The Whelk – John Leavitt

August 4, 2010

A Review?

Filed under: Other, Words — Tags: — John Leavitt @ 8:52 pm

So I did this review for Carnal Nation like 3 months ago so I figure I can post it. if not e-mail me! Or not.

Fromms: How Julius Fromm’s Condom Empire Fell To The Nazis
by Gotz Aly and Micheal Sontheimer
Translated by Shelly Frisch

Other Press, $23.95 240 pages.

You ever hear of green washing? It’s a marketing term wherein a product is spun with a veneer of being Eco-Friendly when in fact they’re not particularly ecological and/or are actively harming the environment. The iconic examples are the notices in hotels asking you to re-use towels or logos being changed to look more nature-friendly. (In breast cancer research this is known as pink washing and the iconic example is the KFC Pink Bucket , although you could argue there is a breast-breast connection there but I don’t want to cause thinking about it makes me sad.) I’m not saying this book is actively harming safe-sex practices cause that’s absurd but the book is hoping the condom-sex-nazi connection draws you into what is a fairly dry and fitfully entertaining account.

The basics. Condoms? Are they weird? They are. They used to be made from sheep intestines! Ew! But then Goodyear invented artificial rubber and World War One and soldiers just kept getting syphilis and dying which is just embarrassing for everyone involved. Religious people didn’t like them cause they stopped people having kids all the time (and since we’re in Germany they get to have fun names like the Reich Anti-Smut Campaign Bureau Of Protestant Young Men’s Associations Of Germany) so they had to be marketed as preventing sickness and death (and not smell like a factory) and they had special coupons you could cut out and slip to the chemist that said “I’d like some condom please.” cause seriously who hasn’t been there, right? Julius Fromm is born in poverty and Hortio Algars his way into being a captain of industry right before the Nazis show up and decide he’s not a citizen and his modern rubber factories would go great with that shiny new army their building.

The condom angle is just wrapping – the first few sections on the history of condoms and rubber manufacturing are amusing but wikipedia thin – It’s not the story the book is really about. Fromms sets out to tell one story, the story of how a single family was completely and legally pillaged by a government. In some ways the restraint is admirable, too often books like these lose the plot entirely by trying to make the connection between their subject matter and the entire gamut of human existence (Coming soon Grit: How Sand Made The World!) but I’d like to draw your eyes up to the top of this article. See that $23.95? That’s real whole American dollars You could buy lunch with that.. That’s a considerable wad of dough for an already thinnish story liberally padded with photographs and wide margins. No wonder they had the push the Sexy sex button. It’s readable enough and well-researched, I just kept feeling like I should be taking notes for a term paper.

Still, if you want to read a how Nazi Germany took down an entire industry almost overnight and how a government can, with endless legal mojo de-nationalize a citizen and seize their assets or read about how an wealthy German-Jewish family dealt with the increasing Nazification and fascism and then exile then this is exactly the book for you. If you don’t, well I dunno, go eat a bucket of fired chicken or something, just remember to be safe out there.

-John Leavitt

Other Reviews For Carnal Nation


The Forbidden Apple

We Did Porn

How Sex Works

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