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December 5: Frits Philips, a Righteous Dutchman

December 5, 2015

3098413830Frits Philips, who headed the Dutch electronics company Philips and saved thousands of Jews during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands by requisitioning their labor, died at 100 on this date in 2005. While most of his family fled the Nazis to the United States, Philips stayed and kept the company alive. He had a reputation as a populist capitalist who was friendly with his workers and generous with his profits. Philips was imprisoned in the Vught concentration camp because of an anti-Nazi strike at his factory, but was eventually released. In 1996, he was recognized by Yad Vashem as among the Righteous Among the Nations for his actions on behalf of Dutch Jews. In 1999, he was named “Dutch entrepreneur of the century.” In the 1980s, he was active in helping to smooth relations between rising Japanese firms and Western corporations and in introducing a “stakeholder” philosophy to corporate governance. In 1986, he founded the Caux Round Table, devoted to corporate social responsibility.

“Philips... did not buy into the Nazi philosophy regarding Jews. The safety, and rescue, of Philips’ Jewish employees became a major concern as the Nazi tide rolled over Europe. At its Austrian subsidiary, all the Jewish workers were sheltered, declared essential to the war effort, and all survived under Philips’ protection. At its subsidiary in Lithuania, Philips’ executives provided visas to Curaçao for Polish and Baltic Jews in its employ. This despite regulations promulgated by the Nazi regime in Holland forbidding Dutch-based companies from aiding Jews in any manner, Philips managed to rescue nearly five thousand.” —Richard Hammer, Yaron Svoray, Blood from a Stone