Hitler stole idea for iconic Volkswagen Beetle from a Jewish engineer, historian claims
The Nazi leader has always been given credit for sketching out the early concept for the car in a meeting with car designer Ferdinand Porsche in 1935.
His idea for the Volkswagen – or ‘people’s car’ – is seen by many as one of the only worthwhile achievements of the genocidal dictator.
But Paul Schilperoord’s book, The Extraordinary Life of Josef Ganz – the Jewish engineer behind Hitler’s Volkswagen, may change that forever.
Hitler stipulated that the vehicle would have four seats, an air-cooled engine and cost no more than 1,000 Reichsmarks – the exact price that Mr Ganz said the car would cost.
Three years before Hitler described ‘his idea’ to Mr Porsche in a Berlin hotel, Mr Ganz was driving a car he had designed called the Maikaefer, or May Bug.
The lightweight, low-riding vehicle looked very like the Beetle that was later developed by Mr Porsche, who is still considered the foremost car designer in German history.
Jewish inventor Mr Ganz had been exploring the idea for an affordable car since 1928 and made many drawings of a Beetle-like vehicle.
Mr Ganz’s car was fitted with a tubular backbone chassis, a rear-mounted engine and independent suspension with swing axles, and it has a streamlined Beetle-like body
Hitler saw the May Bug at a car show in 1933 and made sketches.
Within days of the meeting between Hitler and Mr Porsche in 1935, Mr Ganz’s car magazine was shut down and he was in trouble with the Gestapo.
The journalist and inventor left for Switzerland and died in Australia in 1967.
He is not mentioned in VW’s first corporate history or in the Story of Volkswagen exhibition in Wolfsburg.
‘So many things were the same in Hitler’s sketches,’ said Mr Schilperoord.
‘Hitler definitely saw his prototype and I’m quite sure he must have read Ganz’s magazine.
‘It’s quite clear Ganz had a big influence on how the idea was developed by the Nazis.
‘Ferdinand Porsche drove Ganz’s prototype in 1931. I found a lot of evidence that all similar rear engines in the 1930s can be traced back to Ganz.
‘Even the price was the same. Porsche said doing this for 1,000 Reichsmarks was not possible but was forced to make it happen by the Nazis.’
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