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Felix Zandman, 83, Global Entrepreneur

July 7, 2011
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Felix Zandman

In order to elude the Nazis, Felix Zandman, then a teenager, spent 17 months in a tiny pit dug beneath the home of a Polish family.

Among the five people sharing the cramped space was Zandman's uncle. Zandman later recalled that to pass the time, the two would work on advanced mathematical problems -- without pen and paper.

That training came in handy. Zandman went on to earn degrees in mechanical engineering and physics and become a major figure in the electronics industry. He founded Vishay Intertechnology, one of the world's largest manufacturers of discrete semiconductors.

On Monday, the Malvern-based firm announced the June 4 passing of its 83-year-old founder and executive chairman.

"I am deeply proud of the many contributions my father made to Vishay, this industry and Israel," said Marc Zandman, who will assume his father's role on Vishay's board.

Zandman once told the Jewish Exponent that his biggest regret in life was not moving to Israel after World War II. The ardent Zionist set up Vishay in Israel back in 1969, several years before other hi-tech firms did the same and decades before Israel's start-up sector really took off.

He was also involved in local Jewish causes, giving to the Akiba Hebrew Academy, now named after Jack M. Barrack, which Zandman's children attended. He also once served as the president of the local chapter of the American Society for Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

He was born in the Polish city of Grodno, but named his firm after his grandparents' Lithuanian town. After the war, he went to France and earned a Ph.D. at the University of Paris, Sorbonne. He settled in Philadelphia in 1956 and established Vishay in 1962. Today, the firm is a Fortune 1,000 Company with 22,000 employees and facilities in the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Jewish state.

He published scientific papers and three textbooks. In 1995, he penned an autobiography, Never the Last Journey. Zandman wrote that he'd always had difficulty recounting his experiences of the Shoah, even to those closest to him. He wrote that "talking about it all became harder and harder. When I tried, I felt tremors." Writing about it proved easier.

Zandman also wrote that he hoped his book would convince more people of the wisdom of investing in the Israeli economy.

In addition to his son Marc, Zandman is survived by his wife, Ruta Zandman, and his daughters, Gisele Zandman Goddard and Ariele Zandman Klausner, and nine grandchildren.

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