The Wolfsburg Volkswagenwerk
Model of the Volkswagen Factory as proposed in
In May of 1937 the German Government established a company to build
Ferdinand Porsche’s Volkswagen. The Name of the Company was
Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens, which
directly translated means "Society for
the preparation of the German Volkswagen".
Labor Front (AKA: DAF), the only labor organization allowed in Nazi
Germany, would finance this project.
The location for this company ended up in the
Lower Saxony area near the village of Fallersleben. An
unpopulated area at the time, the location
provided access to roadways, rail, and the Mittelland canal. Much of
the land belonged to only a few
owners with large estates. The other buildings that occupied the land
were houses grouped around existing castles and churches.
The car itself would be called the KDF-Wagen (The
strength through joy car), and the surrounding town that was built to
support the factory would be known as 'KdF-Stadt' or the Strength
through Joy City. The names never really stuck and all the
cars that were produced continued to be referred to as Volkswagen
(Peoples Car) as well as stamped that way at the factory. In
later years the city itself was named Wolfsburg after a nearby Castle.
The factory itself was well furnished with
American machine tools and equipment sourced by Porsche during his
visits to the United States in 1936 and 1937.
Meanwhile the propaganda machine was in full gear
promoting the new KDF-Wagen. A program was put in place that
would allow the German People to save money and buy a stamp each week
(5 books of 50 stamps per book would need to be completed to receive a
car) in order to buy a Volkswagen. In addition several different
raffles were held in the hopes of winning one of the new cars, however
no one ever received a Volkswagen through either of these programs.
plan was for the factory to manufacture 1.5 million vehicles within
two years, however on September 1st of 1939 Germany invaded Poland -
WWII had begun - and at this point not one Volkswagen had
reached the German people.
Volkswagen Power Plant under Construction and the Mittelland Canal.
During WWII few cars were produced in the
factory (only 630 through 1944, and these were only distributed to
high ranking Government officials) as it was converted over to producing vehicles for the war
effort (including variants of the Beetle equipped with Machine guns as
well as pilot-less airplanes armed with explosives for this effort).
Due to this fact it became a target for air strikes by the Allies, and
it was heavily damaged during six air strikes beginning on April 8th
of 1944. These attacks resulted in three quarters of the factory
being destroyed. The one thing that may have saved the
Volkswagen from completely disappearing from the face of the planet at
this point was the fact that most of the heavy
presses and machinery had been moved to the basements in the factory
or several outbuildings where they had been spared from the bombing raids.
On April 10th a division of American
Infantry reached nearby Fallersleben and the factory was captured.
The Country was divided into quarters, and as the KdF factory was
located in the British section therefore it fell under British control.
From 1945 to 1949 the British army
operated the factory under the direction of Major Ivan Hirst.
Hirst was instrumental in saving the factory from being
destroyed after finding a beetle in a workshop at the
factory and realizing the factory could produce vehicles for
the British Army. Hirst was able to persuade the
British Army to order 20,000 beetles (later referred to as
the Model 1), and about 1800 were produced during 1945.
In 1946, the factory was producing 1000
cars per month, and became civilian operated under the
direction of the British Army.
In 1949 five years after the British
Army had resurrected the Wolfsburg Factory, Heinze Nordoff
became the director of the auto manufacturer. Heinze
Nordhoff took the VW factory to a new level where production
soared during the next decades. By 1955 one million vw
beetles had been produced. It had become a highly
desired and reliable means of transportation for people all
over the world. The production number increased
steadily through the 1960's.
In the 1970's, amid safety
concerns and stiff competition and an engine that was small
compared to most other vehicles on the market, the sales
began to dramatically fall. In 1974 the Beetle was still
being produced but no longer was that production at the
Wolfsburg Plant. Now the factory had been converted to
producing water cooled vehicles. The era of the Beetle
at Wolfsburg was over.
Today the factory in Wolfsburg
continues to produce Volkswagen vehicles, it is the largest
automobile plant in the world