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Former head of Dutch electronics Philips giant helped save Jews

End of family dynasty with death

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - The former head of Dutch electronics giant Philips who helped save the lives of hundreds of Jewish workers during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in World War II, has died at the age of 100.

Frits Philips, the last of the family dynasty to lead the electronics group, died on December 5. His brother-in-law, H.A.C. van Riemsdijk who succeeded him as the company’s CEO, had died four weeks earlier at age 94.

The son of Philips Electronics co-founder Anton Philips was chief executive of the firm between 1961 and 1971, the fourth CEO of the company after his uncle Gerard, father Anton and brother-in-law Frans Otten.

During World War II, Frits Philips stayed behind in German-occupied the Netherlands, while other family members fled to North America.

During the war when Philips supplied electronics to Germany, he secured positions at his factory in the Vught prison camp for as many Jews as possible, delaying their deportation to the Auschwitz death camp.


Frits Philips was imprisoned after a strike against Nazi policies and was awarded the Yad Vashem medal by Israel in 1995 for his efforts to save Jewish workers - almost 380 prisoners survived out of 496 who worked at his factory. Philips who had Jewish ancestry, always maintained he was no hero and that many others had helped to save the lives.

To Yad Vashem, Frits Philips risked his own life to save his Jewish workers and “showed extraordinary courage in the face of terrible circumstances."

Under his tenure the firm introduced the compact audio cassette and started work on what later became the compact disc.

After his retirement from the executive management board in 1971, Frits was chairman of the non-executive board until 1977.

The company started out as a light bulb producer in 1891 and from there it expanded into X-ray technology and radio and TV electronics.

Philips is the world's biggest lighting maker, a top three hospital equipment maker, Europe's biggest consumer electronics producer and the region's number three in semiconductors.