University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Jekyll and Hyde: The Forgotten History of the VW Beetle

Toon, Wendy ORCID: (2005) Jekyll and Hyde: The Forgotten History of the VW Beetle. In: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Research Focus Day, 16 March 2005, University of Worcester. (Unpublished)

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Despite the cute and “loveable” image of the VW Beetle, the history of the Volkswagen is inextricably linked to the development and perpetuation of National Socialism. It is this fact that is so often forgotten, or perhaps even unknown, about this otherwise well-known car. Discussion begins with a brief look at the ideas that prompted the development of the ‘People’s Car’ and the ideas/ideals behind it, especially the ‘Strength through Joy’ (Kraft durch Freude) movement. The VW was publicized and promoted with all the power and skill of the Nazi propaganda machine and the VW was a showpiece of its achievements as the auto industry would be an engine to drive the nation and the people out of the Great Depression. The Volkswagen was commissioned by Adolf Hitler and was in fact a pet project of his. In the end the Volkswagen not only served a dual purpose of fulfilling a socio-economic utopian idea and providing finance for the Reich, but it also had dual practical functions. In civilian form it promised motoring for the masses and in military form it carried German soldiers to the front and had other military potentialities. Production was also closely related to the worst policies of the regime and the VW factory (Volkswagenwerke) not only used foreign prisoners, but also had its own concentration camp, Laagberg. It is estimated that a total of 5,000 concentration camp prisoners performed forced labour at VW during the war. Perhaps the most surprising conclusion, however, is that if you ever wanted to own a Porsche, you should buy a VW Beetle!!

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
D History General and Old World > DD Germany
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Wendy Toon
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2022 12:32
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2022 12:32

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