to advertise the hygienic advantages of condoms, not the condom's use as a contraceptive, because it feared a further decrease of the birth rate.

In 1938, however, under Nazi rule, the government forced Fromm to sell his factories for 116,000 Reichsmark, a fraction of their real value, to Baroness Elisabeth von Epenstein, Hermann Göring's godmother. In return Epenstein gave two castles, Veldenstein and Mauterndorf, to Göring. A year later he emigrated to London, where he died on 12 May 1945. Fromm's estate, which was worth the equivalent of approximately 30 million Euros, had already been auctioned off on 17 May 1943 for 2,255 Reichsmark, though many items including a grand piano, plates, and his library had already been bought or stolen before.

Fromms' factory in Köpenick was almost completely destroyed by Allied Air raids, the remaining machinery was shipped to the Soviet Union, as it lay in the Soviet sector of Berlin. The Friedrichshagen factory continued to produce condoms, especially for the Red Army. The factories would have been returned to Fromm's family according to the Potsdam Agreement, however the company was nationalized by the Communist government, as Julius Fromm was regarded a “Jewish proprietor, capitalist exploiter, anti-social, anti-labour and pro-Nazi”.[5]

In East Germany Fromms condoms were produced by the Volkseigener Betrieb "Plastina", the brand was renamed to "Mondos".[5]

in West Germany, Julius Fromm's son Herbert Fromm was forced to pay 174,000 Marks to Otto Metz-Randa for the rights to the name Fromm. Metz-Randa had acquired these rights after the death of Göring's godfather, and managed to transform himself from a profiteer of "Entjudung" to a victim of the National Socialist regime.[5] Herbert Fromm licensed a Bremen company to produce Fromms condoms, which—now called Mapa—produces them to the present day.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Collier, Aine (2007). The Humble Little Condom: A History. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. pp. 134–135, 157, 219. ISBN 978-1-59102-556-6. 
  2. ^ Collier, p.148.
  3. ^ "Rubbers haven't always been made of rubber". Billy Boy: The excitingly different condom. Retrieved 2006-09-09. 
  4. ^ Collier, p.200.
  5. ^ a b c d The Great Rubber Robbery: How Julius Fromm’s Condom Empire Fell to the Nazis

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]