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Frankfurt - From Nazis To Hippies: End Of The Road For Volkswagen Beetle

Published on: July 9, 2019 11:35 AM
By: AP
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FILE - In this April 27, 1966 file photo, Volkswagen workers drive their Beetle cars from the parking lot on their way home at the end of a days work at the world's largest single auto plant, the Volkswagen factory (seen in background) in Wolfsburg, Germany. (AP Photo, file)FILE - In this April 27, 1966 file photo, Volkswagen workers drive their Beetle cars from the parking lot on their way home at the end of a days work at the world's largest single auto plant, the Volkswagen factory (seen in background) in Wolfsburg, Germany. (AP Photo, file)

Frankfurt - Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model this week at its plant in Puebla, Mexico. It’s the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning the eight decades since 1938.

It has been: a part of Germany’s darkest hours as a never-realized Nazi prestige project. A symbol of Germany’s postwar economic renaissance and rising middle-class prosperity. An example of globalization, sold and recognized all over the world. An emblem of the 1960s counterculture in the United States. Above all, the car remains a landmark in design, as recognizable as the Coca-Cola bottle.

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The car’s original design — a rounded silhouette with seating for four or five, nearly vertical windshield and the air-cooled engine in the rear — can be traced back to Austrian engineer Ferdinand Porsche, who was hired to fulfill German dictator Adolf Hitler’s project for a “people’s car” that would spread auto ownership the way the Ford Model T had in the U.S.

Aspects of the car bore similarities to the Tatra T97, made in Czechoslovakia in 1937, and to sketches by Hungarian engineer Bela Barenyi published in 1934. Mass production of what was called the KdF-Wagen, based on the acronym of the Nazi labor organization under whose auspices it was to be sold, was cancelled due to World War II. Instead, the massive new plant in what was then countryside east of Hanover turned out military vehicles, using forced laborers from all over Europe under miserable conditions.

Re-launched as a civilian carmaker under supervision of the British occupation authorities, the Volkswagen factory was transferred in 1949 to the Germany government and the state of Lower Saxony, which still owns part of the company. By 1955, the one millionth Beetle - officially called the Type 1 - had rolled off the assembly line in what was now the town of Wolfsburg.

The United States became Volkswagen’s most important foreign market, peaking at 563,522 cars in 1968, or 40% of production. Unconventional, sometimes humorous advertising from agency Doyle Dane Bernbach urged car buyers to “Think small.”

FILE - In this April 21, 2017 file photo, Volkswagen Beetles are displayed during the annual gathering of the "Beetle club" in Yakum, central Israel. The Israeli Beetle club was founded in 2001 and there are 500 members. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938.(AP Photo/Oded Balilty, file)FILE - In this April 21, 2017 file photo, Volkswagen Beetles are displayed during the annual gathering of the "Beetle club" in Yakum, central Israel. The Israeli Beetle club was founded in 2001 and there are 500 members. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938.(AP Photo/Oded Balilty, file)

“Unlike in West Germany, where its low price, quality and durability stood for a new postwar normality, in the United States the Beetle’s characteristics lent it a profoundly unconventional air in a car culture dominated by size and showmanship,” wrote Bernhard Rieger in his 2013 history, “The People’s Car.”

Production at Wolfsburg ended in 1978 as newer front drive models like the Golf took over. But the Beetle wasn’t dead yet. Production went on in Mexico from 1967 until 2003 — longer than the car had been made in Germany. Nicknamed the “vochito,” the car made itself at home as a rugged, Mexican-made “carro del pueblo.”

The New Beetle — a completely new retro version build on a modified Golf platform — resurrected some of the old Beetle’s cute, unconventional aura in 1998 under CEO Ferdinand Piech, Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson. In 2012, the Beetle’s design was made a bit sleeker. The last of 5,961 Final Edition versions is headed for a museum after ceremonies in Puebla on July 10 to mark the end of production.



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Read Comments (11)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jul 09, 2019 at 12:40 PM shimonyehuda Says:

not the real end they will bring out a new version in a few years.

2

 Jul 09, 2019 at 02:34 PM yossie Says:

for those that know history or care at all
Wolfsburg (the VW plant) was a concentration camp part of the camps belonging to Gross Rosen
think about that before you lease a VW because its 10 cheaper a month than an american car

3

 Jul 09, 2019 at 04:53 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
yossie Says:

for those that know history or care at all
Wolfsburg (the VW plant) was a concentration camp part of the camps belonging to Gross Rosen
think about that before you lease a VW because its 10 cheaper a month than an american car

Look, when I visited Israel over thirty years ago, the taxi drivers were driving Mercedes Benz taxis; there were many of those cars all over Israel. Are we not supposed to buy German or Japanese products today? What about Vietnamese products? Are they to be boycotted also?.

4

 Jul 09, 2019 at 05:28 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

Look, when I visited Israel over thirty years ago, the taxi drivers were driving Mercedes Benz taxis; there were many of those cars all over Israel. Are we not supposed to buy German or Japanese products today? What about Vietnamese products? Are they to be boycotted also?.

Vw was hitlers idea plus it was built with slave labor

5

 Jul 09, 2019 at 06:23 PM Bunim1 Says:

Anyone who digs even a little into some of the details of the holocaust, will be disgusted driving a VW, Benz, BMW, and Porsche - A simple Wikipedia on Mr Ferdinand Porsche will gross you out, he was Hitlers buddy, DURING the war. And today, so many of us drive with that horrific ‘Porsche’ name signed onto our cars.

To answer comment #3, you raise a fair argument, I know many Jews hold like that, but do a little holocaust research, at least more than you did until writing that comment. Japan, is not in the same league as Germany. They didn’t kill 6 million Jews, including 2 million kids. If you are lazy, google the Auschwitz Albums and study the beautiful faces of all the people who would be gassed do death moments later.

It’s not about Germany and the car companies today, as they may be different people (to me they’re all trash) - but why would YOU want to associate yourself with those horrific logos on a car which is so personable to many people.

Yuch, I wouldn’t lease/own one of those cars even for free.

6

 Jul 09, 2019 at 06:38 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

Look, when I visited Israel over thirty years ago, the taxi drivers were driving Mercedes Benz taxis; there were many of those cars all over Israel. Are we not supposed to buy German or Japanese products today? What about Vietnamese products? Are they to be boycotted also?.

all my grandparents lost parents and siblings, my rosh yeshiva ztl whos family was in the US for years and a talmid of Rav Huttner refused to ride in a VW, personally I get sick to my stomach when I see chasidisher yingerlate driving German cars knowing this was the make of car transported my family to be killed

7

 Jul 09, 2019 at 06:27 PM yaakov doe Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

Look, when I visited Israel over thirty years ago, the taxi drivers were driving Mercedes Benz taxis; there were many of those cars all over Israel. Are we not supposed to buy German or Japanese products today? What about Vietnamese products? Are they to be boycotted also?.

There's a huge difference between boycotting Germany and Viet Nam or Japan. I assume you know that the priority of the German leadership was killing Jews, not glorifying an emperor or instituting communism.
Israel received German vehicles in the early years as reparations and I assume the sfardim in Israel don't feel as strongly about Germany as those of us who lost relatives to the Germans do.
I can't understand children and grandchildren of holocaust survivors, of all people, driving German cars. The number driving a Porsche or a Mercedes is astounding. The don't seem to have driven Volkswagens, the peoples car touted by Hitler, as often probably because it never conveyed the same status.
It will be many generations until the German people can be forgiven, if ever.

8

 Jul 09, 2019 at 09:02 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

Look, when I visited Israel over thirty years ago, the taxi drivers were driving Mercedes Benz taxis; there were many of those cars all over Israel. Are we not supposed to buy German or Japanese products today? What about Vietnamese products? Are they to be boycotted also?.

Having served in Viet Nam, i would not knowingly buy anything made it that hellhole.

9

 Jul 10, 2019 at 03:04 PM Anonymous Says:

To:Bunim1-#5- I'll tell you what I told another esteemed scholar on this site. You were correct; the Japanese did not kill 6,000,000. Instead, they killed over four times that number or over 25,000,000 (twenty five million), with the Pacific War of aggression which they unleashed, included millions of civilians. Jewish POWs in Japan, were treated more harshly than non-Jewish POWs. As far as doing Holocaust research, I was doing that before you were even born. Incidentally, in case you don't realize it, the parts for even an American car, come from many different countries. Hence, if you discover that a part on an American car which you've purchased was made in Germany, are you going to drive that car back to the dealer, and tell him to remove that part?

10

 Jul 10, 2019 at 04:34 PM Cixelsyd_Wnosanoy Says:

Reply to #2  
yossie Says:

for those that know history or care at all
Wolfsburg (the VW plant) was a concentration camp part of the camps belonging to Gross Rosen
think about that before you lease a VW because its 10 cheaper a month than an american car

Gross Rosen was a subcamp of Sachsenhausen, and was located in what is now western Poland...nowhere near Wolfsburg, which is in north central Germany, south of Hamburg...just sayin'

11

 Jul 11, 2019 at 11:18 AM Cixelsyd_Wnosanoy Says:

Reply to #5  
Bunim1 Says:

Anyone who digs even a little into some of the details of the holocaust, will be disgusted driving a VW, Benz, BMW, and Porsche - A simple Wikipedia on Mr Ferdinand Porsche will gross you out, he was Hitlers buddy, DURING the war. And today, so many of us drive with that horrific ‘Porsche’ name signed onto our cars.

To answer comment #3, you raise a fair argument, I know many Jews hold like that, but do a little holocaust research, at least more than you did until writing that comment. Japan, is not in the same league as Germany. They didn’t kill 6 million Jews, including 2 million kids. If you are lazy, google the Auschwitz Albums and study the beautiful faces of all the people who would be gassed do death moments later.

It’s not about Germany and the car companies today, as they may be different people (to me they’re all trash) - but why would YOU want to associate yourself with those horrific logos on a car which is so personable to many people.

Yuch, I wouldn’t lease/own one of those cars even for free.

"Anyone who digs even a little into some of the details of the holocaust, will be disgusted driving a VW, Benz, BMW, and Porsche"

Sounds to me like you've never been to Eretz Yisroel!

My father, zt"l, was from Duisburg and lost his extended family in the Shoah...he became a U.S. citizen in 1943, and was an officer/physician in the U.S. Army in Europe during the thick of Hurtegen Forest, Bulge, crossing the Rhine and beyond...my wife's family were Czech/Polish and most of them were lost...both her parents survived the camps. We are active in second generation events. Our children are yeshiva educated and are either or are married to bnai Torah. And we love our VW Jetta.

Seventy-four years and two months...and two generations...after VE Day there are no longer any compelling reasons to avoid German products.

12

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