The Dutch electronics company exec who helped save more than 300 Jews in WWII

“Like Oskar Schindler, Frits used the argument that the Jews he employed were indispensable to company production.”

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December 5, 2016 11:43
2 minute read.
Fritz Philips

Fritz Philips. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

It was fitting for Frederick “Frits” Philips, a future president of the Dutch Philips company, to save more than 300 Jews during the Second World War.

Taking charge of the company that had begun producing light bulbs, he was the one who provided them with the light they needed to survive the war.

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As the rest of his family fled to the United States after the Nazis occupied the Netherlands, Philips said it was his duty to stay behind and help out, both the company and his workers, of which a significant portion were Jewish. They were helping out the German war effort, but their lives were also being saved.

“Like Oskar Schindler, Frits used the argument that the Jews he employed were indispensable to company production,” wrote editors John Forrer‏ and Conor Seyle‏ in “The Role of Business in the Responsibility to Protect.”

A member of the “personal evangelist” Christian movement Oxford Group, Philips segregated the Jews from the rest of the workers, giving them simple tasks as most had no technical background. He even provided for them food rations, which became known as “Philips-prak,” Philips’ mash, based on a Dutch dish of soup, mashed potatoes, carrots and meat.

Fearing that the company’s low production rates would hasten the deportation of the Jewish workers, Philips came up with a scheme to pay the German authorities $2,000,000 for 400 exit visas. The plan, however, never came to fruition.
A devout Christian, Philips did manage to establish a workshop in the Vught concentration camp, once again convincing the authorities of the importance of the Jewish inmates’ work to the Nazi war effort, sparing hundreds of Jewish lives.

At the same time, another member of the Philips Company played a major role in helping to save Jewish people. Dutch businessman Jan Zwartendijk, who had become the acting Dutch consul in Kaunas in 1940, began giving out passes stating that no entry visa was required to arrive in the Dutch colonies in the Caribbean.



The Soviets had agreed to the let the Jewish refugees pass with the Dutch permit, but only if it was accompanied by a Japanese transit visa, which is where Japanese-Consul Chuine Sugihara stepped in, giving out more than 2,000 of those visas.
As a result of their joint efforts, some 6,000 Jewish people were able to escape Europe.

Frits and Zwartendijk didn’t work together, and the Philips president wasn’t even ware of Zwartendijk’s actions until 1997.

In Vught, Philips had segregated 496 Jews for his workshop. He could not delay their deportation indefinitely, but of those deported 382 survived.

He was “a successful businessman who was more interested in the common good than the corporate coffers,” wrote Gregory Crouch in a “New York Times” obituary.

On July 18, 1995, Yad Vashem recognized Frederik J. Philips as Righteous Among the Nations . He died December 5, 2005.

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