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The History of Christmas
2,000 Years of Faith, Fable, and Festivity
by Heather Lefebvre

This book will take you on a journey from Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, through Roman times and the Middle Ages, into the Reformation and then the Victorian era. You will finally touch down in our modern–day Christmas with all the things that make us think of this wonderful season – decorations, presents, delicious food.
                                   
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The People's Car
by Bob Brooke

 

Nothing says retro better than a Volkswagen Beetle. The cute little car became the darling of people on a budget in the 1960s through 1980s. And not just in the U.S. There were probably more VW’s in Mexico, especially Mexico City than anywhere else in the world. What made this little car so special? To answer that is to take a trip back into a dark page in human history.



On May 28, 1937, a revolution of sorts occurred in the German auto industry. In the early 1930s, cars were a luxury. Most Germans could afford nothing more elaborate than a motorcycle. Only one German out of 50 owned a car. On this day the Deutsche Arbeitsfront in Berlin, under the control of Adolf Hitler of the Nazi Party, approved the formation of a new state-owned automobile company, then known as Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH. Later that year, the government changed its name to Volkswagenwerk—“The People’s Car Company.”

Originally operated by the German Labor Front, a Nazi organization, Volkswagen was headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. In addition to his ambitious campaign to build a network of autobahns and limited access highways across Germany, Hitler wanted to develop and mass produce an affordable yet speedy vehicle that could sell for less than 1,000 Reich marks—about $140 at the time. To provide the design for this “people’s car,” Hitler called on Austrian automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche.

The concept of an inexpensive car wasn’t new. In fact, Béla Barényi conceived the basic design in the mid-1920s. Josef Ganz developed the Standard Superior, promoting it as the "German Volkswagen." In Germany, the company Hanomag mass-produced the 2/10 PS "Kommissbrot", a small, cheap rear-engine car, from 1925 to 1928.



Porsche had been trying for years to get an auto manufacturer interested in a small car suitable for a family. He built a car named the "Volksauto" from the ground up in 1933, using many popular ideas and several of his own, putting together a car with an air-cooled rear engine, torsion bar suspension, and a "beetle" shape, the front hood rounded for better aerodynamics, required for a vehicle with a small engine.

In 1934, Hitler ordered the production of this basic vehicle capable of transporting two adults and three children at a top speed of 100 km/h (62 mph). He wanted all German citizens to have access to cars. He decided to make the "People's Car" available to citizens of the Third Reich through a savings plan at 990 Reichsmarks (US$396 in 1938 dollars)—about the price of a small motorcycle. The weekly wage of a German then was 32 RM per week.

It soon became apparent that private industry couldn’t produce such a car. So Hitler chose to sponsor an all-new, state-owned factory using Ferdinand Porsche's design, with some of Hitler's design constraints, including an air-cooled engine so nothing could freeze. His intention was that ordinary Germans could buy the car by means of a savings plan for 5 marks a week. Eventually about 336,000 Germans paid into this plan. However, the entire project was financially unsound, and only the Nazi party made it possible by providing funding.

Prototypes of the car called the "KdF-Wagen," or “Kraft durch Freude vehicle---"Strength through Joy Car"---appeared in 1938. The car already had its distinctive round shape and air-cooled, flat-four, rear-mounted engine. The VW car was just one of many KdF programs, which included things such as tours and outings.

The VW was one of the first cars designed with the aid of a wind tunnel—a method used for German aircraft design since the early 1920s. The car designs were put through rigorous tests and achieved a record-breaking million miles of testing before being deemed finished.

WATCH A VIDEO:  The History of Volkswagen

The construction of the new factory started in May 1938 in the new town of "Stadt des KdF-Wagens,” now Wolfsburg, which had been created for the factory workers. However, the factory had only produced a handful of cars by the time World War II began in 1939. It never delivered any to holders of the completed saving stamp books.

War changed production to military vehicles. One of these was the Type 82 Kübelwagen, or "Bucket car" utility vehicle, Volkswagen wartime model, manufactured for the German armed forces.

When the Allies began the occupation of Germany at the end of the war, the Volkswagen factory lay in ruins. Though the American forces captured the town and factory, both fell within the British occupation zone. Thus, the VW factory came under the control of British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst, who had become a civilian Military Governor with the occupying forces.



One of the factory's wartime 'KdF-Wagen' cars had been taken to the factory for repairs and had been abandoned there. Hirst had it repainted green and demonstrated it to British Army headquarters. Short of light transport, Hirst persuaded the British Army to place an order for 20,000 cars. However, the factory was in no state to produce the cars, there was a refugee crisis at and around the factory, and some parts, such as carburetors, were unavailable. Hirst and his German assistant Heinrich Nordhof helped to stabilize the acute social situation while simultaneously re-establishing production. Hirst, an engineer, arranged the manufacture of carburetors, the original producers being effectively 'lost' in the Russian zone.

By 1946, the factory was producing 1,000 cars a month—a remarkable feat considering it was still in disrepair. Owing to roof and window damage, production had to stop when it rained, and the company had to barter new vehicles for steel for production. Hirst changed the names of the car and its town to "Volkswagen" and "Wolfsburg" respectively, and production increased.



The first few hundred cars went to personnel from the occupying forces, and to the German Post Office. And when demobilization ended, some British Service personnel took their Beetles back to the United Kingdom with them.

Between 1948 and 1961, the Volkswagen became the icon of post-war Germany. In 1949, Major Hirst left the company—now reformed as a trust controlled by the governments of both West Germany and the State of Lower Saxony. The factory produced the standard "Beetle" or "peoples' car," designated as the Type 1, as well as . Volkswagen Type 2 commercial vehicle---van, pick-up, and camper, and the VW Karmann Ghia sports car,

And the rest, as they say, is history
.

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