1937 to 1945 – Founding of the Company and Integration into the War Economy

Chronicle 1937: September 10

This impasse was broken in January 1937, as responsibility for the project was assumed by the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (DAF), or German Labour Front, a unified organisation encompassing both employers and employees, which was looking for a prestige project to polish up its image. In the same period, in early April 1937, testing of the 30-vehicle W30 series began, involving more than two million kilometres of trials in total. On May 28, 1937, the DAF in Berlin established the “Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens”, or “Corporation to prepare the way for the German People’s Car”, which on September 16, 1938 was renamed Volkswagenwerk GmbH. In February 1938 work began on a site east of Fallersleben on the Mittelland canal to construct the main plant, which was designed to operate as a vertically structured and largely autonomous model factory. The target was to produce 150,000 units in the first year after the plant’s scheduled opening in Autumn 1939, and 300,000 in the second year, with capacity increasing to 450,000 units by the year after. The medium-term target was to build 1.5 million “People’s Cars”. The workforce was planned to grow from 7,500, to 14,500, and ultimately to 21,000 people. There was no financing for the estimated investment of some 172 million Reichsmarks in the site and 76 million Reichsmarks for the machine plant. Revenues from the sale of property confis­cated from the now disbanded independent trade unions were earmarked to help pay for the investment.

The size, technical equipment and manufacturing depth of the facility were oriented to that of Ford’s River Rouge plant in Detroit, which was considered the most advanced car factory in the world and was visited twice by Ferdinand Porsche and the planning team. In parallel with the construction of the main plant in what is today Wolfsburg, a facility was built in Braunschweig (Brunswick), known as the “Vor­werk” (outworks), to provide tools and dies and to serve as a training centre for the skilled workforce required. Shortages of labour and raw materials delayed the progress of both construction projects.

At the propaganda-laden foundation-laying ceremony on May 26, 1938, Hitler christened Ferdinand Porsche’s vehicle the “KdF-Wagen” (based on the Nazi slogan “Kraft durch Freude”, or Strength through Joy). Accompanied by a massive advertising campaign, on August 1, 1938 the DAF launched an instalment savings scheme for buyers of the KdF-Wagen. The car could be acquired through a minimum payment of just five Reichsmarks a week to the DAF. But the ambitious plans were thwarted by lack of buying power – a Volkswagen was still realistically unaffordable for an industrial worker. Some 336,000 people ultimately signed up to the instalment savings scheme – far fewer than the target envisioned by the gigantic manufacturing plan.

While the Vorwerk did in fact begin training apprentices and making tools and dies in 1938, fitting-out of the main plant was continually postponed as priority was given to armaments. Not a single car had been produced by the time the war began on September 1, 1939. Instead, the retooling of the plant for armaments production meant that the company’s entire operations were re-aligned. In late 1939, Volkswagenwerk GmbH began carrying out repairs for the German Air Force on the Junkers Ju 88 combat aircraft, as well as supplying wings and wooden drop tanks. As the Army became more motorised in 1940, the company started making cars. Mass production of military utility vehicles (Kübelwagen), and then from 1942 amphibious personnel carriers, established a second arm of the business. By the end of the war the plant had built a total of 66,285 vehicles. Between 1940 and 1944 sales turnover rose from 31 to 297 million Reichsmarks.

The company’s involvement in the German armaments industry led to the acquisition of subsidiaries, including in Luckenwalde and Ustron, from 1941 onwards. In 1943/44, Volkswagenwerk GmbH expanded its production capacity by outsourcing to France and by repurposing iron ore and asphalt drift mines to create underground manufacturing facilities. Following a number of bombing raids on the complex on the Mittelland canal, in 1944/45 the business was increasingly decentralised as production departments were relocated to temporary premises. The productivity needs of the growing armaments operation were met from Summer 1940 onwards by the increasing use of forced labour. The first group of such slave labourers were Polish women deployed at the company’s main plant. Later, prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates were assigned to work there – an estimated 20,000 people in total. They came from European countries which had been occupied by, or were under the control of, the German Reich, and in 1944 accounted for two thirds of the company’s workforce. In Nazi Germany forced labourers had no rights, and were subjected to varying levels of racial discrimination. Insufficient food, physical violence and exploitation undermined their health and endangered their lives.

The US troops who arrived on April 11, 1945 stopped the plant’s armaments production and liberated its slave workforce. The longed-for end of the Nazi dictatorship marked the beginning of a new era for Volkswagen too.


May 28

Three functionaries of the German Labour Front (DAF), Paul A. Brinckmann, Alexander Halder and Werner Boltz, sign the articles of association establishing the “Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mit beschränkter Haftung” (“Corporation to prepare the way for the German People’s Car”; “Gezuvor” for short) before a notary public in Berlin. The stated purpose of the company is the “planning and technical development of the German People’s Car”. The share capital amounts to 480,000 Reichsmarks, with the capital contributions from “Treuhandgesellschaft für wirtschaftliche Unternehmungen mbH” (Trust corporation for economic enterprises; TWU) totalling 100,000 Reichsmarks and from “Vermögensverwaltung der Deutschen Arbeitsfront mbH” (DAF asset management corporation; VV) totalling 380,000 Reichsmarks. Designer Ferdinand Porsche, business executive Jakob Werlin and DAF department head Bodo Lafferentz are appointed as directors. The registered offices of the new company are initially located at Kaiserallee 25. Gezuvor is entered in the Register of Companies at the Berlin District Court on June 2, 1937. The company also maintains an office at the Stuttgart premises of Porsche KG, in order to supervise technical and other planning activities there too.

June 20

The three directors of Volkswagenwerk GmbH and staff from Porsche KG set off on a four-week trip to Detroit in order to broaden their knowledge of Ford’s mass production methods and to buy specialist American machinery. They also recruit a number of German-American experts employed at Ford.


Chronicle 1937: August
Fritz Kuntze, the former power plant manager at Ford’s River Rouge factory recruited by Ferdinand Porsche, sketches out initial plans for the complex, incorporating three factory sheds running parallel to the Mittelland canal and setting out a three-stage development plan. In addition to a power plant, Kuntze also plans a hot and cold rolling mill, a foundry, a forge, and a glass and rubber plant, to provide on-site production of key components. The planned workforce accommodation is designated “Town A” and “Village B”.

September 10

Chronicle 1937: September 10
Alpine trials of four W30 vehicles, including the convertible version, begin. The route stretches from Stuttgart, over the Fernpass and the Brenner pass, to Merano. The return leg passes through Lienz and over the Turracher Höhe, the steepest pass in the eastern Alps, over the Katschberg, Tauern and Großglockner passes, through Zell am See and then, on September 16, via Munich back to the start. The 7,000 kilometre endurance test reveals need for improvements to the carburettor, the brakes and the gearbox. By 1938, the W30 vehicles have undergone more than two million kilometres of trials in total.

October 21

Chronicle 1937: October 21
An extraordinary shareholders’ meeting amends the company’s articles of association with a view to the required land purchases and the related tax commitments. The stated object of the company in the amended articles is not to “make profits”, as it was “created solely to pursue the non-commercial purpose of the planning and technical development of the German People’s Car”. Consequently, if the company should be dissolved or its non-profit status rescinded, its net assets are to be assigned to the “NS-Gemeinschaft Kraft durch Freude” (Nazi “Strength through Joy” community organisation). The company’s registered place of business is moved to Taubertstraße 4 in the Grunewald district of Berlin.


January 17

A meeting with the Reich Planning Department headed by Reich Minister Hanns Kerrl formally confirms the location already favoured by Hitler for the works on a site between Fallersleben and Vorsfelde. Its benefits include a central location in the heart of the German Reich as well as good transport links to the Ruhr area along the Mittelland canal and the Hanover-Berlin railway. As a result, alternatives at Angermünde on the river Oder and at Tangermünde on the Elbe are rejected.

February 8

Chronicle 1938: February 8
Earthworks for the main plant begin at the site which today is Wolfsburg. The construction workers are housed in a communal work camp, in standardised wooden huts. In the meantime, the so-called “Vorwerk” (outworks) for the production of tools and dies and for the training of skilled staff is under construction to the north of Braunschweig.

March 11

The contract between Gezuvor and the von der Wense family settles the acquisition of 620 hectares of land at the main plant site, stipulating a selling price of 2.67 million Reichsmarks.

May 26

Chronicle 1938: May 26
The German Labour Front (DAF) stages a grandiose foundation laying ceremony at the Volkswagen plant at the personal command of Adolf Hitler. Three vehicle variants – a saloon, a roll-top saloon and convertible – are presented to the approximately 50,000 people in attendance. In his speech, Hitler names the car “KdF-Wagen”, after the DAF subsidiary organisation “Kraft durch Freude” (Strength through Joy).

July 8

The first 250 apprentices are “conscripted” to the Vorwerk, even though construction of their accommodation is behind schedule. The training of foremen to oversee skilled workers, organised in close consultation with the DAF, combines an outstanding technical education with political indoctrination conforming to the system. Applicants not only need a recommendation from the Hitler Youth, but that movement also supervises and looks after them in their on-site communal accommodation. Having initially been housed in interim work camps some distance away, on September 16, 1938 the apprentices and their tutors and carers are relocated to Braunschweig. The two factory sheds are sufficiently complete by the end of the year for tool and die making to begin using the installed machinery.

July 12

The contract with Graf von der Schulenburg to acquire 1,888 hectares of land and buildings for 8.5 million Reichsmarks brings the already repurposed areas around the main plant formally into the company’s ownership.

July 26

The pilot production VW38 vehicles, with bodies built by Reutter in Stuttgart, undergo mountain trials through to July 29, 1938. The 30 vehicles produced undertake a promotional tour of many towns and cities in all parts of the German Reich.

August 1

Chronicle 1938: August 1
At a works gathering in the IG-Farben factory in Leverkusen, head of the DAF Robert Ley announces the launch of the “KdF-Wagen” instalment saving scheme. The politically determined purchase price of 990 Reichsmarks can be paid by paying a weekly minimum instalment of five Reichsmarks into the DAF saving scheme. By the end of the war, 336,638 savers have signed up to the KdF-Wagen scheme. But that is far fewer than the DAF had expected – and certainly not enough to fulfil the vision of a mass-motorised society. Moreover, wage-earners are severely under-represented because of their low average income. No KdF-Wagen cars had been delivered to scheme members by the end of the war.

September 10

Chronicle 1938: September 10
The German construction workers seconded to build the Atlantic Wall are replaced by Italians. Within a period of three days, 2,400 Italian men arrive at the railway station in Fallersleben. Seconded on the basis of an agreement by the DAF with its sister Fascist organisation in Italy, the Confederazione generale fascista dell’industria italiana (Fascist General Confederation of Italian Industry)to work temporarily on the construction of the factory and the town, they soon make up the largest group among the construction gangs. Receiving equal pay, and working the same hours, as the German workforce, their numbers rise to 6,000 by the Summer of 1939.

September 16

In response to the high costs of the construction works and the machinery, an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting increases the company’s share capital from 480,000 to 50 million Reichsmarks. Of the total capital, the DAF asset management corporation VV is assigned 49.9 million Reichsmarks and the trust corporation TWU 100,000 Reichsmarks. The company’s name is changed to Volkswagenwerk GmbH. At the pressing of the Supervisory Board chairman, top DAF functionary Heinrich Simon, the following entry is added to the Register of Companies: “The purpose of the company is to implement the mission assigned to the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Labour Front) by the Führer and Reichskanzler to manufacture, develop and market the Volkswagen (People’s Car), and to manufacture and market other products to the good of the German economy as a whole.” The meeting also resolves to establish a seven-member Supervisory Board, to which the three installed directors, Messrs. Porsche, Werlin and Lafferentz, are also appointed.

September 29

The constitutive meeting of the Supervisory Board, among other resolutions, increases the Management Board from three to seven members in order to handle the expanded scope of company activities. All new resolutions are entered in the Register of Companies on October 13, 1938.

Brunswick facility

Chronicle 1938: Brunswick facility
The Brunswick facility begins operating in 1938. The facility is to produce tools and equipment for the main plant and to train skilled labor. However, training takes a back seat with the start of World War II. Instead, foreign forced laborers are deployed to produce armaments in Brunswick, as elsewhere.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1938: Statistics of the Year


February 17

The KdF-Wagen is launched to the public – as well as to the German and international media – at the International Automobile and Motorcycle Exhibition in Berlin. Journalists are able to take a test drive in the vehicle to the construction site of the main plant in present-day Wolfsburg.


Chronicle 1939: April
Construction work is around 10 percent behind schedule due to lack of raw materials and labour. Nevertheless, interior outfitting work is carried out in the four production sheds, in the complex on the southern boundary, and in the power plant. The machinery is installed. The new construction is managed by Karl Kohlbecker. Well-known architects including Emil Rudolf Mewes, Martin Schupp and Fritz Kremmer contribute to the design. Employee welfare facilities such as the health centre and the family accommodation block are still stuck at the planning stage however.

April 12

Chronicle 1939: April 12
The superbly well-equipped works training academy opens at the “Vorwerk” site in Braunschweig, while the second year of 307 new apprentices who arrived on May 15th are undergoing practical training in the workshop.

August 16

Chronicle 1939: August 16
The Borsig turbine of the new power plant constructed on the Mittelland canal is placed under load for the first time. Together with the water treatment plants and the 20-atm tank, a rudimentary energy and steam supply is established. The earthworks for the 83 metre wide and 74 metre long power plant began in April 1938. The overground construction on the 64 metre tall power plant building began on August 26th, 1938. It is a combined heat and power plant, supplying both to the factory complex and to the new town under construction. Its coal is delivered on the Mittelland canal.

September 21

In negotiations with the General Quartermaster of the Air Force, the Volkswagen management attains designation as an “independent subcontractor for the Ju 88 programme” within the Junkers manufacturing network. As a result, the company receives contracts from Junkers – the largest state-owned aircraft corporation – for aircraft repairs and for the production of wings. Air Force equipment remains the company’s major generator of sales turnover throughout the Second World War.

October 16

In the course of its move into armaments production, the Volkswagenwerk GmbH management decides to upgrade the factory to “special military production” status as stipulated by the Wehrmacht. Civilian production of KdF-Wagen vehicles is becoming illusive, so the order from the Army Munitions Office for the development and manufacture of 11 Type 82 military utility vehicles (known as Kübelwagen) and two of the four-wheel drive Type 87 vehicles arouse hope of establishing mass production operations with a military variant.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1939: Statistics of the Year



The head office of Volkswagenwerk GmbH is relocated within Berlin to Knesebeckstraße 48/49.


Chronicle 1940: June
As the Volkswagenwerk does not have a regular workforce, the company meets the growing demand for labor caused by expanding armaments output by using forced laborers. The first 300 women from Poland arrive at the main plant and are deployed making wooden drop tanks. Poles are the first group of forced labourers to be subjected to discrimination by way of compulsory identification, accommodation in enclosed camps, restricted freedom of movement, and disadvantages in terms of pay and conditions. The disenfranchised Poles are subject solely to the authority of the Police. Some 20,000 people, including roughly 5,000 concentration camp inmates, from European countries occupied or dominated by the Third Reich were forced to work here, mostly under very adverse conditions, until 1945. The “Place of Remembrance of Forced Labor in the Volkswagen Factory” opened in 1999 bears witness to forced labor at the plant.

August 3

Chronicle 1940: August 3
Volkswagenwerk GmbH faces serious economic problems with the outbreak of World War II. Armaments interests take precedence over the planned production of civilian vehicles. However, the company is hard put to come up with products to fully utilize capacity at the plant designed for the annual production of 1.5 million vehicles. The production of bombs, furnaces and wooden auxiliary tanks as well as aircraft repairs begun in 1940 is not particularly profitable. The situation improves on August 3, 1940, with the start of mass production of the VW 82 Kübelwagen military utility vehicle at the main plant. The pre-production vehicles and the first 25 VW 82 vehicles were built at Porsche in Stuttgart. The open personnel carrier, a KdF-Wagen saloon modified for military use, has 27.5 cm ground clearance and is fitted with a 1,131 ccm 25 hp boxer engine. Its key features are allterrain capability and robustness. The bodies are supplied by rail from Ambi Budd in Johannisthal near Berlin. On December 20th the one thousandth vehicle rolls off the production line. By April 1945 37,320 Kübelwagen have come off the assembly line.

October 31

The extraordinary shareholders’ meeting doubles the company’s share capital to 100 million Reichsmarks. The DAF asset management corporation VV holds 99.9 million Reichsmarks; the rest is held by the trust corporation for economic enterprises TWU.

November 25

Chronicle 1940: November 25
Aircraft repairer Braunschweiger Flugzeugreparatur GmbH leases to Volkswagenwerk GmbH its hangar, built in 1937, at the Waggum airfield. This enables the airfield to be used for flying trials of repaired Junkers aircraft. Volkswagen constructs two further sheds close to the airfield where Ju 88 aircraft as well as the Do 17 and the He 111 are serviced.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1940: Statistics of the Year


April 22

The forge works in Ustron acquired on January 20, 1941 from Vienna-based Schrauben- und Schmiedewaren-Fabriks AG, Brevillier & A. Unger & Söhne is transformed into Schmiedewerk Ustron GmbH, based in Berlin. The plan is to expand the plant into a large-scale forge works capable of supplying Volkswagenwerk GmbH with the forgings needed for annual production of 450,000 cars after the war. This marks a return to the original concept of a vertically structured business model. The plant is handed over on July 1, 1941. By the turn of the year 1941/42, the factory employs a total of 687 people, primarily supplying the Reichsbahn (state railways) and the Wehrmacht. The volume contracted by Volkswagenwerk GmbH increases from 10 to 284 tonnes by May 1942. Full supply from the Group subsidiary is not feasible however.

June 10

After Otto Dyckhoff resigns as a director of Volkswagenwerk GmbH on June 9, 1941, with effect from June 15, 1941, owing to his transfer to Bayerische Motorenwerke AG, on request of the three directors Felix Schmidt, Ferdinand Porsche and Bodo Lafferentz the Supervisory Board elects attorney-at-law Dr. Anton Piëch, the son-in-law of Ferdinand Porsche, as an additional director. Piëch becomes manager of the main plant. This entails a comprehensive reorganisation of the Volkswagen plant geared to the handling of large-scale projects, so as to exploit economies of scale in production and improve the utilisation of plant capacity.

July 1

An extraordinary shareholders’ meeting increases the company’s share capital by a further 50 million Reichsmarks to 150 million Reichsmarks. Of that total capital, the DAF asset management corporation VV holds 145 million Reichsmarks and the trust corporation for economic enterprises TWU 5 million Reichsmarks.

July 11

Chronicle 1941: July 11
The first of 41 KdF-Wagen vehicles built in the course of the year rolls off the production line. A photograph taken just a few months later purporting to show production getting underway is intended to maintain the illusion that the start of mass production is imminent immediately following a German victory over the Soviet Union. The 630 KdF saloons produced at the main plant by the end of the war are acquired by the Nazi elite.

September 5/6

Volkswagenwerk GmbH acquires Luckenwalder Feintuchfabrik GmbH, formerly known as Tannenbaum, Pariser & Co prior to its Aryanisation by the German Reich. Volkswagenwerk GmbH takes direct ownership of the land and buildings. As the already disbanded textile business does not obtain a production permit, only finishing is carried out there, while vacant areas are rented out. At the end of 1942, 11 salaried staff, 53 industrial workers and 65 prisoners of war are working in Luckenwalde. Additionally, a large-scale repair workshop for Volkswagen engines is constructed on the works site in 1944.


Chronicle 1941: October
The first 120 Soviet prisoners of war arrive at the main plant as forced labour. A further 745 follow by the year-end. Owing to the starvation policy imposed by the Wehrmacht, the prisoners are severely weakened on arrival, and incapable of doing heavy physical labour. Undernourishment and infection result in 27 fatalities by the year-end. Those suffering from typhus, or who are very weak, are transported back to Wehrmacht prisoner of war camps.

December 11

Chronicle 1941: December 11
The main plant starts producing OT ovens to supply German troops inadequately prepared for the onset of Winter on the eastern front. Such contracts help utilise plant capacity, and prove profitable. The 221,505 OT ovens produced by the end of 1942 generate revenues of almost 6 million Reichsmarks and a gross profit of 1.9 million Reichsmarks for the company.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1941: Statistics of the Year


March 19

Armaments Minister Albert Speer convinces Hitler that passenger car production in the German Reich should be carried out exclusively by Volkswagenwerk GmbH. Director Hans Mayr becomes chairman of the Passenger Cars subcommittee of the Motor Vehicles Board as part of the system of self-administration of German industry.


Part of the aircraft production operation is relocated to the Neudeker wool combing and worsted spinning mills leased from Dresdner Bank AG. Air Force equipment production is increasingly concentrated there.

April 8

Chronicle 1942: April 8
The work gang seconded from the “Arbeitsdorf” concentration camp established on the factory site following discussions with Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, initially comprising 400 men, starts work on extending the light metal foundry. At least five of the total of 900 prisoners die. Rescinding the construction project’s wartime priority classification, Armaments Minister Albert Speer orders the concentration camp inmates to be transferred out on October 4, 1942.

August 10

Chronicle 1942: August 10
The VW 166, a four-wheel drive amphibious light personnel carrier, goes into production at the main plant. The amphibious skirting is supplied by the Ambi Budd company from Berlin. The development work on what was initially planned as a larger amphibious vehicle began in June 1940. Demand from the military for a highly manoeuvrable personnel carrier with tough all-terrain capability is increasing, so Porsche KG shortens the wheelbase to 2 metres and reduces the track width to 1.23 metres. By the year-end, the main plant has built 511 of the VW 166.

November 1

The central kitchen located west of the factory sheds begins supplying the canteens in the complex on the southern boundary.

December 31

By the end of the year, 492 employees in the “Vorwerk” tool and die works have been conscripted into the army, including 106 youths born in 1923/24, who sign up for 12 years. The losses are replaced by 261 new apprentices and 398 foreign workers, who are accommodated in huts on the factory site.

December 31

Chronicle 1942: December 31
Output of repaired aircraft from the company’s works in Waggum increases in the course of the year to 253 units. A further 37 are awaiting completion due to lack of engines. Repairs of fuselages and wings are increasing as substantially, as is the production of new landing flaps, rudders and elevators.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1942: Statistics of the Year


May 15

Chronicle 1943: May 15
205 Dutch students, sentenced to forced labour for refusing to swear loyalty to the German occupying forces, arrive at the plant. The numbers of Dutch workers increase to 750 by the Spring of 1944. The Dutch are placed on an equal footing with German workers in terms of pay, food and accommodation.

August 31

Chronicle 1943: August 31
Having been designated as a main supplier since January 1943, Volkswagenwerk GmbH supplies the first 100 cells of the flying bomb Fi 103, better known as the V1. By the end of September, more than 1,500 workers are engaged in flying bomb production. Following a bombing raid on the Georg Fieseler works on October 22, 1943, Volkswagen attains key significance for the Nazis’ so-called “vengeance-weapons” programme, assuring high levels of turnover.


At the beginning of the month, the first transports comprising an initial 1,441 Italian military forced labour deportees arrive at the main plant. Designated work gang 6024, they are soldiers interned by the German forces in the Mediterranean theatre following the fall of Mussolini and Italy’s truce with the Allies. 200 Italian officers follow on October 11th.

October 13

An extraordinary shareholders’ meeting rescinds the provisions in the company’s articles of association relating to the Supervisory Board, which thereby ceases its activities. Supervision of the company’s operations is placed instead in the hands of Heinrich Simon, the head of the DAF’s Economic Enterprises division. His consent is required for all real estate transactions, the construction and expansion of works facilities, the design of manufacturing programmes, the acquisition of share-holdings, and the appointment of directors and senior executives.


The Armaments Ministry designates Volkswagenwerk GmbH as a “mentor” to S.A des Automobiles Peugeot, aimed at providing it with access to that company’s production capacities. Volkswagen actually awarded Peugeot the first contract for the development and manufacture of two ingot mould foundries back on July 24, 1941. Now it awards contracts for the manufacture of cylinder heads, crankcases and gearbox housings, as well as aircraft engine cowls.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1943: Statistics of the Year


March 17

Chronicle 1944: March 17
Volkswagenwerk GmbH is assigned the iron ore mine at Tiercelet in Lorraine for the planned underground relocation of Air Force equipment production departments. It is converted into an underground factory within six months by forced labour, including Jewish concentration camp inmates. Thanks to state financing of the entire project, the expansion of production capacity appears worthwhile. The approach of Allied troops in August 1944 brings the illusive plan to an end. 300 concentration camp inmates together with the machines are initially relocated to tunnels near Dernau, and on September 30, 1944 they are moved to the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp.

April 8

Chronicle 1944: April 8
American aircraft bomb the main plant. The 500 high-explosive and 450 incendiary bombs damage shed 3, the works railhead, the complex at the southern boundary and the roofs of sheds 2, 3 and 4. The raid kills 13 people and injures 40.

May 5

As a camouflage manoeuvre in connection with the project to relocate Fi-103 production underground in Tiercelet, on the initiative of the Reich Air Ministry the new company Minette GmbH is founded in Berlin with share capital of 10 million Reichsmarks. The subsidiary consolidates all the company’s Air Force equipment production in underground facilities.

May 29

A group of 300 Jews from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp arrives at the main plant to provide labour for flying bomb production. Accommodated with their SS guards in converted washrooms in shed 1, the prisoners are assigned to the assembly line of the Fi-103. At the end of June 1944 they are transported to Tiercelet.

May 31

Chronicle 1944: May 31
Some 800 inmates from the Neuengamme concentration camp arrive at the Laagberg site to construct a barrack hut complex. They are forced to carry out physically strenuous excavation and construction work under the eyes of SS guards.

June 20

On June 20th and 29th, as part of the Allied Operation “Crossbow”, aimed at destroying V-weapons manufacturing capability, heavy bombing raids involving a total of 178 aircraft see 401 tonnes of high-explosive and incendiary bombs hit the main plant. The damage is substantial, impacting on all the sheds as well as the power plant. Among the dead are a number of foreigners, “shot for looting”.


Chronicle 1944: July
A transport of female Hungarian Jews from Auschwitz arrives at the main plant. They are followed in November by a group of Jewish women from Bergen-Belsen. January 1945 sees the arrival of more women at the main plant – Partisans deported from Yugoslavia. They are accommodated in converted washrooms in shed 1. The female work gang belongs to the satellite camp system of the Neuengamme concentration camp. The Jewish women initially work on the production line for the Teller mines made at the plant from 1942 onwards. Starting in November 1944, the prisoners also make Panzerfaust grenade-launchers.

August 5

An American air raid causes serious damage, including to the press plant. Production is temporarily interrupted, but quickly resumed thanks to improvisations such as relocating the engine assembly line to the basement. Additionally, some departments and their machinery and materials stores are distributed around the near locality and to more distant sites, operating from decommissioned potato flake factories, restaurant function rooms or potash mines.

August 9

Chronicle 1944: August 9
The management decides to press on with the relocation of production operations by all efforts, among other reasons to save the machinery. The choice falls on asphalt pits owned by Deutsche Asphalt AG near Eschershausen. The development project, code-named “Hecht”, surpasses the scale of the main plant itself. Despite the plans being scaled-back to a tenth of their original, the targets set remain illusive. On September 14, 1944, an initial group of 250 inmates from the Buchenwald concentration camp are transported to a specially established satellite camp in order to speed up the necessary infrastructure works.

September 12

Chronicle 1944: September 12
As a result of the damage to the assembly line, and owing to a run-down of orders, production of the VW 166 amphibious personnel carrier is ended, after outputting a total of 14,276 units.

October 13

The main plant receives an order for the production of 900,000 bullet-heads as part of a campaign to rapidly boost Panzerfaust output. In November the plant retools to produce complete Panzerfausts.

October 23

The state-owned Mittelwerk GmbH takes over the primary contract for mass production of the Fi 103 from Volkswagenwerk GmbH. 300 concentration camp inmates, previously forced to work for Volkswagenwerk GmbH, are transferred to the main Mittelbau-Dora camp to continue flying bomb production. The move is to prove fatal for many.

December 31

The cost of war damage totals 156 million Reichsmarks, of which 86 million Reichsmarks have been officially acknowledged by the end of 1944. An instalment payment of 70 million Reichsmarks is the largest single revenue item.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1944: Statistics of the Year


Wolfsburg plant

Chronicle 1945: Wolfsburg plant
American troops occupy the “Stadt des KdF-Wagens” (City of the KdF-Wagen), liberate the forced laborers and set up a maintenance works for their military vehicles in the Volkswagen factory. During the next few months, the United States Army utilizes available parts to produce vehicles and the former inspection manager Rudolf Brörmann is designated as works manager.

March 31

The Hecht/Stein satellite camp in Holzen is cleared by the SS. While the larger group is sent by rail to the main camp at Buchenwald, the remaining 350 inmates are transported via Salzgitter to Bergen-Belsen. Many are killed in an air raid on their train as it stands in Celle railway station, as well as by crimes of violence.

Clearing the debris

Chronicle 1945: Clearing the debris
Clearing the debris at the Volkswagen plant is a lengthy process. British army sappers provide bulldozers to help, but the clean-up still takes plenty of elbow grease.

April 7

Chronicle 1945: August 22
In advance of the Allied occupation, the female concentration camp inmates are transported to Salzwedel, where they are liberated by American troops on April 14th. The men from the Laagberg satellite camp transported to the Wöbbelin concentration camp near Ludwigslust are not liberated until May 2, 1945.

Wolfsburg Motor Works

Chronicle 1945: Wolfsburg Motor Works
Responsibility for the Volkswagen plant is turned over to the British Military Government who confiscates the firm in accordance with Allied Control Council Law No. 52 and administer it in trusteeship until the day that it can be returned to German control.

April 10

The last 50 Kübelwagens to roll off the line mark the end of a wartime vehicle output totalling 66,285 units.  In January 1945, an astoundingly high 2,092 units of the VW 82 are still produced. This reduces over the subsequent months to 850, 994 and 393 Kübelwagen units respectively.

Ivan Hirst

Chronicle 1945: December 31
The British Military Government instructs Volkswagen to produce 20,000 Volkswagen saloons in order to meet their increased transport needs during the occupation period. The Volkswagen plant is turned into a British controlled factory and Major Ivan Hirst assumes the position of Senior Resident Officer. The position of Head Trustee is entrusted to Hermann Münch, who also becomes General Director on August 1, 1946.

Protocol of the 1st Works Council meeting

Chronicle 1945: Statistics of the Year
The Works Council elected in a democratic ballot at the beginning of November meets for the first time. It replaces the provisional council set up during the summer of 1945.

Body assembly

Chronicle 1945: Body assembly
Supply shortages delay the start of standard production. There is a lack of labor, materials, food and housing for the workers at the Volkswagen plant. The British trustees improvise and arrange for sedan bodies to be fitted – mainly by hand – on the remaining Kübelwagen chassis.

The marriage of the Beetle

Chronicle 1945: The marriage of the Beetle
The standard production of the Volkswagen saloon under British administration begins with the assembly of 55 vehicles.

Brunswick facility

Chronicle 1945: Brunswick facility
By order of the British Military Government, the facility in Brunswick is re-integrated in the production process of Volkswagen works. The plant begins producing special welding machines, tools and equipment as well as carburetors, clutches, shock absorbers and fuel pumps for the production lines in Wolfsburg. Thanks to British support in gaining access to supplies, the firm's own production capabilities can replace a supply industry devastated by the war and restricted by the controlled economy. The workforce increases from 218 wage earners and 58 salaried employees in December 1945 to 529 factory workers and 68 office workers in December 1949.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1945: Statistics of the Year
The specified fuel consumption and emission data are determined in accordance with the measurement procedures prescribed by law. 1 January 2022, the WLTP test cycle completely replaced the NEDC test cycle and therefore no NEDC values are available for new type approved vehicles after that date. This information does not refer to a single vehicle and is not part of the offer but is only intended for comparison between different types of vehicles. Additional equipment and accessories (additional components, tyre formats, etc.) can alter relevant vehicle parameters such as weight, rolling resistance and aerodynamics, affecting the vehicle's fuel consumption, power consumption, CO2 emissions and driving performance values in addition to weather and traffic conditions and individual driving behavior. Due to more realistic testing conditions, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions measured according to WLTP will in many cases be higher than the values measured according to NEDC. As a result, the taxation of vehicles may change accordingly as of 1 September 2018. For further information on the differences between WLTP and NEDC, please visit www.volkswagen.de/wltp. Further information on official fuel consumption data and official specific CO2 emissions for new passenger cars can be found in the "Guide to fuel economy, CO2 emissions and power consumption for new passenger car models", which is available free of charge from all sales dealerships and from DAT Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH, Hellmuth-Hirth-Str. 1, D-73760 Ostfildern, Germany and at www.dat.de/co2.