Forgotten History-Frits Philips

We all know the name and brand. The company which was started as a family business in 1891  by Gerard and his Father Frederik Philips, who owned a cigar shop and was a first cousin of Karl Marx.

Gerard and his younger brother Anton Philips changed the business to a corporation by founding in 1912 the NV Philips’ Gloeilampenfabrieken. As the first CEO of the Philips corporation, Gerard laid with Anton the base for the later Philips multinational.

Hang on I hear you say this is not forgotten history, these are well known and documented facts(except for the Karl Marx link). And you would be right but the title is ‘Forgotten History-Frits Philips’

Frederik Jacques “Frits” Philips (16 April 1905 – 5 December 2005) was the fourth chairman of the board of directors of the Dutch electronics company Philips, which his uncle and father founded. For his actions in saving 382 Jews during the Nazi Occupation of the Netherlands in World War II, he was recognized in 1996 by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations.

Frits Philips was born in the city of Eindhoven in the south of the Netherlands. The second child, he was the only son of Anton Philips and his wife Anne Henriëtte Elisabeth Maria de Jongh.

Born and raised long before many of the products that would make his company a household name had even been developed, Mr. Philips, who was known as Frits, was a successful businessman who was more interested in the common good than the corporate coffers. Mr. Philips, along with his predecessors at the company, helped build houses for company employees along with sports clubs and cultural institutions.

On 18 October 1935 Frits Philips was appointed vice-director and a member of the board of Philips. Learning of the expected occupation of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany in World War II in 1940, his father Anton Philips, young nephew Frans Otten, and other Philips family members escaped from the Netherlands and fled to the United States, taking company capital with them. Frits Philips stayed in the Netherlands. Together they managed to keep the company alive during the war.

From 30 May until 20 September 1943, Philips was held in the concentration camp Vught because of a strike at the Philips factory.

During the Occupation, Philips saved the lives of 382 Jews by convincing the Nazis that they were indispensable for the production process at Philips.

Mr. Philips reportedly tried to hire as many Jews as possible and then told the Nazi occupiers that they were irreplaceable, a strategy that prevented many of them from being sent to Auschwitz.

Of the 469 Jews employed at the factory, 382 survived the war, according to a company history.

Some historians are critical about Mr Frits Philips ,they say he played a double role in the war because its factory production contributed to the German war industry as well.But the fact is that anyone who defied the Nazi regime put their life at risk.

Between 1961 and 1971 Frits Philips served as President of the company, he was to be the last of the Philips family to be a President of Philips.

It’s funny I worked for Philips for a decade and I never knew about Frits’s involvement in saving the lives of 382 Jewish Philips employees.Nor did I know that there was a Family link with Karl Marx.

  • 1965, he was included in the Dutch royal ranks of Orange Nassau (rank of commander).
  • 1970, he was knighted as Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion.

    In his hometown of Eindoven he was simply known as Mr Frits a statue was erected in his honor and a concert hall was named after him.

    Yet more proof that one man can make a difference.

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2 thoughts on “Forgotten History-Frits Philips

  1. Pingback: The Dutch Resistance-WWII | dirkdeklein

  2. Pingback: Operation Oyster-The Bombing of Philips Eindhoven | History of Sorts

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