June 27 - 29, 2018 in Hamburg, Germany
KROENERT in the Third Reich and Post-War Germany
In the 30s, the world economy finally went through the upswing so long hoped for. In Germany, Adolf Hitler' seizure of power was accompanied by severe changes: After initial drop of unemployment numbers and increase of the standard of living, the country unstoppably headed for war. Freedom of press was abolished, the Nuremberg Laws separated Jews and Aryans, and on the 1st of September 1939, World War II began with the German attack on Poland. Until Germany's unconditional surrender in 1945, the country was part of history's largest military conflict.
The sad balance after the war: 50 millions dead, out of which 5 millions in Germany. Half of the living quarters were destroyed, ruins, "rubble women" and refugees characterized daily life. Germany was divided, severe shortage of daily goods prevailed. Only to the end of the 40s, the county slowly recovered from the war effects. The Federal Republic of Germany was founded, Bonn became the new capital, the German Mark replaced the Reichsmark and held inflation at bay. And finally there was room for new inventions that had nothing to do with armament, e.g. the Polaroid camera, the long-playing record and the velcro strap.
In Maschinenfabrik Max Kroenert, the economic situation was finally stable again, thanks to the general upswing in the mid-thirties. Slowly but surely, the company made its mark as a specialist for the construction of paper processing machines.
The beginning of World War II again stopped all plans for the future; instead of paper processing machines they were again forced to produce military equipment. But Hans-Jens Meyer was determined to lead the company through the crisis again. Production was almost exclusively limited to products for the Wehrmacht, and to process all the orders we even expanded the production capacities and built a new building with air-raid shelter.
But the climate within the company got worse and worse. Almost all specialists were at the front, the remaining workers were visibly unhappy about more and shift work as well as frightened of the Gestapo. This fear reached its peak when Hans-Jens Meyer and one of his master tradesmen were really arrested by Gestapo: A former employee had denounced them out of anger for his discharge. Luckily, both were dismissed the same day.
In July 1943, the expected finally happened. The Maschinenfabrik Max Kroenert got hit by several fire and demolition bombs during air raids. The main building and several sheds burnt down to the foundations, other buildings were severely damaged by demolition bombs. As the company was considered to be of military importance, rebuilding was rapidly initiated. And for Hans-Jens Meyer it was a blessing in disguise: The machines in the rubber roller department had not been damaged.
Meyer saw the chance to move his company back to the initial track. Other rubber-processing companies were incapable for production, so now the machinery factory could finally produce rubber rollers again, apart from shells.
With the surrender of the German Wehrmacht, the war was over, but for the machinery factory the situation hardly improved. The British occupying power disassembled the machines and forbade staff members access to the site; infrastructure and road-rail networks in Germany had been destroyed, there was a lack of construction material and - due to the many dead soldiers - also of workers.
And yet again, Hans-Jens Meyer could prove his unswerving belief in success. With the help of the few remaining workers, he fixed up the most important buildings and began the production of can sealing and tobacco cutting machines for current demand. At the same time, he re-established contacts to former customers and was able to return to his original field of business in 1946/47. The international distribution of printing machines and dessin rollers was finally resumed.