Condom Kaiser: The tragic fate of inventor Julius Fromm

Fromms Act - The world's first brand-name latex condom

Fromms Act - The world's first brand-name latex condom

VIRTUALLY EVERYBODY USES THEM from time to time, but few people are aware of the uplifting and ultimately heart-breaking story that lies behind the world’s most widespread – if not always most loved – contraceptive device: the seamless latex condom.

A new book is about to correct this shortcoming in the English-speaking world. Fromms: How Julius Fromm’s Condom Empire Fell to the Nazis by historian Götz Aly and Spiegel editor Michael Sontheimer is scheduled to appear in American bookshops later this month (the original German-language version appeared in 2007). Aly and Sontheimer have written not just a biography of a man and his revolutionary creation, but also of an era: the rise of a new Jewish middle class in central Europe around 1900 and its subsequent “Aryanization” and extermination at the hands of the Nazi Party.

Humble beginnings

Julius Fromm was born in 1883 as Israel From to a poor eastern Jewish family in the Polish shtetl of Konin, which at that time belonged to the Russian Empire. A decade later the family of eight fled the poverty and hopelessness of anti-Semitic Russia to Germany’s boomtown capital, Berlin. There the family settled in the “Scheunenviertel,” the city’s predominantly Jewish immigrant slum near Alexanderplatz, where they eked out an existence rolling cigarettes at home and selling them in local bars. …

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