Gustloff Werke Weimar’s rifle production was unique among the German rifle makers in several ways, and in many ways it would be the model for the others to follow by the wars end. Beginning in October 1938 the decision to rationalize the concerns industrial activity resulted in the formation of a “consortium” of sorts where smaller firms would supply components for rifles that would be assembled in the corporations Weimar’s operation.
These firms would be called the “Sachsengruppe”, a group of 18 smaller firms making components for Gustloff Werke Weimar (at the time BSW Weimar) to assemble under their ordnance code “337”, later this code would become “bcd”. This was not a new concept of course, not even amongst the German rifle producers, the “Suhl Consortium” had long existed where J.P Sauer, V.C. Schilling and C.G. Haenel collaborated in rifle contracts, indeed, their World War One production was a collaboration, all their Gewehr98’s were made with “collective” activity.
However in this context it was a rather new concept because the new firms really had no previous experience with rifle manufacturing, for many it was a radical deviation from their previous manufacturing experience. These new firms were a wide mix of firms, many sewing machine makers, bolt & screw makers, furniture manufacturers, bicycle makers, even steel makers. The list of firms would expand during the war, as this concept was broadened industry wide, within and outside the small arms industry.
Gustloff Werke Weimar, was a located in Weimar Germany, the facility was the lead firm of the Wilhelm Gustloff Foundation (Wilhelm-Gustloff-Stiftung), which was a state owned corporation founded upon nationalized Jewish property the National Socialist seized during its early consolidation phase 1933-1936. By 1938 the concern consisted of 5 branches:
Fritz-Sauckel-Werk, Weimar (artillery, military vehicles, and machine tools)
Waffenfabrik Suhl (small arms, motorcycles, bicycles)
Otto-Eberhardt-Patronenfabrik Hirtenberg (ammunition)
Maschinenfabrik Meuselwitz (machine tool maker)
Zweigniederlassung Berlin Thüringenhaus (foreign sales office)
The characteristics of rifle manufacture at Weimar is well known to collectors, generally it was simply assembly of parts other firms supplied, this would remain the case through most of the war. This would change to a degree when a relationship was arranged for the concentration camp at Weimar, KL Buchenwald, to supply labor to the Gustloff-Werke during 1942. The relationship was primarily one of construction at first, a rail line and buildings, but developed into a more complex relationship involving slave labor in manufacturing. By 1943 they had built a large complex within the KL Buchenwald operation, primarily to manufacture self-loading carbines (G43), this was bombed by the USAAC in August 1944 and closed down, but between 1943 and 1944 a significant number of kar.98k barrels were made and show up on a small number of rifles (all rifles were assembled in the main operation in Weimar, not at Buchenwald). They vary widely in range and almost all are found on rifles assembled in 1944, the quality was such that most barrels were rejects or problem barrels, it is believed that the vast majority made were never used, which is not surprising considering postwar reports on the operations at Buchenwald.
Rifle production was only a minor part of the operations at Gustloff-WerkeWeimar, they made many things, artillery related mostly, large cannon barrels were a major part of their operations. By 1943 Gustloff-Werke was assembling a lot of rifles, basically on par with the operation of JP Sauer, Suhl, but significantly less than operations at Mauser Oberndorf and Brno.
One of the firms that made the Kar.98k during the war was designed to be a model for National Socialist industrialization. The firm was organized as part of the Gustoff-Stiftung (state owned trust), which was primarily made up of Simson Suhl assets and assorted other nationalized concerns (Jewish owned).
Originally the firm was organized around a small operation owned by Simson Werke located in Weimar Germany, a small operation that made wagons and machine tools before the war. After nationalization, the Army provided funding to greatly expand the operations; by 1938 a special arrangement was made with a dozen small firms throughout Thüringen and Saxony to provide component parts to the Weimar operation to assemble Kar.98k rifles. At the time rifles were made at the Simson-BSW operation at Suhl, but the new owners of the Gustoff-Stiftung and Army had plans for the Suhl operations that didn’t include rifle manufacture.