Photo courtesy of Mike Steves
By 1941 SDP was fully adjusted to its role within the war economy and the company was in the process of significant expansion and modernization. Much of the expansions would take time to develop, particularly in the non-armament fields, like ball bearings, trucks and aircraft component production, where production would soar later in the war, but in the field of small arms, in particular rifles and pistol manufacture, production was beginning to take the form it would hold until late in the war. What had begun with rifle production in late 1940 would continue to develop during 1941, in particular the introduction of SDP-Radom as the main supplier of metal components for the Kar.98k rifles (including the G29/40) and VIS pistols.
On March 13, 2015 the Gewehr98.com, (http://www.gewehr98.com/) came back on-line after a two year hiatus; the site has been thoroughly revised and updated. The site includes more detail that the earlier site, and was designed to answer many basic questions regarding buying and collecting the Gewehr98.
The site is the sister website of the MRJ, both will support one another with blog posts, often based upon future or past articles published in the MRJ. Those of you that have subscribed to the MRJ blog posts are encouraged to subscribe to the Gewehr98 site. Once the Gewehr98 site has developed some following I will begin a series of blog posts regarding the numerous variations a collector might encounter.
Photo courtesy of Rob Wareck
With the start of the war, things began to move quickly for SDP, capital for expansion was arranged and progress moved quickly to expand both the range of production (items made) and mass production. To illustrate the size of the operation, at the beginning of 1940, 13,000 people were employed by SDP corporation wide. Small arms would be a very small part of the corporations operations, though an important one. 1940 was an important year for SDP, it was the year they took over the management (“Komissarische Verwaltung”) of the Polish state arsenals, both being state owned (Poland was a state little different than National Socialist Germany, aggressive and predatory, most important industries were state owned or controlled), the National Socialist could dispense with any pretense of respecting property rights, which they typically did when seizing newly acquired property in occupied states. The German Army was officially the owners of the new facilities, but naturally they were incapable of operating them, or any of the other industrial sites seized during the Polish campaign (they found custodians for them all, private concerns), later the “private” corporation, operated by the German Army, Montanindustrie, took over ownership and worked directly with SDP, and others, dealing with the former Polish properties.
In this post I will begin a year by year examination of Modell98 production at Steyr-Daimler-Puch (SDP). The first year after the union with Germany (Anschluss in 1938) SDP was faced with a number of problems, not the least of which were where the firm would fit in with the new order (National Socialist regime). Anschluss was not a new concept in 1938, it certainly was not a creation of Hitler and his henchmen, Germany and Austria had explored union after the end of World War One and again in 1930-1931, both times bringing considerable resistance from the former Entente, – especially France and Italy (and the Czechs). However in 1938 the union was anything but a mutually beneficial arrangement, previously Austria had sought union with Germany for economic and security concerns, a union would have solved many economic problems in 1930-1931, which by 1931 were tearing Austria apart, – indeed, it had been the 1931 economic crisis in Austria which led to the reorganization and mergers that formed the SDP corporation.
However, by 1938 the Anschluss (union) turned the country upside down, nowhere was this more true than in the economic and industrial spheres. SDP in particular was a target of National Socialist ambitions; SDP was one of the most valuable industrial concerns in Austria, a manufacturer of automobiles, trucks, ball bearings, bicycles, and small arms. What it offered was not so much in what it made in 1938, but what it held in potential, and the National Socialists had great expectations for its future usefulness. Herman Göring, head of the Four Year Plan (the German economy) and the Reichswerke (an industrial conglomerate set up by the state to put a commercial face to expropriated property, – greatly expanded by “state capitalism”) were quick to move on SDP, coercing the banks (Creditanstalt Bankverein, owned by the Austrian government since 1931), who owned most of SDP stock to sell their stock to the Reichswerke, followed by coercing the banks to “lend” capital to SDP for massive expansions and acquisitions. Herman Göring, after an appropriate pause allowing for a shake up of the management, and expulsion of all Jews and most communists, promised great things for the future of SDP. Military contracts were given, restructuring of manufacturing priorities, the firm was directed away from legitimate, long-term profitable commercial production towards military pursuits, massive expansions were funded, and several expensive projects were undertaken that would eventually lead the firm into tank and aircraft production.
Some time ago, Jon Speed and I were discussing Ludwig Loewe AG and the man that led the company to its greatest achievements; while Ludwig Loewe, his older brother founded the company and established its essential character, which is as a firm that took advances and concepts of American machine design and techniques and adapted them to the German market, it was Isidor Loewe that led the company to the massive international conglomerate it became, largely with help of his brother (Ludwig was a politician, Germany industrialization was unique, different than England’s or America’s in that it relied heavily upon government contracts and support-intrusion, it is probably the main reason why Germany went from a backward country to an equal of England and a serious competitor to America in a little over 70 years) and banking interests.
In the companies early years, all the early machines they made, the sewing machines through machine tools, were essentially American designs adapted to German conditions, where as American methods focused upon mass production of simple but robust designs, often designed to make one thing in enormous number and of the greatest simplicity and durability, the European model was not as dependent upon sheer numbers, rather versatility was more important, small shops with lower capacity for a smaller market. One of the motto’s the firm professed in 1899 was “Das Beste ist das Billigste” which Wolfgang defined as meaning, in the German context as “The best is the cheapest (low cost/cost efficient/value for money)”, he explained the concept as “Highly skilled workers (with higher salary), working with high quality machinery/tools (expensive) are cheaper (monetary) in the long term, than less qualified workers (with less salary), working with no or poor machines/tools. Because they manufacture products of higher standards/quality. No rejections/junk”, which in many ways mirrors the American theory of production in the 19th century, though by the turn of the last century that was changing due to labor concerns (American skilled workers were the highest paid in the world, far more than in England or Germany), which was forcing a reconsideration of methods, eventually the concept of simple, more automated machines which less skilled men, fewer and lower paid, could operate took hold.
The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority
Buchanan Does It Again!
A well written, quick moving, and easy to read book that offers a sympathetic, yet objective, view of an event that is often overlooked, – the resurgence of the GOP over the New Deal and Great Society Democrats. Pat Buchanan’s book offers far more than just a personal, behind the scenes view of Richard Nixon, he puts it all in context with world events and a grasp of history lost on most authors today. His strength is in his understanding of history and ability to weave the events of 1965-1968 together, explaining why Richard Nixon was able to reunite the GOP after nearly 40 years conflict.
What I found most appealing about the book is his inside view of Richard Nixon and his ability to unify a rather diverse group of political factions; how Nixon, a moderate-progressive Republican, was able to overcome the Rockefeller-Romney factions, who had dominated the GOP (and caused its decline) since the 1930’s, and form a coalition that would lead the Republicans to a sustained comeback. The Republicans of today could learn a great deal from this book, how Nixon and moderates were able to form a coalition with conservatism, both from the Robert Taft and Goldwater Republicans and from the natural conservatism of southern Democrats and the faithful of the northeast (working class Catholics), forming a political movement that would sustain the Republican Party through several Presidencies.
ISBN: 0553418637 Author: Patrick J. Buchanan
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)