The VW Beetle Was Developed in the Third Reich
|Ferdinand Porsche, Adolf Hitler, and Hermann Goering (in a rare use by him of the SS uniform) look at a model of the Beetle in 1935. For anyone who remembers the Beetles of the '60s or '70s, that is just a weird time-tripping kind of photo.|
|Hitler inspects a VW convertible with Ferdinand Porsche. He looks happy.|
|Hitler's sketch of his concept of the "People's Car." One must confess, that is exactly what the final product looked like, though eventually it was shortened.|
|The Volkswagen of 1941. Compare it to Hitler's 1935 sketch above.|
|Adolf Hitler - gearhead.|
|Adolf Hitler appears amused as he finishes a visit to the Volkswagen factory, 1938. Attending are Reich Labor Leader Dr. Ley (in uniform) and Professor Porsche. Visible in the background are newsreel cameras.|
|Hitler with Dr. Porsche, inspecting the new vehicle. Notice how delighted the Fuhrer is, and how bored his flunkies behind him are.|
|Different types of Volkswagens in the Third Reich.|
|VW Beetles passing through the Brandenburg Gate in 1938, when they were finalized.|
|Seven years later in Berlin.|
Previous Ideas: Josef GanzThe car concept that Hitler came up with which turned into the Beetle was not completely original. The idea of a sleek air-cooled coupe had been floating around in German automotive circles for years. It is worth looking at one such possible source for Hitler's idea, though by no means the only one. By providing this alternate explanation for the Beetle, I hope to prove that there is no attempt being made here to glorify Hitler for designing the Volkswagen Beetle. You may draw your own conclusion as to the extent to which Hitler "stole" the idea for the Beetle, though I also will provide my own take on the issue.
|Josef Ganz with one of his designs.|
|Ganz with another of his designs.|
Nobody these days has any interest in defending Hitler, least of all me. However, there are two sides to every question, and not giving people who deserve it proper credit (even if they are brutal dictators) is as bad as stealing it. It may be true, as author Schilperoord claims, that Hitler saw one of Ganz's designs at a car show in 1932 and that Hitler shut down Ganz's operation not long after Hitler's meeting with Porsche in 1935. A Ganz car also had the interesting name of "May Bug." Those are mighty coincidental facts.
|A Ganz drawing of his proposed vehicle. Decide for yourself if that looks like a Volkswagen Beetle.|
|A Ganz technical sketch.|
|A Ganz drawing.|
Let's take one last look. First the early prototype VW Beetles, then the Ganz car. Decide for yourself.
First, Hitler's Beetle is shown below.
Next, the Ganz car.
There certainly are similarities between the Ganz car and the Hitler car. Are they the same? Well, they are very close, but the two designs obviously differ in some very important respects. The truth is that designs build on each other, and no complex technical design springs to life from scratch. Car designers do not re-invent the automobile with each new model. So, even if Hitler did see the Ganz car and it stirred his thoughts, that does not mean he necessarily "stole" the idea of a lightweight, air-cooled car for the people. However, it also can never be proven that he didn't, aside from the differences in the cars themselves.