20 June 2007

Hitler and the Volkswagen: An Exclusive

I wanted to do a story on why everyone who has a Beetle/Bug often puts a flower in a vase on the dash. Is there a special spot to hold the vase? I don't get it. What's the origin of this tradition? I've seen enough times to suspect something is up that I'm not privy to; and something being up that I'm not aware of is just no good.

So had I done a story on people putting flowers in vases in their VW's, that would be where it would've ended.

Instead I've decided to shed some light on your boy Hitler and a little known fact: Hitler basically invented the VW Bug... on a napkin, at a table in a Munich cafe in the summer of 1932. Not unlike Spinal Tap concocted the elaborate props for their Stonehenge stage set on napkins at that diner.

Sitting at a restaurant table in Munich in the summer of 1932, Hitler designed (read: sketched on a napkin) the prototype for what would become the immensely successful Beetle design for Volkswagen (from German literally, the "car of the people").

In an era where only the most economic elite possessed cars, Hitler believed that all people should be able to own a car and additionally thought that a smart design could allow for reliability, enjoyment, and vacation travel.

Hitler gave his design to the head of Daimler-Benz, Jakob Werlin, and stressed its importance. "Take it with you and speak with people who understand more about it than I do. But don't forget it.
I want to hear from you soon, about the technical details."

Later Hitler would meet with automotive designer Ferdinand Porsche in 1933 and charge Porsche with creating the new car. Adolf required that the Volkswagen carry 2 adults and 3 children, go up to 60 miles per hour, get at least 33 miles per gallon, and cost only 1,000 reichsmarks. Hitler may also have named the car the Beetle.

In 1938, Hitler had the KdF Wagen factory built to produce the cars designed by Porsche. The name Kraft durch Freude or the KdF-Wagen, literally meant "strength through joy - car".

But by the time the factory was complete, Hitler was busy invading Czechoslovakia and Poland. The factory was dedicated to building military vehicles, and the people's car fell by the wayside during World War II.

After the war, the factory ended up in the British section of occupied Germany. The British military re-opened the factory, renamed it Volkswagen, and finally gave control of the company to the German government.

After 1948, Volkswagen introduced new models across Europe. By 1955, over 1 million cars had been built. The VW beetle started selling in the U.S., and in 1972 the people's car overtook the Ford Model T to become the most popular car ever made.

Here's some more links on the topic. I can't speak for or assume the personal political beliefs of the authors of some of these articles, but they do discuss the topic at hand. Enjoy... what is a somewhat intriguing fun fact the next time you wanna bum out your fun lovin' flower vase on the dash friend with the VW.


Anonymous said...

Jah ! A bud vase for carrying flowers to dehr Fuhrer..

I read that some people use it to hold their GPS system (or luger)..

You still did not crack the nut of the bud vase? Was that an original feature envisioned by the Fuhrer or a new age one?

Why did Mussolini make the trains run on time while AH envisioned a crowded autobahn?

Gabor said...

Well, on one hand I don't really understand your hate against these vases, they are pretty cool as long as a NewBeetle is a fun car. And indeed it is. Let people have their fun.

But what made me pissed off is the 'fact' that Hitler himself had sketched up the Beetle in 1932.

In fact it was designed by a Hungarian designer called Bela Barenyi. Most of people misleadingly say it was a design of Ferry Porsche, but a suit (for 1 German Mark compensation) has proven that the original design was of Barenyi's. His first sketches were drawn not a year later than in 1925.

With or without Hitler, this car would have been launched anyway. One of the things that would have guaranteed this is that Barenyi is the only one in the Automotive Hall of Fame in Detroit whose name never was a car marque. He was one of the most active inventors in automotive history with more than 2500 patents.

These are the real facts about the KdF-Wagen.

Gotham City Insider said...

I knew Hitler gave Ferdinand Porsche the order to develop a "Volks-Wagen" in 1933 but I never knew about this Barényi bit. I only knew about Barényi's passive-safety inventions for Daimler-Benz from 1939 until his retirement in 1972.

I had read about the conflict with Tatra as much of the Beetle's design was inspired by cars of Hans Ledwinka of Tatra. Particularly the T97 model.

This car also had a streamlined body and a rear-mounted 4 cylinder horizontally-opposed air-cooled engine. The Tatra V570, a prototype for a smaller car, also shows quite a resemblance to the later Volkswagens.

Apparently Hitler referred to the Tatra T97 as 'the kind of car I want for my highways' and that apparently Ferdinand Porsche admitted to having "looked over Ledwinka's shoulders' while designing the Volkswagen." Nothing mentioned about Barényi however.