Günther Friedländer

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Dr. Günther Friedländer

Günther Friedländer (April 8, 1902 – May 25, 1975) was a pharmacist, botanist, pharmacognos and food chemist, an industrialist of medical products, and the founder of "Teva Pharmaceutical Industries".


1927 - Dr. Günther Friedländer at the Bern University laboratory

Günther Friedländer was born on April 8, 1902 in Kőnigshütte (Chorzów) - Upper Silesia in Germany – a developing coal industry area. His mother Paula from Kober family, and his father Adolf Aron Friedlander, a merchant in the footwear industry. In the year 1912, when Günther was 10 years old, Friedländer family moved from Kőnigshütte, situated in an area polluted with coal dust, west to Ratibor, where a small Jewish community lived. At age of 11, Günther joined the Jewish movement "Blau-Weiss" (Blue-White) in Ratibor area. In parallel to his life-science studies, Günther wrote stories and plays relevant to events occurring around him, to the meaning of life, and about his longing for Palestine and Jerusalem such as: "In our fathers land", "Poem to Jerusalem" ,"Persephone, the Goddess of Spring", "Jacob the dreamer". In 1920 Günther was accepted to Wilhelm Friedrich University, School of Pharmacy in Breslau, and became a member in the Zionist student movement: KJV (Kartell Judieshe Verbindungen) in town. Upon completing the exams and receiving the first science degree, Günther Friedländer went to the University of Bern in Switzerland to do his doctorate studies with Professor Alexandro Tschirch. In July 1927, Günther Friedländer completed his doctorate studies "Summa Cum Laude" and received his doctorate of philosophy degree for his thesis on: "Research in development processes within the field of Pharmacological, botanical and chemical pharmacology". After receiving the Ph.D. degree, Günther returned to Breslau and worked as an assistant of Dr. A. Rop in the University faculty for Pharmacy and acted as the laboratory manager, where he taught the Pharmacy faculty students during their two last semesters in the university. At that time, Günther was working on analytical chemistry research under the supervision of Dr. A Rop. In November 1929, Günther Friedlander received his pharmacist diploma signed by Dr. Shozol, the Prussian Minister for National Welfare. In April 1930, Günther moved to Görlitz in order to manage the pharmacy and laboratory of his aunt Else Kober, named the "Royal Pharmacy in Görlitz – (1883), "Krőnen Apotheke – Görlitz". Else Kober was a First World War widow, and a bereaved mother to her only child. Her husband Max Kober, Günther's uncle and the brother of his mother Paula was a pharmacist and the owner of the pharmacy in Görlitz. He was drafted to the army during the First World War and mortally wounded. In May 31, 1933, four months after the rise of the Nazis to power, and two months following the "humiliating trip" that was forced by the Nazis on the "white collar" professional Jews in Gőrliz, Günther sailed to Palestine to explore and search for the location to establish his pharmaceutical industry to be named "Teva". During his journey in Palestine, he decided to build the company in Jerusalem, and he then returned to Germany. The "Blau-Weiss" movement that Günther was one of its members in Ratibor, advocated going to nature, to know and to love natures' gift and its flora. Since Balfour declaration in 1917, the "Blue-White" movement adopted Zionism values and taught in its spirit. This was a "life changing" event in Günther's life at age of 15. He wrote stories, and poems and a play are related to Erez Israel and directed his life towards Erez Israel to produce there medicine from locally grown plants.

Friedlander's Zionistic activity[edit]

Günther Friedlander (standing third from right second row, holding a guitar) with "Blau-Weiss" movement members. Raciborz 1916

As a student in Wilhelm Friedrich University, Günther belonged and was active in the Zionistic student movement that directed its members to immigrate to Erez Israel in the future. As a pharmacist in Görlitz, he was an active member in the Zionistic circle and gave lectures from time to time. Immediately, when the Nazis came to power and after the "humiliating trip" that he experienced in Görlitz, he decided that the time to act is imminent for immigrating to Erez Israel to establish there a pharmaceutical industry in order to manufacture medical products form local plants. In April 2, 1934, Dr. Friedländer immigrated to Palestine with his first wife Charlotte. A month later, on May 8, 1934 his aunt and partner - Else Kober immigrated as well to Palestine.

Friedländer's vision to name his future pharmaceutical company "Teva"[edit]

"We aspire to assist human nature by means produced from Nature". This sentence Dr. Günther Friedländer wrote in the year 1923, at age of 21, while he "shaped his vision" during the annual conference of the "Blue white" organization held in Hohenberg. At this meeting, movement committee delegates, including Günther Friedländer met with Dr.Chaim Weizmann that told them: "Industry is the basis and foundation for the development of a place. In Palestine there is no industry. You all should prepare for Palestine's needs, which requires specialists like you in applied industry. Go and establish industry there". The two cousins and committee delegates, Kurt Grunwald[1] and Günther Friedländer decided at that time to fulfill Weizmann's order and reacted: "When time comes, we will immigrate to Palestine and build there an industry for medicines in the spirit of "Blue White" and we will name it "Teva" ("Teva" in Hebrew means "Nature"). Teva medical products will be manufactured form local natural materials/minerals and from the plants growing in Palestine - Erez Israel".

At that time, the people who worked as pharmacists in "Erez Israel" had not completed their academic studies and had not received the diploma. In order to assist these workers to achieve the diploma, Dr. Friedländer prepared in May 5, 1934 a memorandum indicating cardinal points that are required for establishing a Clinique and a university institute in Jerusalem that will create the basis for the school of pharmacy, a place where professional courses will be taught to pharmacy students that did not complete their formal studies. Their pharmacy will create the basis of the Hebrew Pharmacopeia.

In April 19.1935 Günther wrote a memorandum to Prof. Otto Warburg, one of the research pioneers of nature in Erez Israel and the manager of the Botanical Department in the Hebrew University. Dr. Friedländer indicated in his memorandum the need for establishing a school of pharmacy in Erez Israel in order to qualify pharmacists to become competent professional workers and provided a plan for Pharmacy school establishment that included various requirements such as: necessities, facilities, facility equipment, teachers and more. Prof. Warburg replied that the advocated plan is too expensive and there is no sufficient budget for such a plan and therefore the plan is not applicable.

Dr. Günther Friedländer and Mrs. Else Kober establish "Teva"- a pharmaceutical company in Jerusalem[edit]

1954 - "Teva" company exported its products to Burma

The "Teva" company was founded by Dr. Günther Friedländer and his aunt Else Kober, In May 1, 1935. Company registered name was: "Teva Middle East Pharmaceutical & chemical Works Co. Ltd. Jerusalem, Palestine". The company was built with an investment of 4,900 pound sterling, part came from private capital and partly from loans intended for German immigrants to establish industries. Credit-shortage lead to the joining of the banker Dr. Alfred Feuchtwanger [2] as a partner in "Teva" with 33% of shares in the company. In 1951, Dr. Feuchtwanger initiated the entrance of "Teva" to the Tel-Aviv stock market as a registered public company. Friedländer used to say during difficult economic times, that a pharmaceutical industry has a strong basis in that: "A Jewish mother will always buy medicine for her children". In the Second World War, the company provided medicine to the allied forces and in particular to the British army present in the Middle East. Within the framework of contacts with the British Mandate regime, Sir Alan Gordon Cunningham, the British high commissioner of Palestine, on behalf of the colonial minister and responsible for the British Mandate, visited Teva. His visit glorified Teva's reputation among the "medicine market" and created a momentum for "Teva" development. In 1959 - The pharmaceutical section of the "Israeli Manufacturer's Association" performed a survey grading the pharmaceutical companies in Israel according to several measures. "Teva Company" from Jerusalem was graded in the first place. Survey results proved that the market likes "Teva" products, many of them were developed by Dr. Friedländer and his staff. "Teva" workers pride was raised, and they felt there is a reward for their initiative, ideas and strict performance and appreciation for company excellent man-power. During the Second World War and until the termination of the British mandate regime, "Teva" exported its medical products to Arabic countries. In 1941 - Dr. Friedländer presented the "Teva" company products in an exhibition held in Cairo - Egypt. The exhibition was sponsored by the "General Agent and Sole Distribution of medicine in Egypt and Sudan, Syria and Lebanon. Later on, the "Teva" company exported its products to the United States, Soviet Union (USSR), health institutes in Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Persia and Burma. In 1954 - "Teva" company received from the Israeli President Mr. Yitzhak Ben Zvi the certificate of "Company Excellence". Dr. Friedländer emphasized the importance of education and training of Teva personnel for the various operations as demanded by the pharmaceutical industry as well as on achieving broader knowledge and participation in various courses held outside the company. In 1964 – Contacts between the "Teva" company and other companies were developed. These included contacts with "Sintex Company" from Mexico, "Schering Plough" and others.

Pharmaceuticals produced by Dr. Friedländer and his staff[edit]

Optalgin - A product for reducing fever and for pain relief. The product name "Optalgin" as given by Dr. Friedländer was derived from the two words: "Optimum" and "Analgesic".

Bitupal - Compounds intended for treating various dermatological skin diseases that were administered as liquid, ointment and cream, such as Leuko-Bitupal- Cordelta (L.B.C) cream. Bitupal products were produced from bitumen (asphaltite) rocks that were removed from the Dead Sea. In 1959 - The Bitupal product was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for marketing in the US market. The name "Bitupal" for the products was derived from the two words: bitumen & Palestine. Since 1959, the bitumen (asphalt) was collected from the Dead Sea by the members of Kibbutz "Ein Gedi" and transported to "Teva" in Jerusalem.

Anova - A product for combined therapy and Madinon-S for sequential therapy, two hormone products administered for the inhibition of ovulation and regulation of the menstrual cycle.

Foliandrin - A glycoside extracted from the Nerium oleander plant and prepared as drops, tablets and suppositories. Product indications: as a cardiac stimulant and diuretic in cases of heart failure, myocardial insufficiency, myocarditis, auricular flutter and fibrillation, edema due to impaired pectoris, and acute infectious myocarditis.

Dystonal - A product for treating muscular tension.

Penbritin - Antibiotic from the penicillin family intended for treating bacterial infections, administered as a capsule.

Research project collaborations[edit]

In 1966, research collaboration of different projects was started between Dr. Friedländer and "Teva" company staff and the Hebrew University and two hospitals. These involved the development of the following products and projects:

▪ Phenyl-Ethylacetyl-salicylate.

▪ Erythromycin Embonate.

▪ Research collaboration with "Tel Hashomer" hospital - involved Clinical observations of patient's response to Leuko Bitupal Cordelata cream (L.B.C) treatment that were conducted by Prof. L. Ziperkovsky[3] and Dr. A. Feinstein.

▪ With the initiative of Prof. Arie Dostrovsky[4] and Zagher, broad clinical observations of patient's response to Bitupal product's treatment were carried out. The clinical observations were guided by Prof. Katzenellenbogen from Tel Aviv Hadassah hospital.

Late years[edit]

In the mid-sixties, Else Kober, Dr. Friedländer's aunt and partner sold her company "controlling holder shares" that represented a 1/3 of Teva value to the "Bank of Industry Development". From now on the partners in "Teva" were Dr. Günther Friedländer and Dr. Alfred Feuchtwanger and the "Bank of Industry Development". In the year 1967, "Teva" company, located in Beit - Vegan neighborhood of Jerusalem manufactured 250 different products. Scope of manufacturing was 9 million Israeli pounds, scope of export was 1.75 million Israeli pounds and the annual dividend payment to shareholders was 8%. Dr. Friedländer and Else Kober decided at that time to move the company from Beit-Vegan neighborhood that was at a growing stage, to another suitable industrial area. The authorities gave "Teva" considered as a required industry 4.25 acres at convenient payment terms in the area of "Tamir mountain" in Jerusalem in order to build the new company. In the Tel-Aviv stock market, representatives of "Asia-Zori" company constantly bought "Teva' shares and as a consequence, a change in the holder share controllers, occurred. Dr. Alfred Feuchtwanger decided to exit from its partnership and sold his shares of control to "Asia-Zori" company. The "Bank of Industrial Development" decided to exit from its partnership and to sell their controlled shares" in a bid. Dr. Friedländer's power at "Teva" became weaker. He wished to keep "Teva", "The apple of his eye" under his ownership and approached the bid together with Dr. Reuben Hecht, but they lost. "Asia-Zori" company offered a higher price and won the bid. From now on, "Asia-Zori" company owned 66% of "Teva" shares. When Friedländer heard the bid results, he had a stroke. In November 1968, Friedländer sold his shares to "Asia-Zori" company and retired. In May 25, 1975 – Dr. Friedländer died and was buried in Jerusalem.

Public activities[edit]

Between the years 1930 – 1934, Dr. Friedländer was active in Zionistic Circles in Görlitz. Since 1935- and further he was active in the organization of the German and Central Europe immigrants. Between the years 1950 – 1953, he was a member in the team establishing the School of Pharmacy[5] in Jerusalem and for creating the school image. During the fifties and sixties of the twenties century, Dr. Günther Friedländer acted as the representative of the pharmaceutical industry in the "Israeli Manufacturer's Association".

Private life[edit]

In 1931 Günther married Charlotte Mühsam and had together two children. After 24 years Günther and Charlotte divorced. In May 1945, Günther married Johanna (Hansi) Singer from the Cohen family, a mother to her son from her first marriage. Together they had one daughter.


On September 14, 2016, a circle was inaugurated in the name of Dr. Günther Friedländer

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries concern LTD. grants every second year the "Teva founder's prize" to scientist for Excellency. Among them an award in the name of Dr. Friedländer is given. On September 14, 2016, a circle located at the intersection between the streets Haklai and Shachrai in Bait-Vegan neighborhood was inaugurated in the name of Dr. Günther Friedländer: "The founder of Teva, the pioneer of the pharmaceutical industry in Israel".

Further reading[edit]


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