Friday, January 25, 2008
HENRY FROEHLICH, 1922 ~ 2008
The photographic community, his family and friends mourn the passing of
Henry Froehlich, one of the true pioneers and leaders of the
photographic industry in the 20th Century. He died peacefully on
January 24th at the age of 85.
Born Hans Froehlich, August 7, 1922, in the town of Rottweil, Germany, his memoirs indicate that he grew up in a loving family in a picturesque setting. Germany, however, was in economic chaos after the war, and at the age of 5 he learned his first big lesson in business and writes: “My own child bank account, which I proudly kept track of in a diary, had several hundred marks on deposit. When I found out that this would not even buy an ice cream cone, I knew my first economic lesson – I was wiped out.”
Life in Nazi Germany became increasingly difficult for Jewish families. In 1937 the Froehlich's moved to Stuttgart where there was a more sizeable Jewish community. Trying to make a living as a teenager, he worked as a retail assistant in his father's shoe store, then as a paper hanger in the summer, and a mattress maker in the winter. He writes “And then it happened. My boss told me one morning that he could not continue with me as an apprentice as he received jobs which required his certifying that he had no Jewish employees. It was either keeping me on and lose jobs, or let me go, and stay in business.”
During "Kristallnacht", Henry's father was taken away to a concentration camp. He writes that “I rode my Yellow Bicycle to travel all over and warn Jewish men to get away from their homes as fast as possible.” His family was separated and never completely reunited again.
In 1940 he was allowed to leave Germany with 10 DM, the equivalent of $4 and was able to enter the United States. “I had exactly 38 cents in US currency left, after having spent some of the $4 getting to Italy and some on the ship.”
Although he planned to become a writer, and even brought his Alder typewriter from Germany, things didn't turn out that way especially after he realized it would take him some time to learn to speak, read and write English. He also brought along “my little Agfa camera and some film”.
After some time, Froehlich was able to join up with his mother and brother Max in Philadelphia, PA, where he held a number of jobs, often at the same time in order to make ends meet.
He took his first job in the photo business with a company called Landes Brothers who manufactured “bank lights” where he worked as an assembler. As he states in his memoirs “somewhere along the way, I started an import/export business”. Henry was among the first to recognize the potential in photographic products made in Japan. He concentrated his efforts on Japanese companies that had good quality products but lacked US representation. The rest is history.
Froehlich founded Konica Camera Company in Philadelphia in 1951, having previously acquired the sole U.S. distribution rights for Konica cameras from Konishiroku Photo Industry Company, Ltd. of Tokyo, Japan.
As one of the pioneers who introduced Japanese quality cameras into the United States after World War II, he participated actively in the Japanese Camera Inspection Institute's U.S. "Japanese Camera Center" to conduct industry wide promotions and create consumer acceptance for Japanese cameras.