After training as a machine fitter, Franz Ehrlich worked until 1926 as a machinist and boilerman. Starting in 1927, he studied at the Bauhaus in Dessau and initially attended the preliminary course with László Moholy-Nagy. His other teachers were Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Joost Schmidt.
Even during his Bauhaus period, Franz Ehrlich worked together with Walter Gropius on the Total Theatre project of Erwin Piscator and became engaged in sculpture and typography. Until the summer semester of 1930, he was involved in the sculpture workshop with Joost Schmidt and passed his journeyman’s examination as a carpenter at the Chamber of Crafts Dessau during the winter semester of 1929/1930. In the following year, he received his Bauhaus diploma from the sculpture workshop. Directly after receiving his concluding Bauhaus diploma in 1933, he followed Walter Gropius to Berlin. Together with the Bauhäusler Heinz Loew and Fritz Winter, they opened the Studio Z advertising office. In addition, he also intermittently worked at the studio of Naum Gabo.
Because of his Communist involvement – among other things, he was the graphic designer for the illegal Junge Garde (Young Guard) magazine starting in 1933 – he was arrested in Leipzig in 1934. During his time in prison in 1935, he created the series called Blätter aus der Haft (Sheets from Prison). Starting in 1937, the location of his imprisonment was changed to the Buchenwald concentration camp where his profession as an architect saved his life: He was forced to work and commissioned to design the interior decoration for the residence of the SS camp commander. He subsequently received further commissions from the SS, including the creation of the lettering “To each his own” for the gate of the concentration camp.
After the end of the Second World War, Franz Ehrlich worked as an urban planner and architect in Dresden. Starting in 1950, he was the technical director of the Design Office for Industrial Construction of the GDR in Berlin. Among other things, he designed the first Leipzig trade fair after 1945. In 1955, Ehrlich became the architect of the GDR Ministry for Foreign Trade and designed the interior decoration for numerous GDR foreign embassies and trade missions. One of the architectural highlights of his career is the Broadcasting Centre in Berlin-Köpenick, which he designed and built together with Gerhard Probst. Starting in 1956, the 602 furniture series was produced at the Deutsche Hellerau Werkstätten (German Workshops of Hellerau) according to his design.
Fürst, Dietrich (Hg.): Vom Baukünstler zum Komplexprojektanten: Architekten in der DDR, Erkner 2000
Galerie am Sachsenplatz (Hg.): Bauhaus 4. Franz Ehrlich – die frühen Jahre, Leipzig 1980, S. 4
Stiftung Gedenkstätten Buchenwald und Mittelbau-Dora (Hg.): Projekte: Franz Ehrlich. Ein Bauhäusler in Widerstand und Konzentrationslager. 2009