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Opelwerk Brandenburg

 

Opelwerk Brandenburg

army Opel Blitz (1944)

The Opelwerk Brandenburg (Opel's manufacturing plant at Brandenburg an der Havel) was built, with impressive speed, in 1935 on the initiative of the government in order to ensure supplies of Opel trucks for the army. Opel were an obvious candidate for the project, having pioneered mass production techniques in German passenger car production at their Rüsselsheim plant: by the late 1920s the company held more than 25% of the domestic passenger car market. Between November 1935 and August 1944 more than 130,000 trucks were produced at the Brandenburg plant.

History

Assembly facilities at the Brandenburg Opel plant
Opel Blitz LF 15 (1938)

A press release early in 1935 stated that Adam Opel AG, backed by the government, had decided to build a new plant at Brandenburg an der Havel because production capacity at their existing Rüsselsheim was fully employed. Rapid progress was envisaged, with the factory scheduled to be ready for use in October 1935, in order to free up capacity at Rüsselsheim ahead of the launch of the 1936 passenger car range.

The available site covered 850,000 square metres (9,100,000 sq ft) on the southern bank of the Silo Canal and is today the location of the town's Silo Canal East industrial zone. At the time of the Opel project the site was not fully needed and much of it continued to be devoted to agriculture. It appears that the project involved displacing local residents, but the 1935 press release reassured readers that the unused portion of the plant site would, until further notice, be made available free of charge to former residents displaced by the development.

The first sod of soil was dug on 7 April 1935, and on 10 August 1935 it was possible to celebrate the completion of the building's shell. On 18 November 1935, just 190 days after the foundation stone had been laid, the first truck came off the production line. Production took place in one of several 24,200-square-metre (260,000 sq ft) two-storey production halls 178 meters long. Coach work and painting took place on the ground floor, while the assembly of chassis, engine and axles was undertaken on the first floor. There were in total 1,200 production machines, each with its own motor, which allowed for a greater flexibility than the belt-driven machines characteristic of more traditional factory layouts. Twenty-seven production lines had a total length in excess of 5,000 meters (over 3 miles). The plant had its own power station which turned out 4,000 kW of power, consuming 7 tonnes of coal per hour in the process.

Total cost of the plant was recorded as 14 Million Reichsmarks. The scheduled capacity provided for the production of 150 Opel Blitz trucks each day. The originally published annual capacity of 25,000 trucks was already exceeded in 1939 when 27,936 trucks were produced. In July 1942 one of the company's rising talents was appointed to take over as production direction: Heinrich Nordhoff would later become more widely known as the leader who built up the Volkswagen business.

On 6 August 1944 in a British Air raid an estimated 20% of the plant was destroyed. Nevertheless, a resumption of production at the end of the war was believed possible. However, Brandenburg found itself in the Soviet occupation zone, and it quickly became apparent that the victorious powers had their own plan for Opel's production facilities. The plants in Rüsselsheim and Brandenburg were deconstructed and crated up before being transported to the Soviet Union. Unlike the company's principal passenger car, which re-emerged as the Soviet built Moskvitch 400/420, the existing Opel Blitz truck range never returned as Soviet vehicles.

Employees

In November 1935 the company recorded 680 employees, which had risen to 3,365 by 1940. The plant's all-time peak employment level was 4,286, the figure reached in 1943.

Production volumes

Between April 1937 and August 1944 the plant produced 82,356 Blitz „S" (Standard) 3-ton trucks, plus a further 14,122 long-wheelbase versions and a further 8,336 low chassis models for special conversions: these were mostly destined to support bus bodies.

The four-wheel drive Blitz "A" was added to the range in July 1940. Including about 4,000 Half-track versions, this model accounted for approximately 130,000 units between

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