John Julius Tomkins


Printer, typographer. Jewish. Born Julius Teicher 5 October 1910 in Leipzig; his father a printer. First trained at the Leipzig School of Printing and Design and, later, in evening classes at the Akademie für grafische Künste (now the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst). Because his parents emigrated to Berlin from Galicia (then Austria, later Poland and, most recently, Ukraine) he was able to obtain a Polish passport which enabled him in 1938 to travel to Denmark for a job interview as Jews could no longer work in Germany. 1938: emigrated from Copenhagen to London where he was able to work for a printer; he later worked for Blackheath Press for 2 years. He was able to get two of his sisters and their families from Germany to London shortly before the war but his remaining two sisters and their families (and many members of Teicher’s family) perished at Auschwitz. His military service took him to Germany; it had earlier been suggested by the British military authorities that he anglicise his name and Teicher decided on John Julius Tomkins. ‘During the second world war I was strongly advised by the British War Office to have my name changed before I went to “Europe” on active service with the British Forces to fight the evil of Hitler’s barbaric atrocities. The concealment of my identity was considered a necessary protective precaution in case I became a prisoner-of-war in Nazi hands when they could use the rest of the family still in Germany as hostages in order to force me into providing them with useful information. Alas, I did not realise then that those of my nearest family still living in Germany were trapped and subsequently perished in the Auschwitz murder camp (blessed be their memory.)’ (Tomkins, p. 2) 1945: ran discussion groups for German prisoners of war in Norfolk (England). 1946: established his own printing company in Hackney (London) which soon developed into the respected designer-printer Graphis Press (Graphis Publicity, the advertising agency, was an offshoot.) The company closed in 1991. Tomkins was on the boards of numerous design organizations such as the Chartered Society of Designers, the Council of Industrial Design (now the British Design Council), and was Chairman of the Society of Typographic Designers. One later form of his name was John-Julius Tomkins-Teicher. Died 8 November 2000 in London.

Writings by

  • Random Reminiscences, 1993 (unpublished).