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The "People’s Car" on New Paths (January 29, 1948)

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“Better that way,” said the workers, “without much fuss.” There were still a few [workers] who had participated in the great celebration in May 1938, when the foundation stone had been laid for this, Europe’s largest automobile factory. They remembered how back then there was much more pomp, much more sounding off, giving of orders, lying. For he, the “Führer,” had come in person, the man who promised each worker a car of his own. The workers were a “community marching in close formation,” and indeed: when the time came when it pleased the “Führer” to attack Poland, they were allowed to march in close formation to war. And when the time came for the People’s Car, it followed behind. Do you still remember, comrades of the fist and the rifle? And many workers had paid a thousand marks [in advance for the car]. There were 280,000 savers, who were separated into “fast” and “slow savers,” and they accumulated 280,000,000 marks in the account of the “Bank of German Labor” – a sum that is still there today, but has been confiscated in accordance with Law 52. “The money?,” the workers said. “Gone! Devalued! You bet! What’s left will be utterly destroyed during the currency reform. Don’t you think?” – “The Volkswagen?,” say the workers. “The car is driving and the people are watching. . .”

“But the car is good, isn’t it...?”

“The car is excellent! Powerful, despite only 25 hp! Comfortable, yet so small! Economical at eight lighters of fuel per hundred kilometers, and comfortable, and it even has warm air heating, yet is so fast and cheap!” – But I must correct myself: he did not say “comfortable,” he said “bonfortionös.” For even when the worker is giving praise, it sounds ironic, and the man who could still describe the laying of the foundation stone in 1938 eagerly recounted one particular episode [from this event] in humorous-derisive form. He mentioned the twenty-eight farmers, who, together with their farms, horses, oxen, and cows, had to make way for the Volkswagen plant, and he described how these angry and tearful farmers had appeared as guests of honor and had feigned rapt enthusiasm. . . Indeed, this has always been a site for loud orders and silent obedience, lots of lying and little believing. In short, the Volkswagen plant, as far as emotions are concerned, is heavily burdened.

But a new general director has arrived. A straight-talking, honest, matter-of-fact man; he says that the factory is still highly modern, and that great achievements would be possible, were it not for the fact that the bureaucracy raging in Germany also has this plant in a stranglehold. Eight thousand workers and employees – that is rather too many than too few; but at least there is no shortage of workers, and there are also plenty of machines. The plant produces a thousand cars a month. But the factory could deliver nearly twice the number of cars, if, instead of an impenetrable thicket of paper regulations in which an anonymous bureaucracy triumphs, there were more opportunities to develop personal initiative.

Fewer regulations and a better supply of materials – this, in the view of the general director, would be the solution to all the problems. He is a fairly young general director – that is true. But the fact that the old workers agree with his view confirms its correctness. In this regard, they all want the same thing: more initiative, fewer regulations, more materials!

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