Thursday, May 7, 2015

Review of Paul Schilperoord, "The Extraordinary Life of Josef Ganz, The Jewish Engineer behind Hitler's Volkswagen"

Hi folks -- I have not yet finished Schilperoord's The Extraordinary Life of Joseph Ganz (RVP Publishers, New York, 2012) yet, but wanted to provide some initial comments on the book before I get distracted with making final arrangements related to my trip to Germany beginning on May 10.

So far I found this book to be engaging and extremely well written. I think that for anyone who is interested in the history of the Volkswagen, or the history of the German auto industry during the Interwar period, this is a must read. What has emerged from reading the first half of this book goes something like this; first, Jews were systematically written out of German automobile history until very recently; the German auto industry was largely technologically stagnant in the period leading up to the rise of Nazi government in 1933; would be technological revolutionaries like Ganz were met with considerable opposition, which at times was quite malicious; and tubular backbone layout, streamlining, swing axles, and torsion bars were hot topics among a small but historically important minority of automobile engineers to the early 1930s. In conclusion, just as no one person invented the "automobile," so too no one person came up with the design that ultimately became the Volkswagen Beetle of the late 1930s.

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