By Michelle Shocklee
Last month I wrote about the well-known history of the Volkswagen Beetle, my little dream car. Today I want to share the story of one of the engineers who was instrumental in the development of Hitler's "People's Car" yet received no credit.
To recap: In 1930s Germany, Hitler was in power. Proud of Germany's new highways system, he wanted every German to have access to an economical car. Ferdinand Porsche and Hitler had become chummy so it wasn't a surprise when Porsche was given the task to design what would eventually become the Volkswagen Beetle, or VW Bug. As I said in my post last month, the VW Bug went on to become the fourth highest-selling vehicle of all time.
Josef Ganz in 1933
(Photo: Paul Schilperoord)
Josef Ganz was born in 1898 to a Jewish family living in Budapest. In 1916, his family moved to Germany and became German citizens. Josef even joined the military and fought for Germany in World War I. From an early age, Josef was fascinated with technology. After the war ended, he studied mechanical engineering, and it was during those years of study that he dreamed of designing a small car that would sell for the price of a motorcycle. Ganz made many sketches of small, light-weight cars, but he had no money to build a prototype. Instead, he wrote about them in articles that were published in automobile magazines.Because of his prolific and fascinating writings, shortly after his graduation in 1927, he was hired as the new editor-in-chief of Klein Motor Sport. Ganz continued to be critical of heavy, unsafe and old-fashioned cars and promote innovative design and his concept of a car for Germany's general population. Interestingly, one notable contributor to the magazine was Béla Barényi, a young engineering student who designed cars with a similar concept. In 1953, Mr. Barényi proved in court that his original designs and ideas had been used by Porsche to develop the VW Bug and he is now sited as one of the early engineers of the famous car.
Michelle Shocklee is the author of several historical novels and is a Christy Awards and Selah Awards finalist. Her work has been included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Visit her online at www.MichelleShocklee.com