Did Hitler and Porsche Steal the VW Beetle Design from a Jew?
Josef Ganz, a brilliant Jewish engineer, was producing and selling a nearly identical car three years before Hitler and Ferdinand Porsche introduced their Beetle.
September 23, 2009 - 12:12 am
Paul Schilperoord is a Dutch automotive engineer, writer, and missionary. His mission is to bring to the world the story of another automotive engineer and writer, Josef Ganz.
Ganz was born in 1898 in Budapest to a German father and a Hungarian mother. He made his career in Germany, where he contributed and edited technical automotive publications, patented and licensed his inventions, and worked as a consultant to automobile and motorcycle companies. He contributed to BMW’s first in-house car design, the AM1, and he worked on Mercedes Benz’s landmark 170 model as well.
He was an outspoken and passionate advocate for the concept of a light, simple, inexpensive car that the average person could afford, starting in 1923. He called his concept the Volkswagen and used the name Maikäfer (May Beetle) for the prototypes he made for his client companies.
In 1933, Standard Fahrzeugfabrik introduced the Standard Superior Volkswagen at the Berlin auto show, based on Ganz’ designs. Mechanically, it has a platform chassis with a center tube, a rear transaxle with a horizontal engine, a swing axle suspension in the back, and independent suspension in the front. The body is a simple aerodynamic shape that looks very similar to that of the VW Beetle.
Hitler attended that same Berlin auto show in 1933. I have no idea if he stopped at the Standard Fahrzeugfabrik stand, but within a year Josef Ganz was arrested by the Gestapo and charged with blackmail for trying to protect his patent rights.
The dispute was with Tatra, a Czech company controlled by a Volksdeutsche family. Schilperoord says he’s discovered ties between Tatra and the Gestapo. Ganz, a Jew, fled to Switzerland where he again tried to get his Volkswagen built after the war. Eventually he immigrated to Australia, where he worked for Holden and continued to invent. He died in obscurity in 1967, though you can find patents of his online at the U.S. Patent Office.
In 1934, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche was commissioned by Hitler to develop the KdF-Wagen. Dr. Porsche came up with a lightweight car built on a platform chassis with a center tube, a rear transaxle with a horizontal engine, a swing axle suspension in the back, and independent suspension in the front. The body is a simple aerodynamic shape we recognize as the VW Beetle.
The rest, as they say, is history, a history that has been wiped clean of the role of Josef Ganz. Schilperoord is trying to rewrite that history — he’s a historical revisionist of the good kind.