May 28th in German History: Volkswagen is Founded

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Volkswagen is one of the largest car manufactures in the world and the largest car manufacturer in Germany. It has come far from its darker beginnings. Volkswagen was founded by the government of Nazi Germany as part of their plan to rebuild the German economy. The company has survived wars, occupation, and economic uncertainty to become a core part of the automobile industry.

historian at large: Volkswagen - founded by the Nazis - felled by ...
Adolf Hitler Examines a Volkswagen Model

Volkswagen was founded of May 28th, 1937, to help further Germany’s plan to create a “people’s car”, hence the name. In order to strengthen popular support for the regime and motorize Germany for the coming conflict Adolf Hitler had directed. Although the initial mission may have been benign, the company soon turned to producing military vehicles. During World War II, slave labor was used at various Volkswagen plants. Following the war, the company, like most of Germany, was left in ruins. Most of its plants had been destroyed and what little industry remained was largely dismantled. The company only survived because it came under the management of Ivan Hirst, a British Army officer who handed the factory over to the management of Heinrich Nordhoff. Under Nordhoff’s leadership the company recovered along with the rest of West Germany. Models like the Beetle were exported overseas, in particular to the US. The decades since World War II have seen steady growth for the company, and it has made many innovations. Recently, it has made forays into electric vehicles.

The history of Volkswagen mirrors that of Germany as a whole. The company rose from the ashes of WWII to become a leader in the European automobile industry, even challenging American car companies in the US. The resilience of the German people is reflected in their companies, which have proven that innovation and dedication can undo even the damage inflicted by the most devastating war in history.

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